Thursday June 20, 2024

Helsinki University suspends exchange deals with Israeli universities

Published : 21 May 2024, 21:38

Updated : 22 May 2024, 00:02

  DF Report
File Photo: University of Helsinki by Linda Tammisto.

The University of Helsinki decided to suspend its exchange agreements with Israeli universities, said the university in a statement onTuesday.

The university Board and rector are shocked by the civilian victims of the armed conflict between Israel and Hamas as well as the catastrophic deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

“The University calls on the parties involved in the conflict to refrain immediately from using violence against non-military parties and to prevent genocide in accordance with the decisions of the International Court of Justice,” said the statement.

The University of Helsinki is also deeply concerned about the destruction of universities in Gaza and the fate of their students and staff. The University is committed to contributing actively to rebuilding higher education and research infrastructures, once this is possible.

Exchange activities based on bilateral agreements are central to the University’s efforts to increase mutual understanding and interaction between students.

The University has not sent students to Tel Aviv University or the Hebrew University of Jerusalem since the beginning of the current conflict.

However, the University is now expressing its concern about the conflict by fully suspending university-level exchange activities with its Israeli partners. In addition, it will not resume exchange activities without first conducting an ethical review.

Earlier, students of the University of Helsinki on May 6 started a pro-Palestine demonstration at the campus protesting against the Israeli attacks on Gaza and called on the University to terminate its collaboration with Israeli universities and to divest from the country.

The university, however, does not intend to restrict the academic freedom of its researchers to collaborate with their Israeli colleagues.

No international sanctions have been imposed as part of the Gaza conflict. In their absence, the selection of collaboration partners is central to academic freedom.

The freedom of research is so crucial to university operations that it will not be limited. The University is committed to complying with research ethics practices and will continue to develop the ethical review of research collaboration.

The University of Helsinki has no direct ownership in Israeli businesses or in companies listed by the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The guiding principle of the University of Helsinki’s investment activities is responsibility, assessed on the basis of factors including compliance with international norms.

Statements and protests regarding the conflict between Israel and Hamas divide opinion and cause concern in the University community.

The University of Helsinki will continue its efforts to ensure freedom of speech and expression as well as academic freedom while ensuring safe and secure operations for its community as a whole.

In October, several hundreds of people staged a demonstration at Helsinki city centre protesting against the Israeli attacks in Gaza.