Employees and students at the University of Oslo (UiO) strongly criticize Israel. However, UiO as a whole does not have an opinion.
- As academics, we felt a need to express our dismay at the recent events in the Middle East, Gunvor Mejdell says.
Mejdell is associate professor of Arabic at the Faculty of humanities, and is one of the initiators behind a statement in the newspaper Dagbladet this Monday. Signing the statement were twenty UiO employees, each of them with research ties to the Middle East. In the statement, the Israelis' conduct in the war in Lebanon is harshly criticized, and the Norwegian government is encouraged to voice their concerns in stronger language. However, the people signing the statements do not want to challenge the UiO leadership to make a statement on behalf of the entire university.
- If the UiO were to make a statement, it would be natural that the statement be made within an academic framework. That is, the UiO could express strong concern for and in relation to fellow institutions of higher eductation in the region, Mejdell says.
According to rector Geir Ellingsrud, UiO will not be making an official statement on the issue. Ellingsrud feels that it would be inappropriate for the UiO as an institution to make a statement in a situation this complex.
Blindern SV, the local branch of the Norwegian Socialist Left Party, reacts strongly to this.
- I think it's cowardly of the UiO to not take a stand in the Middle East debate, but I'm not surprised, says Kaveh Ataei, chairman of Blindern SV.
Ataei wants the University board to discuss the possibility of an academic boycott of Israel.
Professor of Social Anthropology Thomas Hylland Eriksen, who in 2003 demanded that the UiO should protest against the Iraq war, feels that neither an academic boycott nor an official statement from the University would be appropriate.
- The Iraq war was a special case. Then, universities in the war-torn areas had been severely damaged. Freedom of expression and the entire society was at stake, and due to that, I felt that the UiO should express its solidarity for their fellow institutions and make a stand against war, Hylland Eriksen says.