Amsterdam pro-Palestine protests: Dutch students speak out

As hundreds of students from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) in the Netherlands launch camps in support of Gaza, attention is drawn to the young individuals defying the odds to express solidarity.

On Monday 6 May, a group of protesters pitched tents within the grounds of the UvA Roeterseiland campus with a clear aim: to compel the university to sever all ties with Israeli organisations. The current roster includes the UvA, Utrecht University, and the University of Binnengasthuis.

Despite arrests and the police brutality displayed towards students over the past week, Amsterdam students continue to rally daily, fuelled by an even greater drive.

Student testimonials 

Our protests began with a serene atmosphere, as we sought to establish a symbolic presence against our university’s overt support for Israel,” said Maya Jaber, a passionate protester of Syrian descent who has been actively involved since the start of the demonstrations on Monday.

“Setting up our tents on the UvA-campus Roeterseiland grounds initially seemed like a small act of resistance, but the overwhelming turnout took us by surprise,” Maya added. 

Dutch student protesters in Amsterdam show their solidarity for Palestine

However, the demonstrators were met by a brutal crackdown by the police. 

The violent treatment meted out to our friends, some of whom endured vicious beatings and arbitrary arrests right before our eyes, left us in shock,” she revealed.

Marlaine, a local residing near the occupied building, offers a poignant reflection on the events unfolding around her

“As a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, witnessing the appalling violence inflicted upon the protesters deeply troubles me. Despite the chaos, I remain steadfast in my belief that their cause is just, and I stand in solidarity with them,” Marlaine commented. 

The recent actions of the Dutch police have unmasked their true intentions. Their heavy-handed tactics were meant not only to quell dissent but also to instil fear within our ranks,” said another student, Salman, who chose not to reveal his full name due to security concerns. 

“But instead of silencing us, their brutality has catalysed greater unity and determination among our fellow activists,” added Salman. 

Eva van Borg, a Dutch student, asserts that the pro-Palestinian protest is about a larger struggle. She believes that the Palestinian flag has become a symbol transcending mere Palestinian issues.

“It all boils down to a broader idea that equality is unattainable in our neoliberal system,” she said.

She pointed out the magnitude of hatred exhibited towards student protesters, highlighting the brutality they faced. 

“The police showed their true colours, beating us viciously. The level of hatred and continued arrests is alarming,” she added. 

Impact of Amsterdam’s police brutality 

The police arrested three individuals during a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Amsterdam on Friday 10 May.

According to a police spokesperson, they were arrested on charges of insult and incitement. Two days prior, on Wednesday 8 May, 36 people were also arrested during a protest at the University of Binnengasthuis.

Harrowing images of police brutality towards pro-Palestine protesters in Amsterdam

Eva also mentions Femke Halsema, the Mayor of Amsterdam, who was present at the UvA on Monday, openly supporting the violent police actions against them.

Eva noted that they are increasingly targeted by the police and were surprised by the sudden arrests last Wednesday, especially by plain-clothes police officers infiltrating their ranks as protesters.

Eva and her fellow activists have been sharing photos on Instagram, warning others about plain-clothes police officers posing as allies. 

Ramón, 24, also declined to disclose his full name as he recently secured a job and fears losing it. He was one of the students who helped organise the tent camp last Monday.

He believes that the UvA is complicit in the excessive police violence witnessed in recent days. Ramón, who participated in student talks with the university, finds the protests symbolic but worries that they will not yield tangible results. 

According to Ramón, the university heavily relies on the police to suppress and arrest protesters.  

“We want to be respected; we don’t feel like students anymore but rather adversaries,” he said.

Ramón recalls moments, especially during police crackdowns, when he feels like he’s in an unfree country, feeling ashamed, despite being Dutch. 

Moving forward amid adversity 

Despite the challenges protesters face, their commitment to the Palestinian cause underscores their collective aspiration for accountability and justice in the face of oppression and injustice. 

Maya, a member of the Amsterdam Students for Palestine organisation, further added that the tent camps were indeed inspired by students at Columbia University, with whom they stand in solidarity.

Pro-Palestine protesters mark their hands with numbers, resembling the practice of Palestinian children in Gaza who write their names and ID numbers for easier identification during bombings

“More importantly, we stand in solidarity with the people in Palestine,” Maya stressed.

“We are ashamed that our money goes to support their killing, which is what we aimed to highlight. But our acceptance of beatings and brutality, and our friends’ exposure to psychological trauma and physical wounds, some of which have been severely harmed, mentally and physically, is unacceptable. We outright reject what is happening and will never remain silent,” she elaborated. 

Maya mentioned that pro-Palestine students have upcoming plans for further protests, but have decided to take a break to recuperate and regain their strength. 

Mouneb Taim is a producer and journalist from Damascus, Syria. He was awarded TPOTY’s Photographer of the Year and ICFJ’s Best Young Male Journalist in 2020

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