Popular Resistance has published a deeply disturbing account of Israel’s current assault on Gaza and the Occupied West Bank, describing in particular the murderous consequences for Palestinian universities and schools, the students and the staff who work in them. The assault on Palestinian education began sixty years ago, but since 7 October it has intensified to a horrific degree. You can read the original account here.

Dec 1, 2023                                                                                        Assault on Education

Over 56 days, the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) denied water, food, electricity and fuel to 2.3 million Gaza residents. The IOF killed over 14500 civilians (72% women and children) and injured over 27,000 in 40 days since 7 October 2023 (see updates from the UN at https://www.ochaopt.org/updates This is not counting over 4000 estimated missing/under the rubble. Over 50% of buildings in Gaza were destroyed and medical facilities ran out of medical supplies and have no power. Hundreds of families were wiped out. 1.5 million Palestinians were forced to move though no place has been saved the vengeful bombing campaign. In the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem), educational institutions are under attack. The ghettos that we Palestinians are squeezed in were sealed off on 7 October 2023. Thus, most our students are not able to get to their classes in any of the 34 HE institutions in the West Bank and education when possible is done online for some of the 138,800 students of HE. Further every one of the HE institutions in the West Bank has had some of their students arbitrarily arrested and detained without trials in so-called “administrative detention” where they are abused.

The situation in Gaza is far worse. The occupation forces onslaught on Gaza closed 19 HE institutions in Gaza denying 88,000 students the right to education completely. 219 educational institutions were destroyed and that includes destruction of 12 buildings in three universities in Gaza: Al-Azhar University, AlQuds Open University, and the Islamic University. According to the Ministry of Higher Education and Research as of 5 November and over 5 weeks of indiscriminate bombing, 446 academics (432 students and 14 staff/faculty) were killed. Many more were killed after 5 November. The president of the Islamic University of Gaza Prof. Sufian Tayeh and his family were killed in Israeli bombing in North Gaza (Jabalya) today 2 December 2023. On 12 November 2023, Professor Mohammad Eid Shubair, his wife Rehab, their daughter-in-law Najat Ayoub Alhelo, and their eldest son, Muhammad Malik Shubair in an Israeli airstrike on their home in the vicinity of the Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City. Thousands of academics are injured and most are unable to receive treatments with open wounds due to the collapse of the health care system. 555 students from the Gaza strip were unable to take up scholarships they had to attend HE abroad. Over 5000 Gazan students are abroad and suffering due to inability to contact or receive support from their families.

These violations of HE in the occupied Palestinian territories are violations of the Fourth Geneva Conventions pertaining to protection of civilians. They are also contrary to the Lahai treaty of 1907 (article 3) which prohibit attacks at public buildings including those dedicated to worship, education, art etc. Collective punishment is contrary to international law. Human rights organization and the UN have described the situation as war crimes and crimes against humanity. These are basic violations of International law and considered war crimes and crimes against humanity (see also https://www.amnesty.org/en/petition/demand-a-ceasefire-by-all-parties-to-end-civilian-suffering/For more background on Gaza see http://ongaza.org

We urge you to act as follows in compliance with local and international law in your country:

1) Insist that students, faculty, and staff at all institutions of higher education globally are protected from harassment especially as they demonstrate and speak out for human rights and against the apartheid system, against colonialism, and against ongoing genocide. Israeli university leaders have supported their extreme right wing government in comiitting the crimes and went further by curtailing academic freedom, dismissing dozens of students who expressed solidarity with Gaza civilians and even fired or harassed faculty who spoke out. Students and faculty at Israeli and Western Universities should be ensured a safe atmosphere to express their opinion including in advocating for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) like we did during apartheid era in South Africa. Opposition to Israel and racist Zionist ideas should not be defamed by being labeled anti-Semitism of “Jewish self-hatred). In fact at most universities, leaders of the Palestine Solidarity groups have been Jews of conscience.

2) Write to your government and to the Israeli government demanding an end to the persecution of universities both in the West Bank and in Gaza. Freedom of movement and freedom of education must be respected per international law. Attacks on universities, their students, faculty and staff must cease. There should not be collective punishment of our educational system.3) When these hostilities subside, we will need significant technical and financial support to repair and rebuild the HE system and we could use your support.