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Israel: president of Swiss universities rejects academic boycott

Palestinian flags at Lausanne uni
Pro-Palestinian students occupy part of the Geopolis building at the University of Lausanne on Friday. Keystone/Jean-Christophe Bott

Luciana Vaccaro, president of Swissuniversities, the umbrella group of Swiss universities, is not in favour of an academic boycott of Israeli universities. In her view, it is dangerous to equate institutions with a government.

“You can’t exclude a university because you don’t agree with the actions of a government,” Vaccaro told Swiss public television, RTS, on Friday, adding that she was speaking in a personal capacity about the demands of students at Lausanne’s universities. This means isolating institutions that are open to dialogue and that share our values.

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The situation was different for Russian universities after the outbreak of war in Ukraine, she pointed out. However, the head of Swissuniversities made it clear that the University of Lausanne remained free.

Vaccaro stressed that universities were “like society”, which is currently experiencing “tensions” over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “We must do our best in the universities to maintain a healthy and safe situation for everyone,” she said.

Asked about her red lines, she cited “hate speech, violence and anti-Semitism”, as well as “any racist discourse that could exclude one party”.

Since Thursday, pro-Palestinian students have been mobilising at the University of Lausanne and a dozen of them spent the night in one of the buildings. Among the various demands made is the academic boycott of Israeli institutions. Contrary to what has happened in other universities, for example in the United States, during similar actions, the situation has not degenerated and is taking place peacefully.

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Translated from French and Italian by DeepL/ts


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