A Swedish university bans “political manifestations”. And 953 researchers from 5 countries are calling for a boycott of Israeli universities.
STOCKHOLM taz | The war in Gaza is also polarizing debate at Scandinavian universities. The management of Chalmers Technical University in Gothenburg made a decision earlier this week, which was followed by a comment in the daily newspaper ETC “surrealistic”, another in expresses finds it “fascinating”.
In order to “protect the safety of students and employees” and on the grounds of wanting to “secure the university as a place for the exchange of ideas,” all “political manifestations” on campus were banned. What this means is, “for people to gather and express political views like this“That the passer-by cannot miss or ignore the message, and this also includes the posters”.
What had happened that one felt that the freedom of expression of 10,000 students and 3,000 university employees had to be restricted in such a way?
Two weeks ago, 25 students gathered in solidarity with the residents of Gaza for a minute’s silence in front of the student government building, set up a table with candles and collected signatures demanding that Chalmers stop working with universities that work with the Israeli military industry .
A lot of criticism of the rector of the TU Gothenburg
Everything was calm and peaceful, Chalmers spokeswoman Karin Wik confirmed to the local Gothenburg Post: There were no complaints, no one felt bothered. However, for sanctions like the one for which signatures were collected, the correct addressee is not Chalmers, but the Swedish government.
So why this unprecedented step in Sweden, the comments from the left Flamman to the liberal Dagens Nyheter now criticize it as an attack on academic freedom and the basic democratic rights and freedoms of students and university employees?
In dictatorships and authoritarian states, such methods are commonplace, he says Dagens Arena. While ETC Orwell’s effort in 1984 speaks of a “principled breach of the dam” and appeals: Anyone who does not resist now “risks postponing their commitment until it is too late.” And for Dagens Nyheter This step by Chalmers rector Martin Nilsson Jacobi proves above all that he “did not understand his mission”.
Comparison with totalitarian states
If Chalmers takes inspiration from China, North Korea and Saudi Arabia, that’s bad enough, he says expresses. But when Sweden’s Education Minister Mats Persson applauds when “one of the oldest and most central forms of exchange of ideas is banned”, one has to ask whether politics is pursuing the goal of turning Sweden into a country “full of fearful, ignorant and political people “More disinterested”.
A year ago, Persson explicitly spoke out against any attempts at censorship: “A university is not just any place. Criticism, questioning and open discussions should be the order of the day here. This is what it should look like in a liberal democracy.” But back then it was also about cancel culture.
Now he expressly welcomed the Chalmers ban. Universities should “concentrate on their core mission”. There were also Jewish students who felt “uncomfortable”. And Sweden’s Jewish Central Council expressed concern that that manifestations for Gaza could be seen as support for Hamas terror.
Sara Nihad, one of the co-organizers of the manifestation, rejects the assumption that the minute’s silence had an anti-Semitic background or could have been intended to support Hamas as “completely ignorant”: “Everyone who knows us knows that it’s not about that at all Jewish people go. This is about the occupied people of Palestine.”
University lecturers for boycott of Israeli universities
There is also a call for a boycott of cooperation between Scandinavian research institutions and Israeli academic institutions “until Israel ends its war against Gaza and puts an end to its illegal occupation and apartheid rule in Palestine”. Part of a declaration of solidarity for Gazawhich 939 professors and research assistants at universities and colleges in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland published on Wednesday.
The signatories made their call in response to one open letter from the Palestinian Birzeit University understand, which called on international academic institutions to act against “the genocidal war against the Palestinian people and Israeli settler colonialism.”
“We deeply mourn all the Palestinian and Israeli civilians killed since October 7, and we are horrified by the escalations of violence in recent weeks, which have had fatal consequences for the lives of so many civilians,” the Nordic appeal said.
Demand for an end to colonial thinking
One can no longer simply watch in silence as “the Israeli state kills thousands of Palestinian civilians before our eyes.” It calls for an immediate ceasefire, the opening of Gaza’s borders to humanitarian aid and a halt to all economic investment in Israeli settlements in occupied territory.
“We understand the fight for the liberation of Palestinians as an inherent part of a larger project to stop oppression and colonial violence in any context,” it concludes: “From our position in the Nordic countries, this is what it means , with our colonial heritage regarding Sápmi (Sameland) and Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland) to end it. We see these struggles as interrelated.”