Antwerp and Leuven students join campus protests against Israeli collaborations

Students at KU Leuven and Antwerp University are joining the growing movement of campus protests calling for their institutions to end collaborations with Israeli universities. 

Some 70 KU Leuven students set up tents in the College De Valk building in the city centre on Monday morning. “We had a consultation with the rectorate last week,” PhD student Niels De Ridder said. “Those talks have been going on for some time, but have still not yielded any results. That is why we have decided to proceed with the occupation.”

KU Leuven reiterated its position last week, saying it does not want to automatically equate Israeli institutions with its government.

"As a university, we recognise the complexity and emotional charge of the events surrounding the violence in Gaza," said rector Luc Sels on Monday. "We share the concerns and also continue to listen to the voices of our students and staff. Open dialogue and debate are fundamental to our community."

The students intend to continue occupying the building until KU Leuven scraps its projects with Israeli universities. “We will stay as long as there is no meaningful action to stop the partnerships. We have no end date in sight,” De Ridder said.

"We will stay as long as there is no meaningful action to stop the partnerships"

Demonstrations have been held on American campuses to denounce Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip since mid-April. The movement, launched by students at Columbia University in New York, has since spread around the US and around the world, including Sydney, Dublin and Amsterdam. In Belgium, students at the University of Ghent have taken part in the movement, followed by Brussels institutions ULB and VUB.

Students in Antwerp announced on Monday that they would also be joining the movement. 

Call for solidarity

“We are holding the occupation for two reasons,” a spokesperson said. “On the one hand, out of solidarity with the victims of genocide in Palestine and with students who are violently targeted in other countries. On the other, because after seven months, the University of Antwerp has still not taken a stand, shown solidarity or scrapped collaborations with problematic universities in Israel.”

The students are calling for transparency about collaborations, an action plan to break academic ties that perpetuate the Israeli occupation in Palestine, and an ethical charter that will stop such collaborations in the future. They also want the rector to speak out clearly against the occupation of Palestine.


#FlandersNewsService | © BELGA PHOTO INE GILLIS

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