Finnish university freezes student exchange programs with Israel

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Location: www.aa.com.tr

LONDON

The University of Helsinki in Finland announced Tuesday that it would be freezing student exchange agreements with higher education institutions in Israel amid concerns about the civilian victims and the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

This decision comes after large pro-Palestinian protests at the university in the Finnish capital continued throughout May as part of a global movement triggered by massive student demonstrations at American and European universities in recent weeks.

The protesters demanded their university end all exchange student agreements and research collaboration with Israeli educational institutions.

Decision makers at the University of Helsinki decided against cutting off research collaboration however, justifying the move on the fact that no international sanctions have been imposed on Israel.

Meanwhile, students have stuck with the demand, vowing to continue demonstrations until the university agrees to cut off academic ties with Israeli universities entirely.

"Cooperation with Israeli universities clearly violates the University of Helsinki's ethical principles, because these universities are complicit in genocide, apartheid, and violations of international human rights," Vilja Hermansson, a member of a group that has been organizing the protests, Students for Palestine, told broadcaster YLE.

While Finnish students have not been sent to the Hebrew University of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem since the fall, exchange agreements are now being fully frozen, according to a press release by the university.

Pro-Palestine demonstrators have pointed out that Israeli universities are complicit in the violence in Gaza, as they are involved in developing arms systems used in Gaza and training military personnel in collaboration with the Israeli army, according to YLE.

In neighboring Sweden, demonstrations were held across the country last week, with university students pitching tents to protest Israel's ongoing offensive on the Gaza Strip.

Around 400 academics from the Swedish Lund University protested alongside students, urging university administration to clarify its position on the war in Gaza and cut ties with Israeli educational institutions.

Pro-Palestine campus protests have been persistent in the US since April 17, when students at Columbia University in New York launched an encampment in solidarity with Gaza and demanded that their school divest from Israel.

More than 2,000 people have been arrested on US campuses since last month amid heavily polarized debates over the right to protest, the limits of free speech and accusations of antisemitism.

Demonstrations and sit-ins are also taking place on campuses across Europe, including in France, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, as part of a larger protest against Israeli attacks on Gaza, which have killed more than 35,000 people, mostly women and children, and injured over 79,000 others, as well as destroying infrastructure and causing shortages of necessities in the Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

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