Universities maintain ties with Israel, ‘academic freedom is of paramount importance’

Many universities have been restless for weeks due to ongoing student protests, during which the police had to intervene several times. Several protesters were arrested. The students’ central demand is that universities stop cooperating with Israel in any way. This connection is partly due to collaboration between scientists here and there, but also through the exchange of Dutch and Israeli students.

The fifteen universities now make it clearly clear that they do not want to and will not give in to these demands. According to them, the question behind the protests is legitimate: how do universities relate to sister institutions in areas where large-scale conflict is taking place? “But what makes the university unique is our commitment to academic freedom: the freedom to research, think and debate, even if this conflicts with our deepest beliefs and those of others.”

About the Author

Mark Misérus is a reporter for by Volkskrant and writes mainly about education.

They share this “fundamental value of freedom” by collaborating scientifically with other universities. This channel offers them the opportunity ‘to continue the dialogue about our core values ​​with institutions where these core values ​​may be under pressure’.

Universities have the task of giving a platform to all existing views within the academic community, they write. ‘This is nothing more than an excuse to remain ‘neutral’. Otherwise. Offering our community academic freedom to make their own decisions with the same freedom is one of our most important core values. “We want to be anything but neutral on this.”

without wanting to listen

Although they “understand that this is not the answer that some of us want to hear,” engaging in open academic conversations and debates is “very burdensome” for universities. ‘In freedom – at an institutional and individual level – we want and will weigh our links with academia, as we have done and continue to do as academic institutions for many years.’

Another factor is that universities do not want to isolate their fellow Israeli scientists, “just as we are firmly committed to supporting our Palestinian colleagues.” In any case, universities will not sever their ties with an entire country, unless the government “forcibly imposes” them on them. This happened, for example, with Russia, because of the invasion of Ukraine.

Due to their “academic responsibility” and their support for institutions of justice and peace such as the International Criminal Court, universities are obliged to turn to sister (Israeli) institutions if they violate mutual fundamental values. And distance yourself from them, “if such a conversation proves impossible.”

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