Dutch universities to ignore query on Jewish group ties, but may divulge on Israel

Chief rabbi ‘relieved’ by decision but concerned it took universities two weeks and vociferous protests by Dutch Jews and their allies to respond to pro-Palestinian group’s demand

The University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. (Courtesy of the University of Amsterdam via JTA)
The University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. (Courtesy of the University of Amsterdam via JTA)

JTA — A group of public universities in the Netherlands said that they will ignore a controversial freedom of information query on their ties with Jewish groups, but they appeared willing in principle to disclose their connections with Israeli entities.

The Universities of the Netherlands, an umbrella group for the country’s 14 public universities, released their latest statement on the drama on Monday, following a recent query by The Rights Forum, a pro-Palestinian organization whose founder has long fought accusations of antisemitism.

The query “targets a specific group of citizens, including staff, students and alumni of our universities, creating feelings of unsafety, injustice and discrimination. We will not cooperate with this,” the statement reads.

The Rights Forum had asked for documents or information on “institutional ties with Israel universities, institutions and businesses and with organizations that propagate support for the State of Israel.”

But it also named non-Israeli Jewish organizations from the Netherlands and beyond, including the Anti-Defamation League; the Central Jewish Board of the Netherlands; the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance; B’nai B’rith International; and the office of the Dutch government’s own National Coordinator for Fighting Antisemitism, which is headed by Edo Verdonner, who is Jewish.

In response to that part of the Wob — the Dutch name for the freedom of information request — the university group’s statement added: “We strongly reject unequal treatment on the basis of religion or origin. We stand for the safety of the working environment for all our employees and students and for being an academic community that does not exclude anyone and in which no distinction is made on the basis of religion or origin.”

The group said it will not respond to “this part of the request,” but did not comment on the part concerning Israeli entities.

Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he was “relieved” by the latest statement, but worried by the fact that it took the universities two weeks and vociferous protests by Dutch Jews and their allies to reach their conclusion.

Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP)

“The fact is that in Holland, antisemitism or anti-Zionism are extremely strong,” he said. “The proof: It took time and pressure to convince the universities not to join this unacceptable and manifestly antisemitic request.”

The university group first announced the Wob request on February 11 and previously said on February 15 that it was pausing its internal investigations on the matter because it had “led to feelings of unrest and insecurity within universities.”

The Rights Forum was founded by former Dutch Prime Minister Dries van Agt, who has compared Israel to Nazi Germany and recently claimed, apparently without proof, that Israeli settlers routinely poison their Palestinian neighbors.

The Rights Forum has not responded to a request for a comment on the query.

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