Last Wednesday, organisers Erasmus School of Colour and Palestine Solidarity Rotterdam wrote in their appeal: “We are live witnesses of how tens of thousands of Palestinians are being massacred, and we know that Israeli universities are deeply entrenched in the fascist Israeli apartheid regime that is committing these crimes against humanity. And yet our universities remain complicit and refuse to immediately cut ties with Israeli institutions!”

Protest Palestina Israel oorlog war Rotterdam_15_Tyna Le

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Over the past couple of days, there have been similar protests in Utrecht, Amsterdam and Delft. These were ended by police in Utrecht and Amsterdam.

In the weeks before that, demonstrations at US universities featured large in the news. At many of these protests, the police responded with heavy-handed action, including in Amsterdam. On Wednesday evening, the Board of Erasmus University wrote an email to all staff and students explaining that this is what it hopes to prevent.

“We intensely hope that this human tragedy will end soon”, the three Board members wrote in the email. “We therefore fully understand that students and academics feel that universities should intervene, for example by cutting ties. Our position as a university is challenged by this.”

rol-Erasmus Universiteit University-EUR-internationaal conflict-oorlog-war-discussie-discussion-2.2024_Francesca Mora

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On the announced protest, the Board said: “We believe it is essential that there continues to be room for debate and grief, even if this feels uncomfortable. We do worry about the situation taking a turn for the worse. We saw that in the US and this week in Amsterdam. This led to vandalism and violence, to suspensions and arrests. We very much want to avoid that.” The email indicates that there is room for ‘coming together again’ and an ‘open dialogue with respect for each other’s views’.

A day after the Executive Board’s call, the organisations behind the protest have yet to respond. However, on this day, Rotterdam student union STUUR did call on students to come and protest on Thursday 16 May.

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Ties with Israeli universities

According to the Board, there are currently four collaborations between the Rotterdam university and Israeli universities. The Rotterdam School of Management has an exchange programme with Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the Erasmus School of Law with Bar-Ilan University. The master degree programme European Master in Law & Economics has a collaboration with the University of Haifa. The last collaboration involves the faculty at Erasmus MC, where projects with Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Health Corporation Rambam, University of Haifa and Weizmann Institute of Science are ongoing through the Horizon Europe programme.

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The Executive Board says it wants to be open about the collaborations, but it is reluctant to break ties. “Doing so could mean complicating our relationship with critical voices within Israeli universities. We think it is important as an academic institution to be very cautious about this. However, we are currently having all our collaborations reviewed, including those with Israeli institutions.” The University Council had already asked if the Board wished to ‘reconsider’ those ties, following which the board set up a committee to scrutinise all international ties.

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