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December 21, 2021 4:03 pm

Dutch MPs Seek Answers From Government on Rising Antisemitism at Universities in the Netherlands

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

University of Amsterdam. Photo Credit: Guilhem Vellut/Flickr.

Dutch lawmakers issued parliamentary questions to two cabinet ministers on Tuesday concerning their government’s response to antisemitism, amid reports of rising anti-Jewish hostility on university campuses in the Netherlands.

Ulysses Ellian, a member of parliament from the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), had previously submitted questions on the issue to Minister of Justice & Security Ferdinand Grapperhaus, to which he received no response, the Center for Information and Documentation Israel (CIDI) reported. Ellian’s inquiry was prompted by student complaints that antisemitism at Maastricht University, where a student was told that the Star of David is “a symbol of genocidal intentions,” has forced Jews to mask their identity.

Following additional complaints of antisemitism at schools such as University of Amsterdam and Leiden University, Ellian joined forces with fellow VVD party member, Hatte van der Woude, to ask Grapperhaus, as well as Minister of Education Ingrid van Engelshoven, if and how the government plans to address concerns that Dutch universities are becoming unsafe for Jewish students.

“Students should feel free and safe. So also should Jewish students,” Ellian said Tuesday on Twitter. “And a university should not, consciously or unconsciously, be a breeding ground for antisemitism.”

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In November, Leiden University Students for Palestine and the MENA Student Association hosted a panel that, according to CIDI writer Luke Smith, featured “activist” academics, one of whom stridently supported a government boycott of Israel. The student audience applauded speakers who described Zionism, the movement supporting the self-determination of the Jewish people, as “colonialism and racism,” and who stated, “We are fighting a world system of oppression and a network of imperialism.”

That same month, the University Amsterdam Centre for Middle Eastern Studies sponsored a lecture series on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to which no Jewish or pro-Israel academics were invited as guest panelists.

During the May conflict between Israel and Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, a Jewish Maastricht University student who wrote Facebook posts denouncing antisemitic language used by anti-Zionist activists was sent texts reading, “dirty kk Jew, I hope they will open the gas chambers again” and, “Your stinking people will be destroyed…dirty AIDS Jew,” CIDI reported in November. When she told school administrators about the incident, they allegedly said it was a “personal conflict” and asked her, “Don’t you think you deserved it for being unkind?” She later transferred to a different school.

Also in May, at Leiden University, a lecturer in Middle Eastern Studies began participating in anti-Israel protests and started a petition calling for the Dutch government to sever ties with Israel, prompting Leiden University Rector Magnificus Hester Bijl to declare that boycotting the Jewish state is incongruous with the university’s values.

“Leiden University is a stronghold of freedom, where freedom of expressions is a great asset,” she tweeted in May, responding to a reporter’s question about the university’s stance on the petition, which was signed by over 400 academics. “We stand for inclusiveness and social safety in expressing that opinion. Calling for a boycott is not one of them. And, of course, the constitution is the limit.”

In Tuesday’s parliamentary questions, Ellian and Hatte van der Woude asked the government if it is aware of such activity on Dutch college campuses, which includes reports that Jewish students are browbeaten by professors who support the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, and are ignored by university officials when they complain that this behavior violates academic freedom.

They also asked ministers if they view calls for Israel’s destruction as a form of antisemitism, and whether it is appropriate for universities to fund pro-BDS organizations when the government “refrains from such funding.”

“What will you do to ensure that Jewish students feel safe and free, both physically and academically, in universities?” they asked.

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