Councilor makes emotional statement

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators disrupt University Council meeting

Protest in front of the room where the University Council was holding its meeting with the Executive Board. Photo: DUB

The meeting of the University Council was interrupted for a while on Monday by pro-Palestinian activists demonstrating in front of the Administration Building. Banners were held in front of the windows of the meeting room. The demonstrators called on the Executive Board to abandon its neutral stance towards the conflict in Gaza.

It is not the first time that pro-Palestinian demonstrators have made themselves heard at UU. Several protests have taken place in recent weeks. At the start of the meeting, Executive Board President Anton Pijpers responded to the critics, saying that the board's position board has not changed. The board is concerned about the violence and suffering going on in the Middle East and wants to make every effort to ensure a fruitful dialogue about the events take place within the organisation. At the same time, UU does not intend to take a stand. “That is not our role. We are a university, not a political institute,” reads a message on UU's site.

Council member Saban Caliskan manifested his disappointment at the end of the meeting. He emphasised that he had nothing to do with the demonstration happening outside, but he also “could no longer hold back about what is happening in Israel.” Caliskan: “To remain silent would mean throwing away my norms and values and supporting colonialism instead.”

With a broken voice, Caliskan stated that UU is applying a “double standard” as it did not hesitate to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “I often hear that Utrecht University is proud and sees itself as a leader in change. Maybe now is the time to prove this.”

Some of the council members agreed with Caliskan's moving statement. The Executive Board thanked him but then insisted on the policy line expressed earlier in the meeting.

Tags: israel | Palestina