Pro-Palestine protests around the world prompt universities to divest from Israeli-affiliated entities

Thu, 23 May 2024 6:26 GMT
Some universities have decided to suspend or review their relationships with Israel, its affiliated academic institutions.
Pro-Palestine protests around the world prompt universities to divest from Israeli-affiliated entities

Students demonstrating at universities throughout the US, UK, and Europe have been urging their academic institutions to reveal financial holdings and to divest from Israeli-affiliated entities amid the ongoing Israeli onslaught in the Gaza Strip.

Universities responded by suspending and expelling student protesters, sometimes resorting to measures such as eviction from campus housing and limitations on on-campus resources.

Also, some universities employed campus and local law enforcement to forcibly disband encampments, with police actions drawing criticism for their severity, particularly in the US.

With over 2,900 protesters arrested, including faculty members, on more than 60 campuses in the US, some universities have negotiated agreements with protesters to dismantle encampments.

Several universities have canceled graduation ceremonies due to ongoing protests, while additional demonstrations have unfolded at various graduation events throughout May 2024.

However, in the US, Union Theological Seminary became the first affiliated college at Columbia University to announce plans to divest from companies profiting from the conflict in Gaza. While specifics on the companies are not provided, the seminary aims to identify those benefiting from the Palestine situation, a report said on the Forbes website, citing Todd Ely, a professor at the University of Colorado-Denver.

Other universities, like Northwestern in Illinois, have promised investment disclosure, while Harvard and Brown in Rhode Island have agreed to discuss proposals with protesters to halt protests, the report added.

Meanwhile, at California State University's Sonoma State campus, President Mike Lee was placed on leave after expressing intent to pursue divestment from Israel without obtaining the necessary approvals.

In Australia, students also continued pro-Palestine encampment protests at universities.

At Curtin University in Western Australia, students on Wednesday gathered at the engineering building and urged the administration to cut ties with Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems.

Australia has witnessed many pro-Palestine student demonstrations in recent months.

European universities

Universities in countries such as Norway, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands have decided to suspend or review their relationships with Israel and Israel-affiliated academic institutions implicated in the conflict.

In Spain, the Conference of University Rectors, representing 50 public and 26 private universities, pledged on May 9 to suspend collaborations with Israeli universities and research centers "that have not expressed a firm commitment to peace and compliance with international humanitarian law."

After a five-day encampment, students at Ireland’s Trinity College concluded their protest as the university committed on May 8 to severing connections with Israeli companies.

The Dutch Royal Academy of Art in The Hague has decided to sever ties with Israel’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, responding to a campaign by its student union. This move marks the first academic boycott of an Israeli institution in the Netherlands.

Belgium’s University of Ghent has announced that it is severing ties with three Israeli educational and research institutions, citing misalignment with its human rights policy, according to the rectorate.

"We currently assess these three partners as problematic according to the Ghent University human rights test, in contrast to the positive evaluation we gave these partners at the start of our collaboration," said Rik Van de Walle, University of Ghent's rector.

In Finland, the University of Helsinki has opted to freeze student exchange agreements with Israeli higher education institutions due to concerns over the humanitarian situation in Gaza, following sustained pro-Palestinian protests.

While decision-makers declined to sever research collaboration, students remain resolute in their demand for a complete cessation of academic ties with Israeli universities, pledging to continue demonstrations until their goal is met.

The Federal University of Ceara (UFC) opted to call off the "Innovation Challenge Brazil - Israel" event due to the ongoing Israeli military offensive.

The recent student protests in Japan, particularly in response to Israel's actions in Gaza and Palestine, have seen several universities and student groups advocating for a halt to Israel's actions and the liberation of Palestine from Israeli occupation. While there has not been a widespread trend of universities cutting ties with Israel, some student groups have been urging their institutions to sever links with Israeli universities and organizations.

Pro-Palestine campus protests have been persistent in the US since April 17, when students at Columbia University in New York launched an encampment in solidarity with Gaza and demanded that their school divest from Israel.

Demonstrations and sit-ins are also taking place on campuses across Europe, including in the Netherlands and Switzerland, as part of a larger protest against Israel’s attacks on Gaza, which have killed more than 35,600 people, mostly women and children, and injured over 79,000 others, as well as destroying infrastructure and causing shortages of necessities in the Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Israel is accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice, which has ordered it to ensure that its forces do not commit acts of genocide and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.


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