The SGP argues that students, academic staff and protesters at several Dutch universities ‘are using intimidating pressure to bring about the cutting of ties with Israeli institutions in response to the war in Gaza’.


In an effort to get higher education administrators to cut these ties, demonstrations and occupations are taking place across the higher education sector. Acts of vandalism during the occupation of a University of Amsterdam building drew criticism. Protestors covering their faces with scarves and calls for an ‘intifada’ have also provoked angry responses.

But the protests reflect a wider call for action. Pressure is mounting on the Israeli government to halt its military offensive after killing so many Palestinians in Gaza in a furious response to the bloody attack by Hamas on 7 October last year.


But SGP politician Diederik van Dijk argues that breaking ties with Israeli universities could undermine Holocaust research. In an effort to avoid this, he tabled a motion.

In it, he called on the government to urge higher education institutions not to give in to the pressure. He also wanted the government to make it clear to the institutions that Holocaust research ‘must be allowed to proceed unhindered’.

Government involvement?

No party is in favour of university administrators being intimidated or Holocaust research being adversely affected. The key issue is: should the government get involved?

The vote on the SGP motion made it clear that the four coalition parties gearing up to govern the Netherlands – PVV, VVD, NSC and BBB – are for government involvement on this issue. They were backed by opposition parties CDA, ChristenUnie and JA21.


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Earlier debate

The motion had been tabled during a debate on combating anti-Semitism, which also took in the higher education protests. In that debate, the PVV denounced ‘a motley crew of the academic left, anarchists, foreign students and migrants who openly spread anti-Semitic slogans’ such as ‘from the river to the sea’.

Opposition party Denk expressed surprise at the PVV criticising racism or anti-Semitism among professors and students: “That really is turning the world on its head.” Denk went on to defend the slogan ‘from the river to the sea’ as full of love: a plea for freedom for the Palestinian people, not an anti-Semitic call to wipe Israel off the map.

In response to the SGP motion, GroenLinks-PvdA put the emphasis on academic freedom: shouldn’t we be very careful what we impose on universities? But a majority of the House does not believe the motion is counter to academic freedom.


During the debate, the VVD drew attention to the problem of “memorial services being cancelled, Jewish schools closing their doors, Jewish students being harassed at Dutch universities and lists of contacts being requested”.

This last point refers to a request by pro-Palestinian human rights organisation The Rights Forum, under the terms of the Open Government Act. Other parties also referred to this request.

Long before the latest outbreaks of violence in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, The Rights Forum asked Dutch universities to release details of their collaborations with Israeli and pro-Israeli organisations and institutions. That case is still pending.

Denk and GroenLinks-PvdA defended the request, saying it was misguided to equate it with anti-Semitism. Other parties argued that it could at the very least be construed as anti-Semitic.


The debate was with outgoing justice minister Dilan Yesilgöz, but education minister Robbert Dijkgraaf also touched on the SGP motion in a letter. He has already spoken to the higher education institutions about the protests and links with Israel.

Those discussions covered the assessment framework for international collaborations that the institutions are working to develop. That framework should offer no grounds for discrimination, Dijkgraaf insists. “In particular, there should be no anti-Semitism.”

With that, he presumably considered the matter settled even before the vote in the House took place.