Response to the open letter of 9 May concerning Israel and Gaza

Photo: Bart van Overbeeke.
Photo: Bart van Overbeeke.
The Executive Board’s door is open for conversation with all parties.

As the Executive Board, we are concerned about the events in Gaza and Israel. It is terrible to see people in the conflict zone suffering from the violence that began on October 7, 2023. We sympathize intensely with the many victims and all those affected by this. We hope that the violence and enormous human suffering will come to an end as soon as possible.

We understand that the ongoing conflict also leads to many in our community feeling sorrow, bewilderment and helplessness. We therefore understand the emotions and engagement underlying the open letter of May 9. It is the strength of the academic community to enable the generation of dialogue even on such precarious topics, to give space to all voices, with respect for each other. For this reason, we previously organized fruitful dialogue sessions in response to the conflict, which were conducted with great respect.

The open letter calls on TU/e to take a stand. However, this is not the role of the university. TU/e is not a political institution. Based on openness and inclusiveness, the university creates a safe learning and working environment for people of all backgrounds. Moreover, taking positions may lead to polarization and the exclusion of parties, a stance that would clash with the essential characteristic of the academic community, that every minority should feel welcome and safe, and have the opportunity to make its voice heard.

Collaboration is in the DNA of our university. We believe in the power of global science, as a driver of scientific, economic and social progress, as a facilitator of the exchange of knowledge and ideas. As such, TU/e has scientific co-publications with institutions from 140+ countries, including Israel. These represent approximately 1 percent of our scientific output. Our scientific cooperation with Israeli parties covers the full breadth of the fields of science in which TU/e is active. This always concerns research to make the world a better place. Regarding any ’dual use’ knowledge, we adhere to the National Guidelines for the Security of Knowledge.

TU/e collaboration with Israeli parties includes EU research projects as well as direct collaboration between individual scientists or groups. In addition, TU/e is a member of Eurotech, a university alliance of which the Israeli Technion is also a member. This is TU/e’s only institutional collaboration with an Israeli partner. The content of all’our scientific work, as well as the partners participating in it, can be accessed through publicly accessible sources.

It is worth keeping in mind that Israeli universities and their employees do not coincide with the government that funds them. More than anyone, they can contribute actively to dialogue in Israel, so it is important to maintain ties with them.

The umbrella organization Universities of the Netherlands (UNL) is committed to jointly exploring with universities how we can contribute to the reconstruction of knowledge institutions in the conflict zone and whether we can provide educational opportunities for refugee students and remote researchers.

We see that the debate about events in Gaza and Israel is conducted peacefully and respectfully in our community. However, we see elsewhere that the debate is hardening. We therefore urge our entire community to maintain calm and unity with consideration and respect for one another. As always, the Executive Board’s door is open for conversation with all.