The Rights Forum defends the interests of Palestinians and wants to know how the fourteen universities in the Netherlands are connected to companies and institutions in Israel, as well as to organisations said to propagate support for Israel.

Nonetheless, instead of fourteen there were only nine universities facing off with the foundation in court yesterday. They had to justify their partial unwillingness to process the information request.

This means five universities are in the clear. At Delft University of Technology and the Open University, somewhere in the procedure a term was exceeded, so those cases are over. The three private universities (Nijmegen, Tilburg and VU Amsterdam) do not fall directly under the Open Government Act.


The Rights Forum wishes to know about the institutional ties with, for instance, the Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI) and the National Coordinator for Combating Anti-Semitism. All correspondence, meeting invitations, minutes and appointments are to be made public. The goal is to determine whether the universities ‘contribute to human rights violations in Israel and its systematic repression, discrimination, expropriation and exclusion of Palestinians’.

This request has caused significant unrest and the universities want to decline part of the request on grounds of principle. It specifically concerns the ties with Dutch organisations.

“Homing in on a specific group of citizens, including staff, students and alumni at our universities, causes feelings of unsafety, unfairness and discrimination”, a joint statement reads.

Is the request antisemitic, as critics claim? Not at all, says Gerard Jonkman, director of The Rights Forum. “Our open government expert and legal representative are also Jewish. We only want information about the ties to organisations that repress criticism of the state of Israel. This also includes Christian and secular organisations, such as Christians for Israel and the Netherlands Industries for Defence and Security foundation. We’re not asking anything about organisations such as ‘Een ander Joods geluid’ and ‘Gate 48’.”

Study ruling

Universities of the Netherlands confirms the court has ruled in favour of the Rights Forum. “Universities will study the ruling and revisit the subject”, says a spokesperson.

Their having to process the request doesn’t mean that they’ll actually be supplying the requested information. Until now they haven’t wanted to consider the request. Now that they’re forced to consider it, they can still say: we’re not supplying this information. The Rights Forum will then go to court once again.