VU Amsterdam drops Israel-Palestine debate

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The campus at UV was intended as the setting for the debate (Franklin Heijnen/Wikimedia Commons). (The campus at UV was intended as the setting for the debate (Franklin Heijnen/Wikimedia Commons))

A debate about the Israel-Palestine conflict scheduled to be held at VU University Amsterdam on Tuesday was cancelled by the Executive Board of the university, with no plan to be rescheduled. University chair Jaap Winter is a strong advocate for debate of sensitive and controversial issues at universities, but described the timing as wrong.

The social unrest lingering from the shootings and hostage situations in Paris last week could induce feelings of "exclusion and insecurity within the university community" Winter said in statement.

The debate was expected to be controversial. It was propelled by activist group Studenten voor Rechtvaardig Palestina (SRP), a student organisation concerned with the Palestinian issue. In a pre-debate discussion session, the group used slogans such as 'Israel VU-free'.

According to Winter, the slogan demonstrates advocacy for the breaking of alliances between VU and Israeli universities. "This is not a policy of the University", said Winter. He indicated the university's position as opposing a boycott of Israel and pointed to a policy of dialogue and conversation.

Winter also discussed the diversity of the student population at VU, and highlighted the importance of maintaining that diversity through creating a safe place for all students at university. The Executive Board and SRP will meet to discuss the planning of a balanced debate on the Israel-Palestine issue in the near future.

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