The students of Utrecht in Solidarity with Palestine protesting in the library's courtyard. Photo: DUB

Students protest in Utrecht to defend boycott against Israeli universities

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Last Thursday, June 16, the group Utrecht in Solidarity with Palestine staged a protest to ask Utrecht University to cut its ties with Israeli universities. The protest took place in the University Library in the city centre. The protesters held Palestinian flags in silence until they were asked to leave.

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Initially, Utrecht in Solidarity with Palestine (USP) was planning on silently holding a Palestinian sign with the text "it's time to boycott Israeli apartheid" in the middle of a crowded library, but the librarians sent them away after just a few minutes. "That's a pity, but the reactions were actually better than we expected. When we were holding the flag inside the library, we heard some students clapping", says UU student Lyn Abdul Hameed, a spokesperson for the group.

After the group was expelled from the library, they went to the courtyard, where they held their flag up once more. They were allowed to stay there a bit longer. "We're doing it this way because the events and talks we've had so far didn't work. We want to let the university know that we are not giving up. We chose the library for this protest because we would like to mobilise more students, focusing specifically on the university".

UU students can go on exchange to many Israeli universities thanks to bilateral agreements. The same goes for Israeli students interested in studying in Utrecht. Last year, researchers in the Netherlands made a similar appeal, asking Dutch universities to sever all ties with Israeli universities over the unequal struggle between Israel and Palestine.

Utrecht University reacted by saying there is no reason to stop collaborating with educational institutions from Israel. When it comes to international cooperation, UU adheres to the guidelines set by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Nevertheless, the students from USP hope to convince Utrecht University to no longer work together with Israeli universities, which, according to the students, participate in the development of Israel's "policy of military occupation, discrimination against Palestinians, apartheid and ethnic cleansing".

Hameed: “Why did UU sever its ties with Russian universities but refrains from doing the same with Israel?"

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