Independent journalism about VU Amsterdam | Since 1953
16 June 2024

Student Life
& Society

Think more carefully about supporting Gaza

At the university we learn how to evaluate a situation based on arguments and underlying evidence. We also learn that an evaluation is never final, but only holds until proven otherwise, finds Jan Bouwens.

Maurice Crul recently advocated breaking ties with Israeli organizations. The question is whether the goal – accelerating the end of the war – is furthered if we were to follow this advice.

In that context, it is striking that the activists’ demands to the Executive Board assume that there is irrefutable evidence that cooperation with people and organizations from Israel reflects support for the war. How does one know that?

Furthermore, it is incomprehensible that members of this university (employees and students) with a scientific background accept this relationship as true. You can reject the war on principled grounds, but that is a one-dimensional decision. There is no sustainable relationship between supporting the Israeli government’s decision to continue the war and the individual’s decision to work with people from Israel and universities and other organizations from Israel. If students graduate from us who insist that the relationship exists irrefutably, then we have failed terribly as an educational institution.
Of course, anyone can be angry about the continuation of the war, I am too. But it is unclear what ending the war has to do with cooperation with people from Israel. At most, one can hope that termination of all cooperation will send a signal to the government in Israel.

Note that termination of any relation entails that you are also ending cooperation with people from Israel who also want the government of Israel to stop the war. To illustrate (this is not proof), let me give an example. At the University of Haifa, 45% of the student population comes from Arab society and 50% of all students are first-generation students pursuing higher education. The university is led by Arab-Christian Professor Mouna Maroun. Would the situation be better if you did not collaborate with people from the University of Haifa? I do not see this happening. Not based on arguments, nor on the basis of underlying evidence.

If we really want to help, we would all be better off thinking about how we can relieve the need in Gaza now. After all, the university was founded to understand and act on it!

At most, you can hope that termination of any cooperation will send a signal to the government in Israel

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