Spanish universities will break relations with those in Israel that are not committed to peace | Education

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The conference of rectors (CRUE) has expressed on several occasions its rejection of the intervention of Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip and the Hamas kidnappings and now goes one step further and commits to “review and, where appropriate, suspend collaboration agreements with Israeli universities and research centers that have not expressed a firm commitment to peace and compliance with international humanitarian law.” …

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The conference of rectors (CRUE) has expressed on several occasions its rejection of the intervention of Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip and the Hamas kidnappings and now goes one step further and commits to “review and, where appropriate, suspend collaboration agreements with Israeli universities and research centers that have not expressed a firm commitment to peace and compliance with international humanitarian law.” This was expressed this Thursday in a statement after the monthly meeting that brings together the conference’s governing board. More than 34,000 people have died in Gaza since last October.

Furthermore, the CRUE, which brings together 77 public and private universities (not all), endorses the “feeling” of their campuses and “the demand that is spreading from them.” That is, it supports the camps – all on public campuses – that began this Monday in Valencia and have spread to other centers in Madrid, Andalusia, Catalonia, the Basque Country and Navarra. These camps have received criticism from popular leaders, such as the Madrid president Isabel Ayuso and the party spokesperson, Borja Sémper (in his opinion, the camps are intended “against Israel and in favor of Hamas”); and the support, on the other hand, of the Minister of Science, Innovation and Universities, Diana Morant. The Minister of Social Rights and Consumer Affairs, Pablo Bustinduy, has also called on Spanish companies in Israel to take measures to not contribute to the “genocide.”

The rectors also commit to “intensify cooperation with the Palestinian scientific and higher education system and expand our cooperation, volunteering and care programs for the refugee population.” Also to “ensure that, in the exercise of free expression, equally reprehensible conduct of anti-Semitism or Islamophobia does not occur, as well as any other hateful behavior within the university communities.” The CRUE brings together very different sensitivities – there are public universities, religious universities, family universities, investment fund universities… – and it is not common for it to manifest itself. The measure is not binding for the members of the CRUE, which is a private association, in which everyone is free.

The rectors’ statement does not convince the campers who will continue their protests. “Among the many empty words, we do not see an answer to our demands. We do not want rectors to “review” their contracts, but rather the complete breakdown of relationships of all kinds. In addition to agreements with Israeli universities, our universities maintain relationships with companies that finance the genocide against the Palestinian people. An empty review is not worth it to us, while they profit from the purchase and sale of weapons that are used against the Palestinian people,” a statement from the campers states.

On April 24, the University of the Basque Country published a manifesto similar to that of the CRUE and, this Wednesday, the University of Granada once again raised the possibility of eventually suspending academic relations with Israeli centers that did not condemn the aggression, but He was waiting to know the position of the group of rectors. Furthermore, this Thursday, early in the morning, the faculty of the University of Barcelona published a statement in which, among other measures, it requested the “creation of a commission of inquiry into possible institutional relations between the university and entities that do not comply with the International human right”.

Israel, despite its small size, does not reach 10 million inhabitants, is a world power in several fields of knowledge due to heavy investment and is demonstrated in the Shanghai ranking, which measures scientific production: it places seven universities among the top 700 in the world, three of them among the top 100, led by the United States and the United Kingdom. While in Spain, with 48 million people registered and underfunded public campuses, only the universities of Barcelona and Granada slip into the range of the 200 to 300 best.

A month after the 250 Hamas kidnappings and nearly 1,200 deaths, VERA (Association of University Heads), the association that brings together the rectors of Israeli universities, launched a letter highly critical of its colleagues in the West: “It is ironic that the very halls of enlightenment in the United States and Europe, seemingly the bastions of intellectual and progressive thought that are their campuses, have embraced Hamas as the cause célèbre while demonizing Israel. “Universities, as centers of enlightenment and rational discourse, must take responsibility for the opinions they perpetuate.” And they closed their letter by calling for “a radical change in clarity and truth in academia on the issue of Israel’s war against Hamas, so that light triumphs over darkness, now and always.”

Pro-Palestinian camp at the Complutense University of Madrid, this Wednesday.Claudio Alvarez

Israeli universities have not formally called for an end to the occupation of the Strip. Some teachers have felt censored for their opinions. The most notable case was that of a Palestinian professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, who was expelled from the academic center after saying in an interview that Israel was committing “genocide” in Gaza. She returned to her post and police opened an investigation, reports Antonio Pita from Lebanon. Likewise, more than 100 university students, almost all Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, have suffered disciplinary measures since the attack. Eight of them were temporarily suspended by the University of Haifa for “incitement” to violence, due to their publications that day on social networks.

The Russian precedent

The CRUE was more blunt in March 2022 in the case of the breaking of relations with Russian universities after the invasion of Ukraine, but on that occasion they joined what was agreed in the Association of European Universities (USA). Following a letter from 200 rectors and presidents of Russian universities supporting Vladimir Putin, the Spanish conference called for the agreements to be paralyzed “with immediate effect until further notice” and began a trickle of expulsions from Russian campuses in the EUA. Relations have not been resumed.

In the case of Russia, in turn, the European Commission paralyzed current and future scientific cooperation projects with the country within the framework of Horizon Europe – the largest source of international financing -, even canceling pending payments.

Sources from the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities have indicated that the department supports “the commitment expressed by the CRUE to peace, coexistence and justice and to the defense of international humanitarian law” and have taken the opportunity to emphasize their rejection of “any attempted criminalization against the young people who demand peace in Gaza”, after the words of the popular leaders.

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