FASoS vacancy leads to angry reactions on X

FASoS vacancy leads to angry reactions on X

17-04-2024 · News

MAASTRICHT. A vacancy for a PhD position ‘in the Cultures of Palestine Solidarity in Europe’ at Maastricht University has led to indignation on X: “How do you assess this disgusting formulation?”

David Suurland, former law student of Maastricht University and who obtained a PhD in Leiden, aired his displeasure about a vacancy on X last Sunday, 14 April. The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASoS) is looking for a full-time PhD candidate to do four years of research into the “cultural histories of Palestine solidarity and cultural activism in Europe”. All of this seen through the eyes of a “postcolonial and transnational lens”.

Suurland starts his tweet with “the first sentence of the set-up already betrays the line of approach.” He hereby refers to the vacancy text on the UM website: “Since Israel began its most recent onslaught on Gaza in October 2023…” Then he tweets: “As an alumnus who cares, please help me understand this. How can you explain this revolting reversal of the justified reaction in October on the largest pogrom on Jews since the holocaust as an ‘Israeli onslaught’? What does this say about the author of this research proposal, Faisal Hamadah? What does it say about the supervisory job of his superiors and about the internal quality checks?”

On Tuesday afternoon, the message was liked 1,100 times and retweeted 375 times. There have been more than a hundred reactions. “The term ‘Israeli onslaught’ indeed gives rise to questions about the neutrality of the research. I hope that the university takes this seriously and carries out a thorough evaluation,” one person writes. Another: “It really surprises me how even (or especially?) people at universities can have such an infantile, unilateral view on this complex conflict. Surely, you can never solve things this way?” An explanation is expected from, among others, UM president Rianne Letschert. She has her own account on X, but (as yet) has not reacted.


Observant submits the question to the UM-spokesperson, but he can only give a summary response, because the Executive Board will not be able to contact the project leaders this week. “In general, the text of a vacancy ad for a research project should closely match the scientific approach of the research concerned.” Consulting those concerned, the Executive Board wants to “determine whether this requirement has been met in full or whether the wording should be adapted,” referring to the first sentence of the vacancy advertisement text that starts with a reference to Israel’s attack on Gaza, but fails to mention the earlier attack on 7 October by Hamas on Israel.
Neither assistant professor, project leader and co-supervisor Faisal Hamadah nor supervisor Eliza Steinbock (personal professor of Transgender Studies, Art and Cultural Activism since 1 April) want to respond to questions from Observant.
The PhD project is funded by a Starting Grant; Education Minister Dijkgraaf made extra money available for assistant professors who are newly appointed to a permanent position. The Maastricht faculties have distributed these grants (sometimes by drawing lots) among their candidates.

One-sided stand

The war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is a sensitive topic and has been a source of heated emotions at Maastricht University for some time. Free Palestine Maastricht (FPM) regularly demonstrate – recently even inside university buildings. UM has been called an “unreasonable monster” by them on their Facebook page. The problem that the demonstrators have with the university is that it has not turned its back on Israel. In November, President Letschert emphasised in a meeting of the University Council that it is not the role of a university to take a one-sided stand. What it does have to do, is to facilitate the academic debate. Several Jewish staff members and students “feel intimidated and threatened” by FPM's actions, it was said recently at the council meeting of the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

Author: Wendy Degens

Photo: logo X

Tags: x, twitter, tweet, vacancy, fasos, palestine, Free Palestine Maastricht, Israel, Gaza, Rianne Letschert


PJ van Mill

A crucial requirement for fair and informative coverage is to give context. In Observant's coverage about pro-Palestinian activists, I think the necessary context is sometimes missing.

In this piece, for example, nothing is said about the actual situation in the Gaza Strip. Whether terms like 'onslaught' or 'justified reaction' are applicable, is dependent on reality. Ample space is given to the words of a few angry twitter users, whereas no words are spent on for example the Albanese report, or the more than thirteen thousand dead children, or the present famine...

One thing that is reported on is that some people 'feel threatened' by actions of Free Palestine Maastricht. Now, this feeling of threatenedness of these people gives rise to some serious questions, which should be investigated: threatened by what exactly and why? Is there real intimidation or antisemitism going on? But it almost seems like Observant is not interested in the answers to these questions.

I find it harmful that Observant does not even question the idea that what Israel is doing is a "justified reaction". And more critical thinking could have been applied to those tweets: is it really a surprise that a research proposal about solidarity with Palestinians starts with the event that has recently caused a big increase in such solidarity? (As opposed to starting with 7 october just so the zionists get less angry with you...)

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