Independent journalism about VU Amsterdam | Since 1953
26 February 2024

Campus
& Culture

Sit-ins for Palestine gain momentum

This afternoon a large group of students took to the main building to once again demand that VU Amsterdam cut its ties with Israeli institutions.

The sit-in in front of the main entrance started with roughly twenty students, much more than last Thursday. “V, U, you can’t hide. Cut ties with genocide”, they chanted. Various people led the chants with a megaphone that was passed around. Early on a woman walked up to the activists to repeatedly ask them to move outside, but to no avail. They may not have even heard her over the sound they were making. As time went on, the group sitting on the floor grew past fifty people, with a passive audience of roughly the same size gathering around to listen to the activists. 

The megaphone was replaced by a large speaker and a microphone, which a number of activists used to explain why they were protesting. The first speaker pointed to a joint master’s programme with Bar Ilan University. She says this university has special training programmes for the Israeli intelligence force Shin Bet. And she adds that this university sponsored a settler college campus in the West Bank. These points are also found on a pamphlet handed out by the activists. 

Another complaint of the activists is that VU Amsterdam refuses to cooperate with a request by The Rights Forum to disclose its ties with pro-Israeli organizations. “Our question to the VU is: what are you hiding?” They also spoke out about the recent and still developing story of Younes Saramifar, who got in trouble over a trigger warning on Canvas.

Resign today

The two most remarkable chants were perhaps those that asked for the resignation of rector Jeroen Geurts and referred to VU Amsterdam as terrorist. “Netanyahu terrorist! Biden terrorist! VU terrorist!”, the group chanted. A VU alumnus spoke up to say he is ashamed of his former university and said “the rector should resign today!”, followed by chanting of the word ‘resign’. The speaker afterwards explained that his call for resignation was based on the rector’s involvement in the trouble Saramifar is facing.

These aforementioned two chants took up less than twenty seconds in an hour long sit-in which was otherwise very much focused on an academic boycott of Israel, and are not among the five demands on their pamphlet. The pamphlet also suggests that there will be more sit-ins in the future.

A spokesperson of VU Amsterdam, who was present by the end of the protest, said the university does not wish to comment before speaking with all parties.

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