Dutch university cancels talk on Israel boycott, cites Paris attacks

Cnaan Liphshiz

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) — A Dutch university canceled a panel discussion on boycotting Israel following the terrorist attacks in France.

VU University Amsterdam nixed Tuesday’s debate a day before it was scheduled to take place. The debate, which was organized by a group called Students for Justice in Palestine, featured three speakers who are known for positions widely seen as being anti-Israel.


“We observed today that, in light of social unrest tied to the events of last week, the debate is causing feelings of exclusion and lack of safety within the university community,” Jaap Winter said in a statement published Monday on the university’s website.

The group said the university’s decision violated academic freedom and free thought. It held the debate off campus.

On Monday, the Joodse Omroep, a Dutch-Jewish broadcaster, published an interview with a Jewish student identified only as Sonja who said that she was afraid to return to the university when her internship outside the Netherlands ends.

“I don’t want to come back, and in fact I think it’s a bit scary,” she said, citing harassment of pro-Israel students and Jews.

On Jan. 5, a Facebook user using the handle Muhammad Seher wrote on the Facebook page of Students for Justice in Palestine, “Free Palestine, Vrije Univesiteit Jew-free!”

He was responding to the group’s post that read “Free Palestine, Vrije Univesiteit Israel-free!”