Dutch universities cease investigations into ties with Jewish and Israeli groups

A group of 14 Dutch universities are suspending their investigations into their ties to Jewish and Israeli entities, carried out upon the freedom of information request of the Dutch pro-Palestinian Rights Forum.

The Association of Universities in the Netherlands, a trade group that includes the University of Amsterdam, made an announcement in a joint statement on February 11 that fourteen public Dutch universities are halting their investigations into their ties with Israeli and Jewish entities.

Their decision followed the outcry of Jewish groups provoked by the freedom of information request, the so-called WOB request in the Netherlands; a query certified by the country’s prosecution service under a 1991 freedom of information law and binding on public or state-funded organizations. It was issued by the pro-Palestinian group founded by former prime minister Dries van Agt, whom critics call antisemitic.

“The handling and distribution of the Wob request has led to feelings of unrest and insecurity within universities. We regret this,” the group of universities wrote in an additional statement on Tuesday, February 15. “We stand for a safe educational, research and working climate for all our employees and students. We take the signals that this has come into question as a result of our approach to the WOB request and confirm that a careful assessment of the request is necessary.” Nevertheless, they are legally obligated to respond to the request.

In the WOB request a series of Jewish groups of interest was identified, including Christians for Israel, the Israeli weapons and defense systems producer Elbit and a right-wing, pro-Israel Dutch-Jewish association. The list also includes mainstream Jewish entities from the Netherlands and elsewhere that do not define themselves as Israeli or solely focused on Israel, including for example the Anti-Defamation League and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

The Central Jewish Board has called the request antisemitic and urged universities to refuse to comply with it.