University of Palermo Halts Erasmus Partnerships with Israeli Universities Amid Gaza War

Italy Europe Higher Education News by Erudera News Jun 06, 2024

University of Palermo, Italy

Italy’s University of Palermo on Tuesday paused its Erasmus exchange partnerships with some Israeli universities as part of its efforts to cut ties with the country due to the war in Gaza, local media reports say.

The university’s academic senate said the decision comes amid a lack of crucial security guarantees to which those involved in these partnerships would be exposed in this global crisis, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Additionally, other Erasmus agreements discussed include those with universities in Algeria, Georgia, Jordan, Lebanon, South Africa, Tunisia, and Ukraine.

The University of Palermo's decision was not welcomed by Higher Education Minister Anna Maria Bernini, who criticized the school for this move.

“I consider it a wrong choice, especially at a time when the political-diplomatic process of peace, of searching for peace, is intensifying. Universities should not take sides,” she was quoted as saying during a visit to the Università Politecnica delle Marche Le Torrette in Ancona.

Student protests in the United States became the center of discussions since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7, 2023. The protests escalated in April 2024, spreading worldwide. Last month, students at the University of Sapienza in Italy joined the global move, setting up about 30 tents and holding banners saying “Stop genocide in Palestine.”

“We will continue this action to stand for Palestine. We stress that this is an anti-fascist, anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian zone,” Elettra, one of the students participating in the protest told Anadolu.

As part of their activism, students have been calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and asking their universities to separate themselves from companies that support Israel’s military actions in Palestine.

On April 17, students at Columbia University set up an encampment outside the main library of the Ivy League school to protest over the war in Gaza. Their main demand was apparent: the university to divest from Israel.

The following day, on Thursday (April 18), Columbia President Minouche Shafik authorized the New York Police Department (NYPD) to clear the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment.” The police operation resulted in 100 arrests.

The protests at the Ivy League school continued for several other days, as did the negotiations with the university, which were unsuccessful. On Monday, April 29, Columbia issued a statement saying it “will not divest from Israel.”

Another 109 protestors were arrested on April 30 after occupying the university’s main campus the Hamilton Hall in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Student protests in support of Palestine spread almost everywhere in the world, in Europe, the Middle East, and Australia.

To date, more than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza war, most of them women and children. Over 1,100 people have been killed in Israel during Hamas attacks, and over 250 were taken hostage in Gaza.

Image source: Twitter account of the University of Palermo. Posted on June 9, 2022.

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