Photo via De Verrekijker

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network urges all supporters of Palestine to take action to defend De Verrekijker. De Verrekijker is an autonomous student space on the campus of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU Amsterdam). This space was squatted since 2015 by activists of De Nieuwe Universiteit and has maintained a consistent presence on campus as a home for all forms of anti-racist, radical, progressive and revolutionary organizing on campus and in the community.  Samidoun activists and many other Palestine solidarity organizers have met, organized and spoken in events and meetings held in this space. De Verrekijker is currently under attack and facing confiscation of this precious student space and has been specifically targeted after hosting the event organized by Revolutionaire Eenheid (Revolutionary Unity) and Anakbayan Europe on anti-imperialism featuring Rasmea Odeh on 27 February.

Rasmea Odeh is a Palestinian community leader, a torture survivor and a former Palestinian prisoner who has inspired generations of Palestinian activists. She visited Belgium and the Netherlands for several events that focused on her life in struggle in Palestine, the United States and elsewhere, including the Amsterdam event that featured her alongside Coni Ledesma, a revolutionary leader in the Philippines’ peoples’ movement.

The event came under severe attack from Zionist forces who sought to shut it down, pressuring several venues to cancel the talk. Illustrating the importance of a space like De Verrekijker, the event was held at the last minute at the campus autonomous space.

In response, the youth organizers of the event, Rasmea Odeh and the hosting space – De Verrekijker – were subject to extensive and ongoing attacks, frequently making use of the “terrorist” label in an attempt to marginalize and repress critical anti-imperialist and, particularly, Palestinian organizers. Even a judge charged with reviewing the event after spurious complaints concluded that nothing “anti-Semitic” occurred at the event – instead, a discussion of the role of imperialism in the world and the Palestinian struggle for liberation took place.

However, following these attacks from Zionist groups and right-wing political organizations and media entities, the administration of the VU Amsterdam stepped in to continue the repression, demanding the closure of De Verrekijker. The student organizers have continued since 28 February to hold the space, despite the university issuing a formal letter demanding that the space be vacated before 3 April. Students have consistently slept in the space to keep it open and protect it; they have been threatened with forcible entry and removal. On 17 March, the university turned off electricity and heating to the space in another attempt to force out the organizers.

As noted by the De Verrekijker team:

“The DV was able to draw attention to issues regarding university policies, which include, amongst others, the lack of space for self-organisation and self-determination of students and workers, the lack of transparency regarding administrative processes and decision making and the financial structure of the VU (VUSAM). But also several other societal issues were brought up by the DV such as the need for housing and the struggle against racism and sexism that affect many of us on a daily basis. These problems, and others, are still present, widespread, and concern every student, teacher and member of the staff.

In the last few weeks the VU has shown a growing hostility towards us. Despite the fact that in these three years the collective achieved “house peace”, which grants DV the legal right to access to the building and to refuse entry to whomever we please, the VU expressed the willingness to evict us, based on dubious safety arguments. They even sent security guards to illegally break into De Verrekijker, and they are trying to bully us out by turning off heaters and electricity plugs.”

It is critical for people around the world to show their solidarity with De Verrekijker and the student and youth organizers in Amsterdam, under attack for welcoming Palestinian analysis and organizing to a free, anti-racist space. Many of the attacks against De Verrekijker came from around the world, and it is important to provide global support for the students and make it clear to the VU administration that people around the world stand with Palestine and with the student organizers and space of De Verrekijker.

It must also be clear that the criminalization of the Palestinian right to resist and the demonization of Palestinian strugglers is related not only to attempts to suppress the Palestinian movement but to suppress all struggles for justice and liberation. The use of the “terror” label is a political weapon used to justify racism, mass violation of people’s rights, silencing and suppression and extreme violence and terror against the peoples of the world seeking freedom from imperial domination.

Take action:

1) Sign the petition to support De Verrekijker: https://www.change.org/p/vrije-universiteit-amsterdam-save-de-verrekijker-free-the-academic-discours-at-the-vu-8c5f07f4-a7f8-40ec-929c-576e2a640309

2) Send a message of support or a solidarity photo to De Verrekijker from your own student or community group, club or organization. Message De Verrekijker on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deverrekijkervu/

3) Support the organizers of the important event with Rasmea Odeh! Send a solidarity message to Revolutionaire Eenheid and Anakbayan Europe: https://www.facebook.com/revolutionaireeenheid