26 April 2024

As Juan Cole reports, US university presidents have remained silent while Israel destroyed all the universities in Gaza and killed many of their students, faculty and other staff. To their shame, vice-chancellors in Britain have also said nothing about this ongoing scholasticide.

No President of a Major American University has Deplored the Israeli Destruction of all Gaza Universities

Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – American campuses are being roiled by student and faculty protests against the ongoing Israeli atrocities in Gaza, which the International Court of Justice has found to be plausibly described as a genocide. These harmless student demonstrations, of a sort that have been normal throughout the past sixty years, have been met with a harsh police response and criminalization by university administrators unmatched since the Kent State University president called in the National Guard on May 4, 1970, when green troops panicked and killed four students.

Charges that these peaceful on-campus rallies are antisemitic in character are bad faith propaganda by hard line ethno-nationalists who have long striven to equate criticism of Israeli government policy with bigotry toward Jews — a ridiculous proposition. If accepted, this strategy would imply that criticism of the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico is a form of bigotry toward Chicanos. If so, no one has more racialist prejudice toward Chicanos than Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. The only documented antisemitic slurs have been shouted in the street in New York beyond the Columbia University campus, by outsiders rather than students and faculty. Any bigotry toward Jews is completely unacceptable and wholly contemnible.

The campus demonstrations are instead being driven by outrage at six months of war crimes committed by the fascist government now in power in Israel, which includes ministers who are the Israeli equivalent of neo-Nazis.

It is bad enough that presidents of major American universities are having their students and faculty arrested for “trespassing” on their own campus, with many of them suspended and forced out of their dorms (for which they paid and the rental terms of which they had not violated).

Those same presidents of leading institutions of higher education in the U.S. have stood completely silent as the extremist government in Israel has destroyed every last university in Gaza, leaving 88,000 students stranded and their education interrupted, for who knows how long. Many of them may forever be deprived of their degree.

The Israeli military has also murdered from the sky 5,479 students and 261 teachers .

Reliefweb notes,

    “As of 30 March, the Education Cluster estimates that 87.7% of all school buildings in Gaza have been damaged or destroyed. 212 school buildings have had a direct hit and could be severely damaged and a further 282 have sustained moderate, minor or likely damage. Previously 503,500 children attended, and 18,900 teachers taught at the school buildings which have now had a direct hit or sustained major or moderate damage. Every university in Gaza has been destroyed.”

The dead include hundreds of undergraduates and over a hundred professors, as well as three presidents of universities.

Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth is the only one I know of to have publicly denounced this situation (thanks to Laila Lalami for tipping me to this piece).

Apologists for Israel’s total war on the innocent civilians of Gaza, blinded by their ethno-nationalism, may attempt to maintain that these universities were part and parcel of the Hamas government that has ruled Gaza since 2006. This allegation, however, is laughable. Hamas military cadres only come to 37,000 persons by Israel’s own reckoning. None of them were undergraduates or professors of literature.

About 19 institutions of higher education, including 12 universities, in Gaza served 88,000 students and employed 5200 staff and faculty before October 7, since which time they have all been closed and several have been demolished.

As I wrote last winter, the buildings of the al-Azhar University in south Gaza have been largely destroyed by Israeli shelling.

The following footage from TikTok shows the bombing of al-Azhar University in Gaza in November.


The footage below says it shows the state last winter of al-Azhar University in Gaza:

“Destruction of Al-Azhar University in Gaza”

Al-Azhar University in Gaza was established in 1991 by the Palestine Liberation Organization, the secular rival of Hamas. It is not related to the al-Azhar in Cairo. It had 14,391 students and 387 faculty members, though some of these are now dead and none of them have any buildings in which to learn or teach. It had been ranked around 171 out of 200 among Arab regional universities, and it is amazing that it wasn’t at the bottom given that it functioned in an occupied territory under economic siege since 2007.

This was AUG’s medical school.

AU Gaza Kulliyat al-Tibb

That medical school is now not graduating doctors, to say the least.

This scholasticide is not an accident and it has nothing to do with a “war on Hamas” or “self-defense.” It is the typical gutting of a colonized people’s consciousness by a settler colonial state. These actions are intended to cripple Palestinian education and Palestinian culture in Gaza. Israeli leaders have made no secret of their hope to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from the Strip entirely.

About the Author

Juan Cole is the founder and chief editor of Informed Comment. He is Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History at the University of Michigan He is author of, among many other books, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace amid the Clash of Empires and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Follow him on Twitter at @jricole or the Informed Comment Facebook Page