Concern about the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories

Utrecht University follows the developments in Israel and the Palestinian Territories* with great concern. We are aware that the situation brings pain, concern and a sense of powerlessness to many, both within and outside our university community.

From the Executive Board

As the Executive Board, we have received many responses and requests to express support for one of the two parties in this conflict.

As a university, we share the great concerns about the situation. We hope that the spiral of violence and the human suffering will end as soon as possible.

As the Executive Board, we see it as our main task to assure the well-being of all our students and employees, in particular those located in the conflict area and/or those in the Netherlands, with (family) ties to Israel or the Palestinian Territories. This is also why our priority after Saturday 7 October was the safe return of students who were located in the area.

We believe it is essential that the university is and remains a safe place for all our students and employees, regardless of their origins, backgrounds or political beliefs. We safeguard and facilitate independent thinking, critical debate and analysis, in the hope that this will result in solutions, innovations and ideas about how things can be done differently. We also encourage our academics to share their expertise with society, as they play an important part in understanding the ongoing conflict.

We understand the call to take a stand. However, that is not our role as UU. We are a university, not a political institute. It is true that we operate within the framework of a so-called ‘open society’. Within that framework, different positions are possible.

In many places within the university, we see that the conversation about recent developments is held with respect for each other's positions and feelings. At the same time, we are also receiving signals that the debate is hardening. We therefore urgently appeal to our entire community to maintain peace and unity, with attention and respect for each other. At Utrecht University, there is always room for different (academic) perspectives and feelings. Calls for hatred, violence, intolerance, or calls that otherwise exceed frameworks of an open society are obviously not parts of that. To continue to have an open conversation with each other is even more important, now that violence and mutual tensions are increasing. We hope that this respectful dialogue also contributes to breaking the spiral of further polarisation.

In the article below, you will find tips and tools for maintaining a respectful conversation about a sensitive subject. This information is based on the insights of our own academics behind TerInfo; a project from Utrecht University that helps educators discuss terrorism, political violence and other disruptive events. The advice is useful in an educational setting as well as in conversations around the coffee machine.

Keep the dialogue going

Emotions surrounding the current conflict in Israel and the Palestinian Territories are running high and this can also translate into conversations and discussions within our university, or cause colleagues and (fellow) students to avoid the conversation completely. Remember that your own emotions, and those of others, arise from (for example) your own beliefs, personal ties with one of the areas, or the fear that violent conflicts entail in general.

In addition, it is good to realise that, as humans, we naturally strive for a consistent worldview. In conflict situations, nuances, facts and contradictory insights are quickly suppressed in order to maintain a simpler, morally clear picture. According to TerInfo researchers, instead of imposing our worldview on others, we should be aware of the imbalance and show compassion for victims on both sides of a conflict, even when we engage in dialogue.

Also, be aware that the current situation for students and colleagues who may feel connected to Israel or the Palestinian Territories, especially when family or other loved ones reside there, truly is terrible. As a result, colleagues or (fellow) students may feel more emotional and/or experience concentration problems, restlessness and/or sleep problems. The more involvement someone experiences in the conflict, the more intense this experience can be. If you experience such problems yourself, please see the bottom of this article for the support available from the university.

Don't hesitate to ask a colleague or (fellow) student how they are doing. Especially if you know that someone is affected by the conflict. Try to listen without immediately giving your opinion.

Are you interested to organise a meeting, lecture, debate, demonstration or other activity in response to the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories? In the interest of safety, we ask organisers to report this in advance and in a timely manner to Together we can determine whether/which risks there may be and what measures can/need to be taken to reduce possible risks. 

Interested to talk further? Or do you need help?

Utrecht University is committed to supporting everyone who is directly or indirectly affected by these events. We offer our students and employees support in this regard. If you are a student and are looking for information, advice or guidance, check the page Who to contact? to see who you can contact. Employees who are concerned can seek support from their manager and Staff Welfare Service (intranet, login required).

*In its choice of words, the UU adheres to the constitutional frameworks that apply in the Netherlands.