Students to occupy VUB building in solidarity with Palestine

Students from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) will occupy an unspecified university building from Monday, the action group Palestine Solidarity Network announced on Friday.

The occupation will take place on the university's campus in the Brussels municipality of Etterbeek. The action group said it had been planning an occupation for several weeks, but decided to stage it earlier to raise the pressure.

Students at several other Belgian universities staged occupations in solidarity with Palestine earlier this week. On Monday, students at the University of Ghent occupied the entrance hall of a building, and students at the Université libre de Bruxelles followed suit on Tuesday. 

Palestine Solidarity Network plans to occupy a building on the VUB campus from 9.30 on Monday and is calling on students to bring tents. Their demands include that the university's rector and the president of the Flemish Interuniversity Council put an academic boycott on the agenda.

Real boycott and transparency

On Wednesday, the VUB announced that it wanted to end its cooperation with two Israeli institutions in a scientific research project on artificial intelligence. "This is tremendously hopeful news and shows that our struggle is paying off," said Isa Tomasevic of the Palestine Solidarity Network.

We have to go to extremes until there is a real academic boycott against Israel"

"This motivates not only us, but students all over the country, in different universities. We have to go to extremes until there is a real academic boycott against Israel," Tomasevic said on Wednesday.

However, the action group says real transparency is still lacking. While the VUB has previously stated that none of the projects it has collaborated on with Israeli institutions have any link to military applications, they say this is not true.

Knowledge used to bomb targets in Gaza

According to the group, the project the VUB intends to withdraw from is TAILOR, a research project with Israel's Bar-Ilan University. They say that knowledge and expertise generated by the VUB in this project is allegedly being used to bomb targets in Gaza using AI.

The students are demanding that the VUB not renew its contract with Hewlett-Packard

An alleged collaboration with Israel's Technion University is also ​ said to contradict the VUB's claim. "This university cooperates with Elbit Systems," one of Israel's major defence contractors and a military technology company, the activists said.

The students are also demanding that VUB's contract with Hewlett-Packard not be renewed after 2025. "The VUB works with HP for software and equipment, while the company is known for providing technological hardware and servers that Israel uses to organise its system of segregation and apartheid," they said.


Students occupying a Ghent University building on Monday © BELGA PHOTO JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE

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