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The Maastricht Diplomat

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All Eyes on Rafah Protest March (23.05) & UM Statement (24.05)

A pro-Palestine march, put together by local organizations began at 7:00 p.m. directly in front of Maastricht Centraal Station on Thursday, 23 May. The protest, which covered some key landmarks in Maastricht including the Sint Servaasbrug and Markt, concluded in the Vrijthof. Speakers from multiple non profit organizations and local political parties reflected upon the student encampment that was established at Maastricht University (UM) and called for the Dutch government to recognize their complicity with the humanitarian crisis occurring in Gaza.


Protest March

Speeches were given by representatives from organizations or local political parties including Erev Rav Maastricht, Pride Maastricht, Palestina Solidariteit Limburg, Partij voor de Dieren (Animal Party), International Socialist Zuid-Limburg, Free Palestine Maastricht, and a few students from the Maastricht solidarity encampment, with one speaking on behalf of the (5) hunger strikers. 




According to observers present the march received participation from approximately 400-500 individuals, predominantly composed of students and young adults.


The demonstration addressed specific concerns, consisting of holding the Dutch government accountable for its indifference to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the reiteration for Maastricht University to cut ties with Israel or Israeli-based academic institutions, and the difference between anti-zionism and antisemitism. The representative from the International Socialist Zuid-Limburg emphasized the damage done by the Partij voor de Vrijheid/Party for Freedom (PVV) and its leader, Geert Wilders, with particular attention towards the potential criminalization of the phrase “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”


Most recent UM development

Maastricht University released a statement this morning, May 24, communicating their decision to establish a Human Rights Due Diligence Assessment (HRDD), to be used in reevaluating ties with “administrative partnerships in areas with large-scale violent conflict.” In the explanatory declaration attached to the statement, UM says that although it is “impossible to determine how academic institutions might be contributing to fundamental human rights violations” they are freezing administrative cooperation with certain partners for the time being. The “freeze,” meaning no changes nor progressions will be made in the existing links between institutions, will be reevaluated once the HRDD is produced and employed. The freeze will be lifted or further action will have to be taken. 


This development comes after a group of students occupied the garden and other academic buildings in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASoS) for 10 full days. Just this past Wednesday, May 22, the students were ordered to vacate the premises after assuming control of faculty building GG. 80-82. Around half of the students were on the balcony of the front-facing building, and the other half stood interlocking arms in front of the building's doors, parallel to Grote Gracht. UM administration, in accordance with police and municipal authorities, cited concerns for “public order and safety” in their decision to disband the encampment.


The Executive Board (EB) in collaboration with the Board of Deans will evidently use the HRDD assessment to ascertain if and to what extent certain partnerships are involved in the violation of fundamental human rights standards. The EB in collaboration with the deans will create a permanent, diversely-composed committee to conduct and facilitate the assessments, this will be referred to as the Committee of Experts (as detailed in one of the UM declarations).


Maastricht University will host or facilitate a dialogue within the UM community in regards to developing the HRDD and receiving feedback.


Find the statement and links to the explanatory declaration and follow-up steps here.


Further

As a part of the “detailed elaboration” UM reflects upon the actions taken by students in the past two weeks regarding its administrative partnerships. In this the university reflects on the comparison drawn by students equating the university’s response time to ‘cut-ties’ with Russia after the invasion of Ukraine (11 days) to the university’s inaction regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict. The decision to suspend partnerships (formal and institutional) with Russia and Belarus was directed by the [Dutch] Minister of Education, Culture, and Science; the university brings attention to the fact that this was a political decision imposed on all Dutch universities and other high-level academic institutions.


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