Exactly a year after Aqleh was killed, Palestine Solidarity Rotterdam organised a peaceful vigil on campus to honour her life and work, and also protest the Israeli ‘apartheid’ politics. There were fifteen to twenty people attending the gathering. They gathered on Erasmus Plaza, with flowers and pictures of Aqleh, and a big banner that read ‘Boycott Israeli Apartheid, Free Palestine’.
Beyond the blue line
After five minutes, the students and staff were asked by three security guards to leave and move their vigil outside of campus, ‘beyond the blue line’, to which the students and staff members cooperated. The guards tore down their posters, as the group moved past the Sports Building, chanting ‘Free Palestine’. Despite the group’s cooperation, the guards kept urging the group to walk faster as they approached the blue line. Eventually, the group set up their posters, pictures and flowers there, and continued their vigil.
“The guards told me my job is going to be on the line”, Zouhair Hammana, a PhD and teacher at EUR who was involved in the vigil said. The guards told the group that they were not allowed to hold any political protests on university grounds, and that they weren’t allowed to set anything up without the permission of the Executive Board. “Apparently any solidarity with the Palestinian cause gets this kind of treatment”, said Hammana.
No formal regulation
To which university policy regarding protests the guards were referring exactly, remains unknown. A university spokesperson referred EM to a booking system for rooms and events on MyEUR, the intranet of the university. According to that page all events that could impact (fire) safety, need audiovisual equipment or possibly ‘cause inconvenience’, require prior permission from the Room & Facilities bookings organisation.
How the vigil would impact safety, require equipment or cause an inconvenience was not made clear by the guards. These requirements are also not made public on the website of Erasmus University, only on MyEUR. Nor are there any more detailed rules on how the university weighs whether an event is permitted or not, according to the spokesperson.
One of the organisers, an IBA-student and member of Palestine Solidarity Rotterdam who wishes to remain anonymous, expresses her confusion: “I think this university has shown hypocrisy repeatedly. The Executive Board members have shown that specific causes matter to them, and even though they say that they’re not political, they are political. They have already shown their stance on the Ukraine-Russia crisis”, referring to the statement the university made on the war in Ukraine.
The organiser demands the university cuts ties with Israeli organisations like they did with Russia and gave an example of the exchange program EUR has with Tel Aviv University. “We demand EUR to cut ties with Israel and show support to occupied Palestine.” Palestine Solidarity is currently promoting a petition against the university’s connection with Israel.