Geneva - Peaceful student protests and encampments spreading across Europe urging universities to cut ties with Israel over itsgenocide in Gaza are being met with alarmingly violent crackdown, clashes, and arrests. This is in breach of European Union citizens’ fundamental rights to freedom of expression,assembly, and association.

The student “intifada”—an Arabic word that can refer to both violent and non-violent grassroots uprisings—is growing in multiple EU Member States. From Germany, France, and Denmark to Italy, Austria, Spain, Ireland, and Belgium, pro-Palestinian students have been occupying the halls, courtyards,and facilities of some of the largest and most prestigious universities in Europe, creating “liberated zones” to grab attention and make their demands heard.

After seven months of Israel’s genocidal war on the Gaza Stripand with over 40,000 Palestinians killed, including more than 14,000 children, 70 per cent of residential areas destroyed, and 80per cent of the whole population forcibly displaced, European students are demanding an end to partnerships with Israeli institutions.

As all 12 universities of the Gaza Strip have been damaged or destroyed by Israeli raids, EU students are protesting against this“scholasticide”, as United Nations experts recently called it.Students are urging their universities to fully disclose investments, sever academic ties, and divest from businesses linked to Israel.

Across the EU, students as well as civil society groups have been organising speeches, peaceful demonstrations, documentary screenings, debates, mobilisations, academic forums, and different creative events, such as candlelight vigils and university encampments, in solidarity with Palestinians.

These methods of protest are attempts to show that the EU people’s will doesn’t match the will of their governments and institutions’ policies. Participating students are exercising the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, which are protected under national laws as well as international human rights law. 

Yet over the past months, there have been growing and alarming attempts by law enforcement officers across Europe to repress, intimidate, and silence those who criticise the Israeli forces, speak out against the ongoing provision of arms to Israel, denounce the killing by Israel of 10s of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza, and expose the silence and complicity of their own governments, universities, and major TV channels.

Hundreds of young adults, inspired by the ongoing demonstrations at United States campuses, are being beaten and arrested for organising marches, sit-ins, and barricades, for waving Palestinian flags, and for manifesting their opinion against Israel’s genocidein the Strip. Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor has monitored the recent intensification of institutional repression against universitystudents in France, and over the past few days, the same type ofrepression and flagrant rights violations in the Netherlands.

Hundreds of students and staff occupied a small island at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) on Monday 6 May, gathering on a lawn in peaceful protest against Israel’s assault on Palestinians’ right to life and dignity and UvA’s complicity in Israel’s ongoing genocide. 

On that same night, at the order of the university’s administration, riot police with batons and shields stormed and violently cleared the encampment, beating and dragging some of the protesters and using a bulldozer to knock down barricades made from wooden pallets and bicycles, and pulling down the tents. 

Some students were wounded to the point of losing consciousness.

The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, commented on socialmedia that “events” at the university had crossed a line, describing the protests as a “form of antisemitism that we must continue to fight loudly and clearly”. “Demonstrations are allowed,” Rutte wrote. “Always. But using violence against the police and causing destruction is never allowed. Stop that!” 

Video footage from the scene shows a boy with a keffiyehwrapped around his head jumping into a canal and swimming to the other side to escape two police officers with shields and batons as well as the bulldozer approaching him. At least 125 studentswere arrested, with some still detained.

Even before the brutal institutional crackdown by Amsterdampolice, the students’ encampment was attacked earlier that afternoon. Masked members of extreme right-wing groups,carrying Israeli flags and fire torches, aimed to burn down the camp and harm the protestors—without any intervention or protection from the police.

“As the death-toll, destruction, and mass ethnic cleansing increaseby the minute in Gaza and Israel plans to invade and remove civilians from the last enclave, the refugee-filled Rafah, our governments in Europe are beating their own citizens for exposing Western hypocrisy: both in the mainstream narrative and in the economic agreements,” commented Michela Pugliese, researcher at Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor.

Euro-Med Monitor emphasises that the State’s duty to protect peaceful assembly is of particular importance when the persons holding the assembly are espousing a view that is unpopular and eschewed, as this may increase the likelihood of hostile opposition, as occurred recently at the UvA.

The policing of assemblies must be guided by the principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, and non-discrimination, and must always adhere to human rights standards. To smash the barricades and tents of young adults in protest with a bulldozer clearly doesn’t fall within the line of what is acceptable and lawful.

Therefore, Euro-Med Monitor calls on the Netherlands, as well as the other EU Member States, to ensure that people are able to exercise their rights without discrimination or fear of reprisals; to enable peaceful assemblies to take place without participants fearing physical violence; to make sure that law enforcement officials protect the participants of peaceful assemblies, like encampments and demonstrations, from any agent provocateur orviolent counter-demonstrator that attempt to disrupt or inhibit them; and to fulfill and safeguard the freedom of expression, assembly and association, and liberty and security of all citizens, as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights as well as in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.The students’ right to publicly protest and resist must be protected.