Rectors Dutch universities don’t want to cut ties with Israel

In an open letter published in the newspaper Trouw, the rectors of fifteen Dutch universities write they do not want to cut ties with Israel, as is the main demand of pro-Palestine protesters.

In recent weeks, universities have been the scene of protests against what the protesters call the ‘Israeli genocide in Gaza and the complicity of educational institutions in it’.

This is the first time the universities have made a joint statement. In the open letter, the rectors argue that the violence in Gaza is no reason to end cooperation with Israeli institutions and academics.


‘We will never cut ties with an entire country unless the government forces us to do so’, they write. This happened after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, when the government imposed sanctions on Moscow, and universities followed suit.

Regarding the Gaza war, the rectors want ‘the path of scientific diplomacy’ to remain open. ‘Even, and especially when, that is difficult and sometimes even painful.’

Rector magnificus Jacquelien Scherpen of the UG, one of the signatories of the open letter, says in Trouw that the discussion going on in academia is currently ‘not open’. ‘Sometimes you see that this makes people afraid to speak out. We try to counter that by facilitating open dialogue.’

Academic freedom

The rectors also appeal to their academic freedom. ‘The freedom to be able to research, think and debate, even if it chafes with our and others’ deepest convictions.’

This is conditional on Israeli (and also Palestinian) institutions adhering to ‘the values enshrined in the academic ethos’; open academic debate must be possible.

Whether those values are at stake, the universities decide for themselves. ‘The consideration differs per institution, and also depends on the dialogue they want to engage in. We want to give that space first,’ says Scherpen in Trouw.

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