MAASTRICHT. Maastricht University will not participate in a boycott on Hewlett-Packard (or HP) products, including computers. The Executive Board denies that HP is guilty of violating human rights. This is what president Martin Paul wrote in an elaborate answer to the question raised by Michael Dijkstra, former student member of the University Council. Dijkstra had asked the Executive Board for its opinion on the matter, which was raised by the Maastricht department of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
SJP and other action groups worldwide postulate that the biometrical scanners supplied by HP to the Israelis and used on the borders between Israel and Palestine (otherwise known as the occupied territories) result primarily in the oppression of Palestinians. The Executive Board recognises that this system has indeed been “seriously criticised” (no mentioning by whom) “as a one-sided human rights violation by Israel in an unjustified occupation”.
But “subsequent investigation of the matter” has led to “additional and alternative information”: the system has been installed with the approval of the Palestinian Authority, the US and Europe in order to ease cross-border traffic, the letter states. Besides, other countries use this system too.
Following on, the Executive Board refers especially to HP's “good reputation” in the fields of sustainability and human rights. For example, HP was the first company in Saudi Arabia to hire female personnel. HP also received prizes for its attitude towards minorities and disabled persons. In short, says the Executive Board, HP does not violate human rights, but does quite the opposite.
Lastly, they refer to the instrument of (consumer) boycotts. The Executive Board does not deem this effective. Other instruments are better, they say: the situation in the Middle East requires dialogue and compromise, and therefore the UM would like to make the effort as a university to offer a platform for the Palestine-Israeli dialogue and hold more debates on the issue. They would also like more exchanges with Palestinian universities.
Check us next week for reactions to the Executive Board's letter