It concerns “anti-Semitic and Islamophobic comments, intimidation, hateful messages and threats” – usually via social media – towards students and employees with a Jewish or Islamic background, says diversity officer Constance Sommerey. It all started at the beginning of the latest war between Israel and Palestine. They are from within Maastricht University, but also from outside.
In February of this year, the Diversity & Inclusivity Office tweeted a similar message in the newsletter. This was after a Jewish UM student had found a swastika carved into his front door.
Sowing hatred leads to fear, uneasiness and exhaustion, Sommerey reports. “Students encounter a delay in their studies because they cannot concentrate properly. Some don’t even dare to leave their homes, others no longer have the courage to speak out, whether they are pro-Israel or pro-Palestine.” In some cases, the threat was so serious that Sommerey has advised them to file a report with the police.
Exactly how many offenders and victims there are, Sommerey cannot substantiate with figures. “We don’t know, but a lot has come from all corners of the UM.” Ten, twenty, fifty or a hundred cases? She doesn’t want to go into it.
In answer to the question whether she can give examples of how things are being stirred up, she also remains quiet. It’s the same with regard to getting into contact with those involved, who may want to tell their stories anonymously to Observant; she keeps us at arm’s length. “That would only stir up polarisation even more. We want to de-escalate. We are appealing to people to speak out against hate. We want to place the focus on how we can respectfully discuss, for example, the occupation of Palestine, but also racism and discrimination. And how we can support those who receive hateful messages. We don’t want to focus on the hatred. It is about how we as a community can take care of each other.”