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War in Gaza — I do not understand why the University of Copenhagen is apparently doing nothing to stop its investments in companies that facilitate illegal settlements and that support the mass murder in Palestine.
OPINION ON THE UNIVERSITY POST
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As an academic, I get a lot of newsletters in my inbox.
I get a departmental newsletter, describing new publications, talks and media appearances by members of our institute.
I get the SUND (Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences ) faculty newsletter, showcasing monthly seminars and large events, and featuring all the SUND researchers who have recently received prestigious grants and awards.
And I get the University Post newsletter, featuring what happens at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH), like the recent university elections.
This is not including the many outlets the university uses (X, Linkedin, Facebook) to advertise its countless lectures, conferences and symposia.
Given this immense amount of online news I receive weekly about UCPH, I was surprised to learn something new and extremely important about the university through a mere piece of paper.
Just last week, upon entering the Maersk Tower for a departmental faculty meeting, I was given a pamphlet by the UCPH students who were occupying the lobby, under the banner ‘Students against the Occupation‘. After scanning the QR code in the pamphlet, I learnt a whole lot of things that UCPH was doing with relation to the still–ongoing mass murder in Palestine, which has already claimed the lives of over 17,000 people according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
I learnt that UCPH has over DKK 1 million in investments in companies like Altice, CNH, Siemens and Volvo, many of which are on the UN’s and Danwatch’s list of companies facilitating illegal settlements on Palestinian lands, and which provide infrastructure and telecommunication services to aid in the occupation, as well as machinery to destroy Palestinian homes.
Numbers of Losses in the war in Gaza
The numbers of deaths in Gaza is published by the Gaza Health Ministry, that is led by Hamas.
The ministry’s numbers have historically been quite precise, and human rights organizations as well as the UN have previously referenced the health ministry’s numbers.
I learnt that the university has purchasing agreements with companies like Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Cisco, which provide military and surveillance technologies for the Israeli occupation forces.
The students are not making unreasonable demands of our university’s leaders. They simply ask for an ‘ethical criterion in UCPH’s purchasing policy’ and that UCPH ‘stop accepting gray areas regarding their ethical investments policy, especially regarding human rights and involvement with illegal settlements’.
Two years ago, before the Hamas attack on October 7th, which triggered the mass murder operation in Gaza, UCPH had already been called out for their listed investments, in an article published in the Danish newspaper Information. Yet, after repeated emails from the protesting students, and a 1,297 signature petition, the administration has still not disengaged from these companies.
By contrast, other universities like the University of Aalborg, have already started the difficult but much needed internal conversation to require asset managers that there be no gray areas concerning UN rules in all purchasing agreements. Meanwhile, in UCPH, the extent of the debate about how these agreements facilitate the mass murder in Palestine is close to null.
One dead baby is one already too many
The students are not alone in their protests. Two weeks ago, 939 researchers and academics signed a letter stating that ‘we cannot stand by silently as the Israeli state kills thousands of Palestinian civilians in front of our eyes.’ Unlike these academics, university leadership seems ok with standing by silently. No declarations of solidarity. No decision to consider human rights in purchasing agreements. And no efforts to stop investing in mass murder-enabling companies.
As the students continue their weekly protests, the death toll in Palestine keeps piling up. The Gaza Health Ministry’s official death toll stands at over 17,100. Over 7,000 of them are (were) children. By the time you read these words, it will likely be more.
I can’t remember how many photos and videos of parents holding their dead toddlers in their hands I’ve seen these past two months. One is already one too many.
The faculty meeting I was going to last week was about new projects in my department to facilitate decolonial science in Greenland. I think it is great that UCPH increasingly recognizes past wrongs in their research and teaching, and coming to terms with historical brutalities by the Danish government, including the mass sterilization of women and the forced relocation of children. I just wish it was just as aware of the involvement of Danish academic institutions in mass murder today.
As I write this, I get one more university newsletter in my inbox. It’s about a Christmas quiz game being run faculty-wide to find a missing elf doll: ‘Help Healthy Elfie and win a SUND Christmas mug.’
Meanwhile, the temporary ceasefire in Gaza has just expired. And in the last 24 hours, 350 people have been killed by the renewed bombing.
[Editor’s note: This opinion piece was first published in Danish. In the meantime, new numbers for UCPH investment portfolio have been released, so that certain numbers and facts in this piece are no longer precise. We hope to be able to release updated numbers soon. ]