Fifteen rectors sign joint open letter in the newspaper

Dutch universities will not break ties with Israeli universities

 barricade UBB protest palestina foto DUB
Photo: DUB

Severing ties with Israeli institutions is the main demand of the pro-Palestine protests that have been going on in Dutch universities. There have been demonstrations and occupations on several campuses across the country. In Utrecht, the occupiers were expelled from the university buildings by the riot police. 

This is the first time that Dutch universities have issued a joint statement. Their open letter, published by the newspaper Trouw, says that Dutch universities would never break ties with an entire country willingly. "We only consider this option if the government imposes that on us or advises us to do it, as happened with Russia."

The universities are not keen on doing away with all their partnerships with Israeli universities either, as they find that this would isolate critical Israeli scientists.

The rectors underscore the importance of academic freedom. "When engaging in scientific partnerships, we share this core value of freedom with our partners and we see it as an important channel to continue the dialogue about our fundamental core values ​​with institutions where these core values ​​may be under pressure.”

Dutch universities will only take action if partner institutions do not meet "values ​​anchored in the academic ethos". For example, if they do not allow for an “open and academic debate”. Various universities are currently investigating whether there is a need to stop or eliminate specific collaborations.

Increase pressure
Minister Dijkgraaf said on X that he was pleased with the joint statement. "In times of conflict, international academic partnerships can offer an opportunity to maintain an open line and raise critical opposing voices," the minister also believes.

Several other politicians, such as Christian Union leader Mirjam Bikker, also spoke positively about the letter. Last week, a right-wing majority in the House of Representatives called on universities not to give in to demonstrations.

However, activists continue to increase pressure. Since Friday, a special website has been mapping universities' ties with Israel. Representatives of the students and employees who demonstrated in recent weeks were totally opposed to the open letter. They call the rectors' attitude "naive and cowardly".

Not in favour
The reasoning displayed by Rector Kummeling and his counterparts cannot come as a surprise in Utrecht. The Executive Board has consistently stated that it is not in favour of a complete rejection of cooperation with Israel. It isn't planning on cutting ties with critical scientists, either.

However, the eleven research collaborations and three exchange projects UU currently maintains with Israel are being examined in more detail. The University Council was promised that the results should be presented before the summer.