University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


What the University of Copenhagen can learn from Rafah Garden

Evaluation — »The student protesters in Rafah Garden have reminded the University of Copenhagen's management and staff that the university as an institution cannot cooperate with institutions that enable genocide or that have supported an apartheid state for decades,« write the authors of this featured comment.

The names of the authors of this opinion piece can be seen below.

Teaching is a craft. It takes skill and experience to create motivating and engaging lessons that are inspiring to students. It is a craft that we as educators have painstakingly developed through trial and error, and one that we will never stop improving.

That is why, as teaching staff who either work or have worked at the University of Copenhagen, it was inspiring for us to see the marvelous job the students in the Rafah Garden tent camp at CSS have done in educating the UCPH rector and board over the past month.


This is a featured comment/opinion piece. It expresses the author’s own opinion.

We encourage everyone to read the whole piece before commenting on social media, so that we only get constructive contributions.

Disagreement is good, but remember to uphold a civil and respectful tone.

Without a classroom or even a chalkboard on which to write, the students delivered lesson after lesson about what a university is supposed to be: a home for scholarly insights and critical thinking.

Lessons on complicity

Through their words and actions, the students of Rafah Garden taught us that the University of Copenhagen’s investments in companies operating in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are incompatible with the university’s purpose: to be an institution that upholds human rights, including knowledge creation and sharing. The students showed us that such investments contribute to the normalization of the decades-long destruction of Palestinian life, culture and history.

The students are not alone in using the word »genocide« to describe the events unfolding, now 8 months into the Israeli campaign resulting in the destruction of more than 70 percent of residential areas in Gaza and the documented killing of more than 36,000 Palestinian civilians. They are in the company of the UN Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian Territories and hundreds of human rights organizations, as well as the International Court of Justice.

Our students have thus demonstrated excellent critical thinking and action skills at the intersection of political science, decolonial studies, international law, ethics, philosophy and economics: a veritable example of the broad range of courses that the University of Copenhagen has been able to offer them.

But these are not the only lessons the students gave us. They also gave us a lesson in community values. The Students Against the Occupation campaign, which has been running since 2021, collected over 2,000 signatures from students and staff supporting divestment from problematic companies contributing to the illegal occupation of Palestine – a document that they have repeatedly presented to university management. They thus contributed to a critical debate about the university’s role in the world – and the power the institution wields through its financial transactions, purchase agreements and other practices.

The academic connection

While the camp was in place, students put principles of democracy, decolonial learning and community building front and center of their daily practices: they held teach-ins, sit-ins, panel discussions, skills training, art sessions and documentary screenings, while also organizing peaceful protests and attending their regular lectures at UCPH.

The students also taught us about scholasticide, the ‘killing of teaching’

Moreover, the students taught us about history, especially the history of civil resistance in academic institutions: how teach-ins, sit-ins and student camps have been part of the academic repertoire used for decades by university students around the world (including here at UCPH) to stand up against global injustices, attain civil rights and improve democracy.

The students also taught us about scholasticide, the ‘killing of teaching’. There are no universities left in Gaza: all twelve have been destroyed by bombing or controlled demolition. Over 500 schools have also been bombed. The students showed us the complicity of Israeli universities: institutions that uphold apartheid and are used as training grounds for the Israeli occupation forces; universities that give academic credits to military personnel and collaborate with the weapons industry that supplies the occupation forces with military equipment.

Not taking a stand is also taking a stand

The students taught us that the outsourcing of decision-making on our university’s finances to third-party bankers amounts to a deflection of responsibility. They gave us a detailed report on the ways in which the university’s investments were linked to illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Most importantly, the students taught UCPH management that there is no such thing as a neutral position. In the words of Hannah Arendt, ‘the sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil’. In the spirit of these words, the students reminded the rector and deans that refusing to take sides in a situation of power inequality and injustice is tantamount to supporting the status quo.

The university is and will always be a political actor, in the sense that its members constantly influence how our society behaves and evolves – through their research, their teaching, and most importantly through their broad engagement in society. Many of UCPH’s employees recognize this, which is why several employees would prefer that their salary not come from human rights violations.

Step up and take a stand

The UCPH students are part of a growing movement of students and university staff demanding an end to the Israeli invasion of Gaza and the West Bank. A movement that is growing larger, also among Israeli citizens. For example, the Conference of the Rectors of the Spanish Universities has committed to cutting ties with Israeli research centers and universities “that have not expressed a firm commitment to peace and the adherence to international humanitarian law” (our translation). Likewise, rectorates of universities in the US, UK, Australia, and across Europe are following suit, announcing commitments to divest from companies benefiting from the occupation of Palestine.

READ ALSO: University of Copenhagen to quit investments in Israeli-occupied territories

In many ways, the students of Rafah Garden embody the ideal democratic university. So far, the university has only partially given in to one of the students’ demands: management has chosen to divest its current investments in companies implicated in illegal settlements, but not to implement a ban on such investments in the future. And they are still unwilling to acknowledge and condemn the ongoing genocide in Gaza, officially recognize the plight of their Palestinian students, or commit to an academic boycott of Israeli universities that actively contribute to the occupation.

We hope that the university management will choose to listen and act on all the students’ demands, as other universities and international institutions have already done.


Fernando Racimo, associate professor, Globe Institute, UCPH
Denise Utochkin, postdoctoral researcher, Dept. of Public Health, UCPH
Salvatore Paolo De Rosa, postdoctoral researcher, Center for Applied Ecological Thinking, UCPH
Jens Friis Lund, professor, Dept. of Food and Resource Economics, UCPH
Jaime C. Revenga, postdoctoral researcher, Dept. of Geosciences and Natural Resources Management, UCPH
Line Marie Toft Dyhr, research assistant, Dept. of Public Health, UCPH
Rebecca Rutt, associate professor, Dept. of Food and Resource Economics, UCPH
Marie Thøgersen, PhD student, Faculty of Law, UCPH
Dominique Routhier, independent researcher, former external lecturer at UCPH
Francois Questiaux, postdoctoral researcher, Dept. of Food and Resource Economics, UCPH
Sofie Mortensen, postdoctoral researcher, Dept. of Food and Resource Economics, UCPH
Magnus Møller Ziegler, assistant lecturer, Dept. of Political Science, UCPH
Vasiliki Angelopoulou, postdoctoral researcher, Niels Bohr Institute, UCPH
Georgios Pappas, postdoctoral researcher, UCPH
Andy Lautrup, postdoctoral researcher, Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, UCPH
Stavroula Boukoura, PhD student, Faculty of health and medical sciences, UCPH
Eleni Pappa, PhD fellow, Dept. of Food and Resource Economics, UCPH
Frida Sandström, PhD student, Dept. of Arts and Cultural Studies
Eleftheria Kazepidou, former research assistant, Chemistry Department, UCPH
Mads Ejsing, postdoctoral researcher, Center for Applied Ecological Thinking, UCPH
Thibault Capelle, postdoctoral researcher, Niels Bohr Institute, UCPH
Andriana Konstantinidi, postdoctoral researcher, Copenhagen Center for Glycomics, UCPH
Line Dahler-Eriksen, research assistant, Section of Education science, UCPH
Agnete Vienberg Hansen, PhD student, Department of Economics, UCPH
Amin Younes Aoussar, PhD student, Saxo Institute, UCPH
Mons Bissenbakker, associate professor, Center for Gender, Sexuality and Difference, UCPH.
Palesa Madupe, postdoctoral researcher, Globe Institute, UCPH
Torsten Geelan, Marie Curie fellow, Department of Sociology, KU
David Singh, postdoctoral researcher, Institute for Food and Resource Economics, UCPH