Executive Board organises dialogue on issues following situation Gaza – Israel

In recent months, several universities, including Utrecht University, have faced protests, demonstrations and occupations in response to the situation in Gaza and Israel. Utrecht University monitors and facilitates independent thinking, analysis and critical debate. There is room to have the (academic) conversation with each other about the situation in Gaza and Israel. This is happening in several places in our university; students and staff have already organised, or are planning to organise, lectures, meetings and dialogue sessions.

The Executive Board is also holding talks on how the situation in Gaza and Israel is affecting our university. This has included contact at various times with students and staff involved in the protests. Both the Executive Board and representatives of various pro-Palestine groups have indicated that they are keen to engage in dialogue.

For instance, one of the proposals was to hold talks with representatives of UU Scholars for Palestine and an affiliated student group before the summer holidays. The date proposals from the Executive Board for an open conversation were unfortunately rejected by the students and staff involved. In particular, the groups held to the view that such a conversation should be conducted in a setting with 200 attendees. This is partly because these are horizontal movements and therefore they do not want to speak to the Executive Board through representatives. The Executive Board has proposed a conversation in a setting with up to 10 to 12 attendees and a live stream so that a larger group can follow the conversation and respond via live chat. 

In recent months, the Executive Board has noticed that having a substantive conversation is not well possible with a large group. Experience has shown that this hinders and it is not well possible to have a respectful dialogue in which views are exchanged in an open and calm manner. With a hybrid meeting, the Executive Board hoped to meet the desire of students and staff for dialogue on the one hand, and wanted to ensure that a substantive conversation remains possible on the other. The Executive Board is disappointed that it does not seem to have succeeded in reaching an appointment with UU Scholars and Staff for Palestine to exchange thoughts and views in a respectful manner.

The Executive Board has decided to organise a dialogue, as offered to UU Scholars and Staff for Palestine, despite the rejection. A panel discussion will be organised in which students and staff can participate (online) to discuss, among other things, the ethical issues surrounding collaborations; how we as a university deal with feelings of insecurity following the protests and how we as a Dutch university can contribute to the academic community in Gaza. The invitation to UU Scholars and Staff for Palestine to join this conversation remains in effect.