ACOD UGent calls on university management to follow the advice of its own Human Rights Policy Committee and to sever ties with Israeli universities that support the IDF or the far-right government in Israel

Submitted by ACOD UGent on di, 05/07/2024 - 20:48

Yesterday, an occupation action by students and staff started at our university. This occupation takes place in solidarity with the Palestinian people who are suffering from the Israeli army's brutal attacks and human rights violations during their offensive in Gaza. The activists ask that Ghent University stop collaboration with Israeli universities, and also provide transparency about current collaborations.

According to numerous reports in the media and the open letter published last weekend, the Committee on Human Rights Policy and Dual Use Research (CMDUO) of Ghent University has formulated an advice "after a thorough evaluation of the position of our university." in view of the current context of irrefutable war crimes and large-scale human rights violations, to no longer conclude bilateral collaborations with all Israeli universities.” 

Such advice is not surprising, given the multitude of messages, reports and publications (*) about the close ties between Israeli universities and the Israeli government and the Israeli army (IDF), which are involved in massive human rights violations.

It appears that all Israeli universities collaborate with the IDF in one way or another, on the one hand through the development of technologies and the provision of materials (e.g. AI technology, teleguided technology for unmanned robots and explosives, etc.), but on the other hand also because the law faculties of these universities actively support the IDF to prevent Israeli soldiers from being brought before national and international courts or convicted for their human rights violations.

This close connection with and active support of the IDF by all universities, coupled with the dramatic situation caused by the Israeli offensive in Gaza, is certainly a serious argument that could have prompted the CMDUO to formulate its advice. ACOD UGent fully supports this proposal as described above, and regrets that the Board of Governors has not followed this.

ACOD UGent has serious questions about this conclusion of the Board of Governors to disregard the committee's advice. The university also remains silent about this. No explanation is given about the committee's position and arguments, nor about how the Council refutes them to arrive at this different decision. Has there been a substantive debate in the Council based on a good preparatory proposal document, and on the basis of complete and transparent information about the committee's investigation and arguments? And why is this information not openly shared with the Ghent University community?

It is also strange that the rector - in his email communication on Monday May 6th about the application of the UGent human rights policy to cooperation with Israeli partners, as well as in his written reply as published on the university website  - does not mention that the committee had a different opinion.

At ACOD UGent, we believe that our university must also take its responsibility regarding the drama unfolding in Gaza. We therefore repeat our call for solidarity with the Palestinian people and call on the university board to reconsider its decision and to indeed follow the advice of the CMDUO.

Although we are convinced that the assessment by the CMDUO ensures that Ghent University will not be involved in projects that directly or indirectly contribute to human rights violations in Israel or the Palestinian territories, we also believe, apparently just like the committee, that Ghent University should go further and that it should sever ties with Israeli universities that support the IDF or the far-right government in Israel.


(*) See a.o. the following sources: