Creating new perspectives since 2009

European academics condemn Israel’s destruction of education system in Gaza

March 13, 2024 at 5:48 pm

Al-Azhar University of Gaza before and after Israel bombed the institution

A hundred leading European academics have signed a petition condemning Israel’s genocide against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, as well as the systematic destruction of the educational system in the Gaza Strip, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor has announced.

The academics decry Israel’s physical and cultural liquidation of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, and express deep concern about the Israeli army’s continued targeting of academics, educational institutions and cultural heritage sites in the enclave.

Knowledge and education are fundamental to human civilisation worldwide, they point out, but for an occupied people like the Palestinians, education plays a distinctly vital role in society. Education preserves hope and freedom against oppressive, apartheid policies; it also fosters culture and is essential to the achievement of both individual and societal prosperity.

The current Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip have caused the entire educational process there to be completely disrupted, assert the academics.

The petition warns of grave long-term ramifications due to the killing of hundreds of lecturers and teachers, and thousands of their students. The International Monetary Fund estimates that 70 per cent of Gaza’s colleges and universities have been destroyed, costing the education sector $720 million. Indeed, Israel has wholly or partially destroyed six universities in the Gaza Strip: the Islamic University of Gaza (one of the oldest higher education institutions in the enclave); Al-Israa University; Rabat University; Al-Azhar University; Al-Aqsa University; and Al-Quds Open University.

READ: Israel suspected of abducting, disappearing Palestinian children from Gaza under guise of ‘evacuation’

Such destruction violates international humanitarian law, not least the destruction of Al-Israa University, which was blown up by the Israeli army on 17 January, after troops used it as a barracks and a temporary detention centre. The destruction of the university included the National Museum, which housed over 3,000 rare antiquities under licence from the Palestinian Ministry of Antiquities. The university’s administration has affirmed its belief that the antiquities have been stolen by Israeli soldiers.

Three university presidents have been killed in the Israeli attacks, along with more than 95 university deans and professors. Almost 90,000 students have been deprived of their university education, and 555 students were not granted the international scholarships that they had been offered prior to the genocide.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Education, 4,327 students have been killed and 7,819 others have been injured during the ongoing attacks; 231 teachers and administrators have been killed, with 756 wounded.

The signatories of the petition note that the attacks by Israeli forces on civilian objects, particularly those classified as historical or cultural monuments protected by special laws, not only constitute a grave breach of international humanitarian law and a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, but also fall under the purview of genocide.

Academics, scholars and higher education institutions worldwide are urged to denounce Israel’s unlawful killing of Palestinian academics and its systematic destruction of Palestinian educational, cultural and historical assets in the Gaza Strip. They are also asked to boycott Israeli academic institutions that support the occupation of Palestinian lands, especially those situated inside illegal Israeli settlements and in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

In the same vein, over 180 British academics recently signed a separate petition denouncing the effects of the ongoing Israeli military assaults on Gaza’s educational institutions as well as the targeting of professors, researchers and students.

READ: MIT student group facing threats of expulsion for supporting Palestine