Academics from Lebanon and Palestine refuse Dutch funding for ‘tacit complicity’

‘If you keep quiet about this genocide, we don’t need your money’

14 FEBRUARY 2024

Almost 600,000 euros were given to a number of academics and their institutions last year through the Dutch university institution IHE in Delft as funding for research on sustainable water management in Lebanon and Palestine. But today they are refusing that money. ‘Because accepting funding contributes to whitewashing racist and colonial policies.’

On 21 January, the 106th day of the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, we decided to withdraw from the research programmes of the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education and stop all cooperation with the university concerned.

In 2023, we received grants totalling €580,000 through the IHE Delft Water and Development Partnership Programme (WDPP). This focuses on sustainable and equitable management of water and natural resources by encouraging socially inclusive and ecologically sustainable initiatives. IHE Delft itself claims to strive for “a world free from poverty and injustice, where people can manage their water and natural resources sustainably and equitably”.

We received funding for two projects, one focused on sustainable water management in agriculture and one focused on collective water management. We greatly appreciate these efforts by the WDPP. But we have no choice at the moment but to stop all cooperation because the funding for these projects comes from the Dutch government and IHE Delft is in silence regarding Gaza.

Total devastation

The Palestinian people are subjected to the dramatic intensification of military occupation, colonisation and genocide. Palestinians in Gaza are being slaughtered by a technologically superior and nuclear-armed war machine.

At the time of this writing, more than 28,000 Gazans are dead, 8,000 missing and 68,000 injured. Nearly two million people are displaced and 350,000 suffer from communicable diseases due to the dire sanitary situation.

A majority of Gaza’s population suffers from extreme hunger and has no access to clean drinking water. Lives have been destroyed, bodies mutilated, children traumatised and entire bloodlines obliterated. Experts additionally warn that the invasion is causing irreversible damage to the environment.

The attack is not limited to the Gaza Strip alone. Palestinians in the West Bank are also subjected to brutal persecution by the Israeli army and fanatical Jewish settlers. In the last three months, at least 5,000 people have been taken prisoner/hostage. 370 people were killed. A total of nearly 600 people were killed in 2023.

In Gaza, social, administrative and physical infrastructure has been systematically destroyed. Israel’s discriminatory policies against Palestinians continue. Israeli settlers are encouraged to chase Palestinian families out of their homes, uproot their trees and expropriate land.

Southern Lebanon is not spared either. Israel used white phosphorus there in villages, fields and forests, with lasting toxic effects. Homes were destroyed there and civilians as well as journalists were targeted by the Israeli army. Three generations of Lebanese, especially in the south, saw the history of Israel’s attacks revived.

In Gaza, social, administrative and physical infrastructure was systematically destroyed. Education is also systematically targeted. More than 350 schools and most universities were destroyed or damaged. Almost 70% of all homes have been destroyed or damaged. Gaza’s administrative capacity has been wiped out.

And as part of Israel’s collective punishment, there is a shortage of drinking water, electricity and food supplies. Water suppliers and engineers were killed while trying to meet community needs or while seeking protection from air strikes with their families.

Existing water and energy infrastructure was also targeted and destroyed. The Gaza city administration had to inform their residents at one point that residents were getting less than one litre of water per person daily and all operations were shut down due to lack of fuel.

Academics such as Sufyan Tayeh, head of the Islamic University of Gaza and Dr Said Al Zubda, president of the University College of Applied Sciences, poets such as Hiba Abu Nada, writers such as Refaat Al Areer, more than 100 journalists and their families and 11 doctors and health workers such as Dr Hammam Alloh of Al-Shifa Hospital were killed by the Israeli army.

In Jenin and Tulkarem, to name just a few West Bank towns, Israeli army bulldozers broke open streets and damaged civilian infrastructure. It is an attempt to subdue the population, which was resisting the violence of Israeli settlers and military.

Unrelenting support

All this is happening with the unwavering support of many European governments, including the Dutch. The Dutch government and prime minister have repeatedly expressed their unconditional support for Israel, without any regard for Israel’s obligations as an occupying power, or its long list of human rights violations. Geert Wilders, leader of the largest party in the Netherlands and ardent supporter of Israel’s military occupation, even openly called for ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

We are resolutely opposed to such forms of racism and intolerance. In doing so, we must acknowledge that accepting funding through the Dutch Foreign Ministry contributes to whitewashing such racist and colonial policies.

Water experts investigated and reported extensively on the destruction of Gaza’s water supply. They pointed to Israel’s use of water as a weapon in Gaza and strongly condemned it. What must certainly be said in this regard: they included scientists from IHE Delft.

The lack of condemnation is disappointing.

But in this context, the silence of an institute explicitly working to promote equitable and sustainable water and natural resource management weighs extra heavily. More so, given the severity of human rights violations and destruction of water infrastructure and the use of water as a weapon in a policy of collective punishment, this silence is deafening.

The lack of condemnation is disappointing. So are the attacks on academic institutions and on academics, students and staff by the occupying army.

For years, IHE Delft has been working with Palestinian universities. It is closely involved in projects with various experts, students and researchers in the region. This makes the lack of concern and attention to the fate of its partners in this genocide scandalous.

It is a clear illustration of how neo-colonial relations shape such institutions and academia. Such institutional silence expects academics in the global south to simply accept the reasoned erasure, exploitation and destruction of their people. It exposes how ‘decolonial scholarship’ seems to exist only as an abstract academic exercise, rather than a practice of solidarity with colonised people.


The scale of the horror in Gaza and the indifference and complicity of many European governments calls for a new look at relationships between them and the institutions they fund. What does this mean for knowledge production if research is funded by governments that support the genocide of a people, or if they are even complicit?

‘The EU took sanctions against every country you can think of, but never against Israel’

By reassessing our relationship with our funders, we are joining Palestinian and Arab institutions and collectives that are committed to divest from donors that undermine Palestinian rights, such as the right to self-determination, the right to resist military occupation and the right of return. This requires withdrawal from politically tied funding and a shift to other sources and modes of knowledge production and research that support rather than hinder our struggle for freedom.

We choose to honour our people’s steadfastness and continuous struggle for freedom despite the most terrible and desperate circumstances. We choose to take a clear stand and amplify the voices of those who are silenced.

We call on academics, arts and cultural institutions to join us in taking a stand against whitewashing complicity in the ongoing genocide. We demand a clear stand against human rights violations and the genocide carried out in Gaza by their funders and partners.

Signed this letter:

– Dr Karim Eid-Sabbagh, independent researcher from Tyre in Lebanon,

– Dana Masad from Birzeit University in Palestine,

– Dr Muna Dajani, independent researcher from Great Britain & Palestine,

– Dima Yaser from Birzeit University in Palestine,

– Ashraf Mtaweh, filmmaker from Beirut in Lebanon,

– Saba Al Sadr, artist at artist collective Jamaa Al-Yad in Beirut in Lebanon,

– Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre from Ramallah in Palestine,

– Daniel Drennan El Awar, artist at artist collective Jamaa Al-Yad in Beirut in Lebanon

– Sakiya – Art | Science | Agriculture, from Ein Qiniya in Palestina.

(Translated from Dutch with DeepL’s free version)

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