University of Amsterdam Closes for 2 Days After Violent Pro-Palestinian Protest

The University of Amsterdam has closed its campuses for two days due to safety concerns following a violent pro-Palestinian protest that turned into vandalism, resulting in significant damage to the building and disruption to academic activities.

Nitish Verma
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University of Amsterdam Closes for 2 Days After Violent Pro-Palestinian Protest

University of Amsterdam Closes for 2 Days After Violent Pro-Palestinian Protest

The University of Amsterdam (UvA) has announced a two-day closure of all its campuses on Tuesday and Wednesday due to safety concerns following violent clashes and vandalism during a pro-Palestinian protest on Monday. The Executive Board stated that they cannot guarantee the safety of people at the university locations, leading to the cancellation of all classes except for the medical and dentistry programs, which are taught in academic hospitals and clinics.

Why this matters: The University of Amsterdam's closure highlights the growing tensions and polarization surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is now spilling over into academic institutions. This incident may set a precedent for how universities respond to protests and demonstrations, potentially affecting the balance between free speech and campus safety.

The peaceful pro-Palestinian demonstration at the Roeterseiland campus turned violent when a group of people dressed in black and wearing masks entered the building around 2 p.m. and caused deliberate destruction. The university has pressed charges against them for trespassing and vandalism. The vandalism resulted in significant damage to the building, including smashed television screens, broken windows, and tagged walls with messages such as "Free Gaza" and "Stop Genocide." The protesters also left a large amount of trash and overturned furniture. The estimated damage from last week's protests was 1.5 million euros.

The Executive Board condemned the violence, stating that it is "unacceptable that people who work or study at the UvA are harassed and threatened and have to leave their work or study place." The board emphasized that it will not allow any occupations, blockades, barricades, or overnight stays in and around the university buildings. The university is engaged in internal discussions about collaborating with external organizations, particularly regarding frameworks for collaborations with countries in war situations. The talks are expected to intensify in the coming weeks.

The pro-Palestinian demonstrators are demanding that the university sever all ties with Israeli institutions that participate in "genocide, apartheid, and exploitation of the Palestinian people and their land." The protests, which have been gaining momentum across Europe, were sparked by similar actions in US universities. Students and faculty members from multiple universities in the Netherlands, including the University of Amsterdam, Groningen, Nijmegen, Utrecht, Wageningen, and Leiden, staged protests against Israel's military operations in the Gaza Strip.

The protests come in response to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian militant groups, which started after a surprise attack by the militant groups on southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostage. Israel's retaliatory military operation has resulted in the deaths of more than 34,700 Palestinians, according to local health officials, and has devastated the Gaza Strip. The University of Amsterdam's Executive Board stated, "The Executive Board of the University of Amsterdam is shocked at the way a peaceful protest has been hijacked by violent elements who abused their own 'right to demonstrate' and deny the fundamental rights of others, including the media. No one is so right that this behavior is permitted."

Key Takeaways

  • University of Amsterdam closes campuses for two days due to safety concerns after violent clashes during pro-Palestinian protest.
  • Only medical and dentistry programs continue; other classes canceled amidst escalating tensions.
  • Masked individuals vandalize campus during peaceful demonstration, causing extensive damage.
  • University condemns violence, presses charges against perpetrators, and vows to prevent future disruptions.
  • Internal discussions underway on collaborations with countries in conflict situations.