Since October 7, more than 3,257 children have been reported killed, including at least 3,195 in Gaza, 33 in the West Bank, and 29 in Israel, according to the Ministries of Health in Gaza and Israel respectively.
The history of the Israel-Palestine conflict is more than a hundred years old, yet, the average European citizen knows surprisingly little about it. Pro-Palestinian demonstrations are at times perceived as antisemitism. People demonstrating for the end of the occupation in Gaza are at risk of being accused of defending the acts of Hamas. Black-and-white narratives fuel protracted conflicts like this one. We need to talk.
Israeli, Palestinian, and other members of our staff and students are grieving for the loss of life, land, and future in the region. Grief, pain, hopelessness.
On the night of October 27, Gaza was forced into total darkness while it was being bombed. Minarets were used for communication and hospitals, humanitarian organisations, and journalists remained disconnected from the rest of the world for hours. International humanitarian law feels even more useless than decaffeinated coffee.
Finally, and importantly, the United Nations had an emergency general assembly to discuss Jordan’s resolution calling for a cease-fire. A glimpse of hope. 120 countries voted in favour, 14 against, and 45 abstained, including the Netherlands.
Some say that it is complicated to talk about this war. Others say that they are afraid to share their views because of the possible impact that would have on their careers or even friendships. There is nothing complicated about being able to say that killing young children anywhere in the world is wrong and there is nothing controversial about seeking a cease-fire.
There is nothing complicated about being able to say that killing young children anywhere in the world is wrong
As a pluralistic, diverse, and international academic community, we have a role to play in disrupting hate, understanding and addressing cycles of violence, situating conflicts in historical, religious, and geo-political contexts, and designing learning spaces and programs that promote conflict resolution and peacemaking globally.
The central diversity office at the University of Amsterdam is currently organising Campus Dialogues for people to share personal experiences and engage in open and vulnerable discourse.
The University of Utrecht encourages its scientists to share their expertise with society, given their expertise in understanding the ongoing conflict, and it offers pedagogical resources for discussing controversial issues in the classroom.
The Erasmus University sends an important message by organising teach-ins about the current impasses between Israel and the Palestinians: we need to open the door to critical conversations that make us uncomfortable if we want to nurture safety and protect academic freedom.
Meanwhile in Groningen: we abstain. From listening, from talking, from actively engaging with and caring for each other. We abstain from the past, the present, and even the future we desire.
Our humanity is under the rubble.