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University Council students: “HP's role in Israel needs to be investigated”

MAASTRICHT. Students from the University Council expect the Executive Board to carry out an investigation into the role of IT manufacturer HP in Israel and the occupied territory. The Board will receive a letter on this the matter in the next few days, says Thomas Vaessen from Novum.

The action is a result of attempts by the Maastricht branch of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to persuade Maastricht University to implement a boycott of Hewlett-Packard, using the argument that HP contributes to the violation of human rights in the region. HP is said to have supplied equipment to the Israeli armed forces and to be active in the occupied territories.

A delegation of three students from the University Council met with a number of representatives from SJP over a month ago. It was made clear to them that for the University Council to support a boycott of HP, more research would be required. Vaessen: “The SJP has provided a lot of documentation from all kinds of NGOs, but these may be biased. The Board’s answer to the SJP, on the other hand, referred to the HP website and the company’s corporate social responsibility. That is not enough either.”

During the University Council meeting last week, rector Rianne Letschert gave a short report of a talk between the Executive Board and SJP on 10 May. It was an “open dialogue,” she said, in which the Board offered to allow SJP, together with the team from the Ambassador Lectures, to organise a series of lectures on the Israeli-Palestine conflict in the autumn. Furthermore, SJP will be registered at the Student Services Centre as an official student organisation; the young SJP did not have that status yet.

The meeting between the Board and SJP had already been arranged previously, but took place after the incident concerning 4 May. SJP had planned a lecture in the Faculty of Law building on that date. This was cancelled by the dean and the Board at the last minute, as it was felt that the date, the day of the national commemoration of the dead, was an unfortunate choice. University Council member Thomas Vaessen is full of praise for the constructive attitude of the Executive Board towards SJP, but denounces this specific decision. As far as he is concerned, the lecture by the Jewish dissident should have been allowed to continue on 4 May, but this was his personal statement and not on behalf of Novum. “In particular, because they had also planned the two minutes of silence. That was an important signal.”

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HP, SJP

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