MAASTRICHT. The Maastricht department of the Students for Justice in Palestine organisation says that they are “extremely disappointed” with the viewpoint and the argumentation given by the Executive Board regarding SJP’s proposed boycott of IT company Hewlett-Packard.
Last week, the Executive Board sent a long letter to SJP and former University Council member Michael Dijkstra. Both parties had asked questions about HP's alleged involvement in anti-Palestine politics by the Israeli government and suggested that a consumer boycott of HP products would be appropriate. The bulk of the UM’s orders with HP concerns workspace computers.
Dijkstra is waiting to see the course of developments for the moment, he says, but SJP has announced that it would provide a written reaction to the Board's letter this week. That will be after the Observant deadline, which is why Asiya Ahmed and Selma Rekik, founder and chairperson of SJP Maastricht respectively, have provided us with an oral clarification. The disappointment, they say, is based in particular on the failure of the Board to respond to the arguments put forward by SJP and the much broader BDS movement: Boycott, Divestment (withdrawal of investments), Sanctions. In its letter, the Board concentrates on the contested biometrical ID system, supplied by HP and used by Israel at border crossings. However, SJP also mentioned other reasons why HP's presence in Israel should be contested, from supplying technology to the army and the prison system to machines used by the navy to carry out blockades of the Gaza Strip. The UM Board has not addressed the other concerns.
Asiya Ahmed: “Furthermore, the Board ignores information from many NGOs, including Israeli ones, that the ID systems are used systematically to discriminate against Palestinians. The UM says that this is not the case, that HP does not participate in the violation of human rights, but rather protects them; it is really shocking to see that they only refer to the text on HP's own website in this case. These statements have been known for quite some time.”
The UM also refers to the fact that HP has signed the UN Global Compact statement on human rights and other matters. Selma Rekik: “But there are much more recent and more specific UN business guidelines on working in the occupied territories. HP is there too. Why does the Board not refer to that?”
SJP disputes the fact that boycotts are a poor means in reaching “sustainable solutions”, as the UM argues: “Look at South Africa, it really helped end Apartheid. Israel also pursues apartheid politics.”
SJP has been trying to reveal any connections between the UM and Israel for some time. They state that there are links (also of the UM) with Israeli universities through the European research programme Horizon 2020, including a technical university that also works for the army. Two attempts to reveal the UM connection through requests made to the Freedom of Information Act, have failed. SJP requested documents regarding connections with Israeli educational institutes, also indirect ones and not just through official joint ventures. According to the Executive Board, these documents do not exist.