22 February 2022

Why was a Freedom of Information Request necessary?


In the wake of Amnesty Report and a FOI request submitted by The Rights Forum, there has been a lot of commotion, confusion, and utterly ridiculous accusations of antisemitism. But who, alongside The Rights Forum, supported the original FOI request? What was contained in that request? Dutch Scholars for Palestine and Various Student Groups in Solidarity with Palestine wish to clarify these matters.

On 1 February 2022, a Freedom of Information or FOI request was submitted to Dutch universities by The Rights Forum concerning ties between Dutch and Israeli universities and Israel lobby organizations. Around the same time, Amnesty international released a lengthy report that outlined a system of apartheid directed against Palestinians, the latest in a string of reports by Palestinian, Israeli and other international organizations showing a regime of systemic, institutional discrimination inside Israel and occupied Palestinian territories.

The FOI request was submitted on behalf of scholars and students who are connected with a group known as Dutch Scholars for Palestine and various student groups who are in solidarity with the Palestinians. This has led to absurd allegations of antisemitism against the Rights Forum, Student Associations and others

These groups are not formal associations, but a movement of concerned scholars and students. The former arose out of two petitions from May 2021; the one signed by several hundred academics in their individual capacities the other by a host of Dutch academic institutions. Both expressed concern and anger regarding human rights violations by the Government of Israel and its military as well as institutional complicity in these violations.

The FOI requests information about two sets of relationships; firstly, on the institutional relationships between Dutch and Israeli universities and corporations and second, the relationship between Dutch universities and Israel lobby organizations.

Institutional relationships

While no one should object to contacts and critical discussions among individuals, there are legitimate concerns to be raised about formal relationships at the institutional level where one of those institutions is implicated in serious human rights abuses, including war crimes.

This principle underscored an earlier FOI request concerning the involvement of universities in programmes financed by the Chinese Government. The revelations that emerged led to the Free University in 2022 deciding to not only suspend involvement in a collaborative research programme with strong connections to the Chinese government, but to actually return money that had been received. FOI Requests have also revealed influence by corporations on academic research results. In 2018, following revelations from another FOI Request on the influence by the tobacco industry, a decision was taken by Utrecht University to end its relationship with cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris.

Relationships with Israel lobby organisations

Regarding the second part of the FOI request, as the backlash against The Rights Forum has shown, there are organizations in The Netherlands who are committed to silencing academics and students who are critical of Israel. They attempt to do this in two main ways: either by seeking to stop critical discussion and debate or by demonizing individuals who speak out. As scholars and students, we have experienced many instances of this.

The FOI request queries formal relations between universities and organizations that promote the state of Israel and engage in campaigns to silence and demonize students, academics, and others advocating for Palestinian rights. This includes Netherlands-based Israel lobby organizations like the Center for Information and Documentation Israel (CIDI) and Christians for Israel. This also includes the Dutch and European Union coordinators for combating antisemitism, who have established that they are mainly preoccupied with attacking criticism of Israel and solidarity with Palestinians, rather than defending Jews against antisemitism.

Contrary to misinformation that has been circulated by pro-Israel groups, the FOI request does not concern the relationship between Dutch universities and ‘Jewish’ organizations. In fact, concerns about the policies and actions of the Israeli government and military, as well as complicity of Israeli universities in human rights abuses, have come from many Jewish scholars. This includes signatories of the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism – consisting of ‘scholars in the fields of Holocaust history, Jewish studies, and Middle East studies’, Jewish members of Dutch Scholars for Palestine and student groups and organizations such as European Jews for a Just Peace, Jewish Voices for Peace, Gate48, SIVMO and A Different Jewish Voice.

Preserving academic freedom

As Dutch Scholars for Palestine and as student groups, we avowedly reject sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and any other form of unlawful discrimination and hate speech. This has no place in a free society, let alone a safe environment for public discussion, including on university campuses. We regard these as foundational principles underpinning academic freedom.

The FOI request preserves academic freedom by seeking transparency around a university's ties with a militarized apartheid state, responsible for well-documented human rights abuses and war crimes. These formal ties put pressure on academic freedom in Netherlands, and put the academic freedom of our Palestinian colleagues, fellow students and human rights defenders in jeopardy.

Indeed, this is precisely the reason why we submitted the FOI request: to protect academic freedom and above-all, to ensure a safe and critical space for learning and for research.

Dutch Scholars for Palestine and Various Student Groups in Solidarity with Palestine



Stick to the subject, and show respect: commercial expressions, defamation, verbal abuse and discrimination are not allowed. The editors do not argue about deleted responses.

Deze vraag is om te controleren dat u een mens bent, om geautomatiseerde invoer (spam) te voorkomen.