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Swiss student group condemns campus occupations

A group of students seated on the floor inside a university hall. In the middle of the group is a sign reading "UZH students against genocide".
Pro-Palestinian student demonstrators at the University of Zurich. Keystone/ Ennio Leanza

The Association of Swiss Student Organisations has said that sit-in protests in connection with the Middle East conflict have, through some discriminatory demands and calls for violence, “lost all legitimacy”.  

The line between anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and discrimination should never be crossed, according to a statement issued by the association on Thursday. Calls for a blanket boycott of scientific collaboration with Israeli universities, such as those made by some of the protestors, must be rejected, the association said.

Academic freedom means a fact-based diversity of opinion, it said.  

External link+ Read more: our coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian war

However, the right to protest and the freedom of assembly must also be upheld, the umbrella organisation of Swiss student bodies wrote. In its opinion, protests and occupations at universities are legitimate and important means of expressing opinion. The association holds the universities responsible for the current escalation of the situation that led to the sit-ins in the first place.  

Since October 7, 2023, when terrorist attacks by Hamas in Israel triggered the ongoing war, a climate of silence has been promoted at universities, hindering constructive and open discourse, according to the association.

Universities should proactively create the space for academic approaches and discussions on such a highly complex conflict, instead of censoring them, it said.  

Adapted from German by DeepL/kc,dos

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