200 university employees support pro-Palestinian student protests

The situation in Gaza

Published 25 June 2024
- By Editorial Staff
Images from student protests at the University of Gothenburg.

More than 200 teachers and researchers at the University of Gothenburg have signed a petition supporting the pro-Palestinian student protests and calling for a boycott of Israel.

The students have been camped out on campus for over a month, demanding, among other things, that the university administration suspend all cooperation with Israeli authorities, research institutions and companies, and that the administration publicly distance itself from Israel’s invasion – as it did when Russia invaded Ukraine.

– It is reasonable to support the students’ demands, says Håkan Thörn, professor of sociology at the Swedish public broadcaster SVT.

– When you see what is happening in Gaza, with 5,000 students killed and universities in ruins, the University of Gothenburg must be able to take a stand on this issue, he continues.

So far, 215 of the university’s 6707 employees have signed the petition. Rector Malin Broberg, however, believes that the protests will not have the desired effect.

– We see no difference between students and employees protesting against the Gaza war. We’re listening to everyone’s opinion.

– We do not intend to suspend cooperation with Israeli universities. We have a small number of institutional EU projects where teachers can decide on the form of cooperation. The projects are chosen with care, she continues.

“Against our ethical guidelines”

However, Håkan Thörn does not believe that taking a stand against Israel’s invasion would violate the university’s policy of independence or political neutrality.

– Cooperation with Israeli institutions goes against our own ethical guidelines, which are based on human rights. Therefore, it is justified.

– As an academic, I find it almost more problematic not to take a stand in a situation where Israel is accused of committing genocide, says Helena Lindholm, professor of peace and development research.

The Swedish student protests have drawn both praise and condemnation, with critics claiming they are “left-wing extremists” trying to pressure university leaders to condemn Israel and take a political stand.

Supporters of the protests, however, argue instead that they expose the hypocrisy of the leadership, which was quick and easy to distance itself from Russia and condemn the war in Ukraine – but not Israel’s invasion, even though the latter has been far more deadly for the civilian population and both the UN and human rights groups have warned that the crimes being committed may meet the legal definition of genocide.

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