Wiesenthal Center blasts Dutch university's apartheid event

Erasmus University hosts events equating Israel with South African apartheid regime; event was funded by the EU.

April 10, 2011 03:47
4 minute read.
A poster for Israeli Apartheid Week.

israel apartheid week 311. (photo credit: Screenshot)


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BERLIN – Dr. Shimon Samuels, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director for international relations, slammed Rotterdam’s Erasmus University’s International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) last week for hosting and sponsoring events in which Israel was equated with the former apartheid regime in South Africa.

In a letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Samuels, “after the Israeli Apartheid Week 2011 in which ISS took active part with a series of lectures and other events,” called for the EU to slash funding for Erasmus University’s International Institute of Social Studies.

“Israeli Apartheid Week” not only obstructed “freedom of expression for open debate on the Middle East, under the guise of anti-Zionism, Israeli Apartheid Week is a contributing factor to anti-Semitism. Indeed, universities where it is hosted are, ipso facto, in violation of the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency 2004 Working Definition of Anti-Semitism,” Samuels wrote.

The EU definition of anti-Semitism deems equations between Israel and the former regime in South Africa to be a manifestation of contemporary anti-Semitism because the juxtaposition seeks to undermine Israel’s right to exist.

Samuels said the EU had funded an anti-Israel event, and cited “a press invitation from the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation (IHJR) on Palestinian Refugees of 1948, affiliated to the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University of Rotterdam, in the Netherlands.”

A copy of the press invitation obtained by The Jerusalem Post states that the event was funded by the EU.

The Wiesenthal Center calls on the EU “to publicly condemn Israeli Apartheid Week as a threat to European domestic and Middle East interests, and to cut EU funding from universities where it is held,” Samuels wrote.

Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for Ashton, wrote the Post by email on Friday: “Dr. Shimon Samiels from the Wiesenthal Center in Israel is referring to two events: The presentation of a book on the remembrances of 1948 Palestinian refugees (held on 4 April 2011 in east Jerusalem) and the Israeli Apartheid Week (held in March 2011). These are two separate initiatives that cannot be mixed.”

She continued, “The participation of the Institute for Social Studies at Erasmus University in Rotterdam in the Israeli Apartheid Week has not been funded under EU educational programs.”

Kocijancic added that “the Partnership for Peace program does not fund universities as such. It finances concrete projects with clearly identified objectives and results, which should contribute to peace, reconciliation and understanding among the peoples in the Middle East and to the peace process. The book on the remembrances of 1948 Palestinian refugees falls within these general guidelines.”

Sandra van Beek, a spokeswoman from ISS in Rotterdam, told the Post, “In answer to your queries concerning Israeli Apartheid week, I would like to refer you to the university policy on academic freedom.

Within the university walls, intellectuals are free to exchange views freely and it is not the policy of our university to take a standpoint on political issues. This is clearly applicable to the events which you list in your e-mail.”

She continued, “There have been a number of events at which intellectual debate could take place.

During these events, there was ample opportunity for the right of reply. Any opinions expressed at those events are those of individuals and not of the university as an institution. Within ISS in particular, peace and conflict studies and matters concerning human rights are both the subject of research and part of the teaching curriculum.”

Samuels fired back, telling the Post that “Ms. van Beek evades the main point in my protest. Israeli Apartheid Week does anything but encourage exchange of views freely or intellectual debate or the right of reply. On many campuses in Europe and North America, it menacingly represses pro-Zionist freedom of expression, often leading to violence against Israeli or local Jewish speakers.”

“The ‘Week’ is a vehicle for the boycott campaign against Israeli universities, stifling academic freedom and promoting national discrimination.

By characterizing Israel as an Apartheid state, it is defamatory and seeks its demise, which is genocidal. Its university hosts are, arguably, thereby violating EU and OSCE 2004 international instruments to combat anti- Semitism,” Samuels told the Post.

Ronny Naftaniel, head of The Hague-based Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, told the Post, “Participation by academic institutions in hatefests such as Israeli Apartheid Week is rare in the Netherlands. A selfrespecting institution like Erasmus University cannot therefore identify itself with such activity. We have seen in the past cases of individuals abusing their position within institutions to promote the anti- Israel cause while creating the false impression that their actions represent official policy.

“We expect Erasmus University to distance itself from such extreme views, as it has done in 2009 when it dismissed the radical academic Tariq Ramadan due to his suspected links to terrorist organizations and condoning of terror attacks.”

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