‘Signs of unsafety’

BK cancelled dialogue on the destruction of Gaza last-minute: ‘No confidence that it could be done respectfully’

An event about the recent destruction in the Gaza Strip that was to be held at the faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment (BK) on Wednesday 24 April in the evening was cancelled the Friday before by the Dean. He ‘did not have confidence that we could ensure a constructive and respectful dialogue’.

The gathering at Architecture and the Built Environment was cancelled because of 'signs of a lack of safety'.

The gathering which was entitled Architecturing Destruction in Gaza Palestine was organised by a group of five Faculty staff members who call themselves the BK Scholars for Palestine. They wanted to create a space for a discussion about the situation in Gaza from the perspective of architecture. They had invited five Palestinian researchers to talk about the subject based on their own experiences.

However, on Friday 19 April, the Dean of the Faculty, Dick van Gameren, announced that the event would not go ahead on campus. He pointed to ‘various signs’ that had reached him that made him and the facilities team less confident ‘that we could ensure a constructive and respectful dialogue’.


The BK Scholars for Palestine also heard on Friday afternoon from the Dean that their event could not go ahead. The news came completely unexpectedly after two intensive months of preparations, one of them told Delta (the name is known to the Editorial Office). Up to that point, the preparations had proceeded with good consultation. The group had had regular contact with the Faculty about communications and security. The group had consulted them on issues such as the location and name of the meeting. “We were never told that there was even a chance that the event could be cancelled.”

‘Signs of a lack of safety came from both sides’

To the frustration of the group, Van Gameren could not inform the organisers on Friday why the event was cancelled, beyond what was stated in the public notification. “We did not get any answers that would explain why the event was cancelled.” Even on Tuesday, Van Gameren could not share any details with Delta on the reasons for this decision. “The signs of unsafety came from both sides: from the group for Gaza as well as the other community that is linked to Israel. They were strong enough for me to take seriously. Unfortunately, the event cannot be held in this form at this point in time. It was a very hard decision to take and it was not one that I took lightly.”

Two hundred and thirty visitors had signed up for the gathering. The Faculty did not agree with BK Scholars for Palestine’s suggestion to hold the event online. The reason, explained Van Gameren, being that the concerns about social safety were also relevant for an online meeting. “If disrespectful opinions are voiced – and we believe at this point in time that this would have been be the case – we do not want to facilitate them. That’s it.” He fears that little can be done about ‘disrespectful voices’ in a gathering like this. “You can do your very best as a moderator, but you may not be able to able to stop them.”

Torn posters

One of the contributing factors to the decision was clearly visible: after BK Scholars for Palestine hung 200 posters in the Faculty, they were all ripped off the wall the next day. This, plus the cancellation of the meeting is now making the group feel unwelcome and unsafe at the Faculty, they say. “This goes completely against the Dean’s message that says that he wants the Faculty to be a place where everyone feels safe and welcome, and for this reason he is cancelling the event.”

Van Gameren says that he feels “very sorry” to have had to cancel the event at such a late stage. He hopes that it will still be held at some point. “It should go ahead, only I do not know when. I will continue to be in touch with them (BK Scholars for Palestine, Eds.). And maybe it will have to be organised differently. Timing and format, these are the important things.”

The members of BK Scholars for Palestine say that the support that they have received has been extremely helpful. Despite this, the course of events has had a big impact on them. “We need to reassess our relationship with the Faculty. I can say in all honesty that I do not feel welcome here anymore.”

The organisers eventually moved the meeting to a location outside TU Delft.

News editor Emiel Beinema

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