Universities will not sever ties with Israel

Thus state the rectors of fifteen universities in an opinion piece published in Trouw.
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The rectors, including WUR rector Carolien Kroeze – claim academic freedom: Universities must give room to all the different perspectives held within the academic community on the current conflict, the letter states.

Protestors have called on universities to sever their ties with Israeli institutes for weeks now. WUR’s protests have, so far, been peaceful, but violent protests took place at other universities. In Saturday’s edition of Trouw daily paper, the rectors respond to the protestor’s demands. ‘And that is not the answer some of us wish to hear’, they write. ‘We will never sever ties with a country unless we are forced to do so by the government, as was the case for Russia.’


If the collaboration with Israeli and Palestinian universities meets the basic prerequisite of an open academic debate, there is no reason to reconsider or sever ties, according to the rectors. ‘We neither want to isolate critical Israeli scientists nor cease supporting our Palestinian colleagues.’

The rectors underpin their position by stating that ‘discourse between institutes and scientists about painful topics relies on mutual acknowledgement of the importance thereof.’ Only thus can universities and individual scientists remain in open discourse and ensure the road to scientific diplomacy remains open, the letter states. ‘But always while protecting the individual academic freedom of research and education. Even, and specifically, when this is challenging or even painful.’


Whether the protestors and critical employees in Wageningen will accept this position remains to be seen. The protestors on the bridge between Forum and Orion previously stated that ‘the Hogeschool Rotterdam severed its ties with Israel, as have Spanish universities. So why doesn’t WUR do the same?’ Moreover, a group of employees, including associate professor of Rural Sociology Joost Jongerden, have initiated a petition that has already been signed three hundred times. The petition ‘strongly denounces the position of the Executive Board for its refusal to assess its institutional link with partners on ethical and human rights grounds.’

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