Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Polaris of Enlightenment

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Polaris of Enlightenment

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators camp out in Helsinki

The situation in Gaza

Published 9 May 2024
- By Editorial Staff
Students camp outside the university.

Students have camped outside the University of Helsinki and members of the Students for Palestine movement are calling for an immediate end to all cooperation with Israeli institutions and universities.

Outside the Porthania building, hundreds of student demonstrators have gathered and set up camp, but have not entered any building and intend to remain outside. The action started on Monday morning with about ten tents. In practice, they demand that the university ends all cooperation with Israeli institutes and universities, including the project with exchange students from Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

– We demand that the University of Helsinki and all other Finnish universities start boycotting all Israeli institutions, especially universities, Vilja Herrmansson, a spokesman for the protesters, told Finnish state broadcaster Yle.

Similar actions have been taken against universities, particularly in the US, where Columbia University in New York City decided to suspend some students who protested Israel’s actions in Gaza.

The protesters outside the University of Helsinki also want all research projects with Israeli universities to be terminated.

– We demand that the University of Helsinki suspends 13 EU-funded research projects carried out in cooperation with Israeli universities. It is possible for a university to do this, five Norwegian universities have already done so, says Hermansson.

Cooperation with Palestine and Israel terminated

Esa Hämälainen, the university’s director of administration, says that all cooperation with Israeli and Palestinian universities has already been terminated for security reasons. However, the university has not investigated individual researchers or EU-funded projects.

– We don’t have a complete register where you could see what kind of contacts our individual researchers have around the world. Certainly we have researchers who collaborate with Israelis. I can think of EU-funded research consortia that involve several countries. There may be joint research with Israelis, he says.

However, Hermansson says that attempts to engage in dialogue with the university since October have been unsuccessful, and is also clear that the demonstration is not about targeting individuals.

– It’s not a boycott of individuals. Cutting off institutional contact shows Israeli universities that what is going on is not acceptable.

In November, a similar demonstration outside the university was broken up by police.

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