A banner made by the students of Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam in solidarity with Palestinian resistance against Israeli violations of human rights was taken down by the board of Hogeschool Rotterdam. Students are protesting what they call “the double standards” in this academic institution.
In their statement, Piet Zwart Institute’s students write:
“On Wednesday May 12th we hung a banner from our building that called for an end to the ethnic cleansing in Palestine. That same evening, the board of Hogeschool Rotterdam demanded that the banner be taken down as soon as possible. Our response was clear: we want the banner to remain hanging until we have had a dialogue with the dean. Unfortunately, the banner was taken down prior to the conversation on Monday, May 17th”
The Hogeschool Rotterdam board maintains that according to their policy, school properties cannot be used as a platform for political speech. Students argue that such an explanation testifies to a double standard in the institution regarding the Palestinian issue. They write:
“The double standards of the Hogeschool Rotterdam, under which WDKA and PZI are managed, are evidently present in their past actions: “Je Suis Charlie” was put up by the institution itself on pillars at the entrance of WDKA in response to the 2015 terrorist attack in France, and included the WDKA logo. A statement of solidarity with Black Lives Matter was shared on the school’s Instagram. [And] in March 2021, a banner-artwork, funded by the open studios budget of PZI, was made by Diana Al Halabi and Afrang Nordlöf Malekian, with a clear political message addressing the visa regime.”
The students of Piet Zwart Institute “strongly condemn” the actions of the Hogeschool Rotterdam board members and insist on re-installing the banner.
However, after re-installing the banner on Tuesday, 18 May, it was again taken down after a few minutes.
The recent protests in Israel started on May 6th, after 27 people, members of six Palestinian families, faced forced evacuation from their houses in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Juraselem’s Old City.
31 other Palestinians, including 8 children, are facing the same fate in the same neighborhood until August 2021.
Regional appeal courts in Israel have dismissed the complaints of these families who have lived in their houses for more than six decades.
The policy of forced evacuation in Sheikh Jarrah is a reminder of the “Nakba Day” in 1948 where a majority of the Palestinian people were forced to permanent displacement; a process that critical commentators explain with the processes of “settler-colonialism”.
Before the recent uprising, Human Rights Watch had called the Israeli state an “apartheid state” for the first time. The UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia also called Israel an apartheid state on 15 March, 2017, before the commission was forced to take back the report under American and Israeli pressure.
Pointing to these facts, Piet Zwart Institute’s students write in their statement:
“Institutions must embody their curriculum on ‘decolonialisation’, calling things by their names: two sides of the wall in an apartheid cannot be identified as a ‘conflict’ and a colonial settler state violence vis-à-vis the resistance of the indigenous people cannot be described by expressions such as ‘both sides of the same coin.”
The violence has escalated now into a war between Israel and Hamas, the authority in Gaza. Since the start of the attacks on Gaza, according to Al-Jazeera, At least 212 Palestinians, including 61 children, have been killed. Rockets launched into Israel by Hamas and other Palestinian fractions also claimed 10 Israeli lives, including two children.
Read Piet Zwart Institute’s students full statement here