Jewish family objects to anti-Israel slogan at Amsterdam graduation, sparking row

Jewish student separated from rest of class after his family protests speaker’s reference to ‘From the river to the sea’; school says it will apologize to everyone

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

Pedestrians walk near one of the campuses of the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. (Courtesy of the University of Amsterdam)
Pedestrians walk near one of the campuses of the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. (Courtesy of the University of Amsterdam)

A Jewish student graduating from the University of Amsterdam was given his diploma separately from the rest of his class after some students shouted “fucking Jews” at his family.

The incident last week began when Faris Faramand, one of the graduates who had been selected to speak at the event, used his speech — which he delivered wearing a keffiyeh over his regalia — to accuse Israel of “genocide” against Palestinians. “There is an ongoing genocide in our country right now,” Faramand said.

He alluded to the slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a video of his speech obtained by The Times of Israel shows. Palestinians have “a mission from the river to the sea, from the past to today, Palestinians resist in their own special way,” Faramand said.

The Jewish student and his family stood up to dispute Faramand’s allegations, saying, “What about the hostages?” in reference to the at least 241 people abducted from Israel by Hamas terrorists during their brutal October 7 onslaught, and now held in Gaza.

They also objected to his mention of the space between “the river and the sea.” It is evocative of the slogan: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which is prevalent at anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian events and is widely interpreted as a call to eliminate Israel or ethnically cleanse the Land of Israel of Jews. Israel, the West Bank and Gaza sit between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

The debate about the slogan has reached the lower house of the Dutch parliament, the Tweede Kamer, where, in a resolution passed on October 25, a majority of lawmakers said it constituted a call to commit violence.

According to the De Telegraaf report, people in the audience turned on the family, shouting them down and hurling obscenities at them until they all left the room.

The student’s family declined to comment to The Times of Israel.

A representative of the university responded to the incident by saying on stage: “The standpoint of the university is that we feel that all lives matter. So I understand that you tell your personal story here, but we feel that we can only coexist if we talk together. And violence is never right.”

The Jewish student and his family were taken to a separate room where he was given his degree in the presence of only his family and a university representative, according to De Telegraaf.

Protesters gather with placards and Palestinian flags during the “London Rally For Palestine” in Trafalgar Square, central London on November 4, 2023. (JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

In a statement to De Telegraaf, a University of Amsterdam spokesperson said university authorities will “have a conversation with the student to let him know this situation was not the intention” of the organizers. The university intends to apologize by email to all the students who attended the ceremony, the spokesperson said. They did not say what the university would apologize for.

Anti-Israel sentiment has been on the rise in Europe and elsewhere in the wake of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which was triggered on October 7 when thousands of Hamas terrorists crossed into Israel, where they proceeded to murder some 1,400 people, mostly civilians. The terrorists perpetrated additional war crimes, including the targeting of children, women and other civilians, rape, torture, body mutilation and arson.

Israel declared war on Hamas, which rules Gaza, and vowed to eliminate it. Thousands are alleged to have died as a result of the Israeli campaign, according to figures from the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, which cannot be confirmed.

Rabbi Yanki Jacobs who heads the Chabad on Campus group in the Netherands, said he is pleased “to learn that the University of Amsterdam takes this incident seriously.” He urged the university to “adopt a zero-tolerance policy and to seriously reprimand students and faculty who engage in this dangerous and unacceptable trend.”

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