They want more information on collaborations with Israel
The Rights Forum is taking Dutch universities to court
In early 2022 the foundation, which fights for the rights of Palestinians, submitted a request for information to the universities, asking them to provide documents and correspondence about their links to institutes and organisations “propagating their support for the state of Israel”.
This concerned not just contacts with universities and organisations in Israel itself, but also, for instance, with the Center for Information and Documentation Israel (CIDI), the Centraal Joods Overleg, and the National Coordinator for Combating Anti-Semitism.
The Rights Forum is invoking the Government Information (Public Access) Act (Wet openbaarheid van bestuur, Wob) – now the Open Government Act – which requires public and semi-public institutes to be transparent, with a few legal exemptions.
Some universities have distributed this Wob request amongst their staff, which has led to criticism and protest that the Wob request would testify to anti-Semitism. On the website of the umbrella association UNL the universities offered their apologies. “Within the universities the handling and dissemination of this Wob request has led to feelings of unease and insecurity”, it states. “We deplore this.”
The Rights Forum itself does not regard this request for information as unusual. The foundation wants to know whether universities are “indirectly involved in Israeli violations of human rights”, they explain. “Similar Wob requests in the past have revealed Chinese funding and tobacco lobby influence in the university world.”
The universities eventually decided to comply – but only in part, providing certain information on their links with organisations in Israel, but nothing to do with their contacts with Dutch and international organisations “concerned with religion, commemoration, or combating anti-Semitism”.
The Rights Forum is not content with this, as their press release makes clear. So the matter will go to court, and a judge will examine the grounds for legal exemptions.