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Over 1,600 Academics Sign Letter Condemning Israel’s Scholasticide in Gaza

All of the universities in Gaza and at least 76 percent of the school buildings in Gaza have been bombed.

A man rides his bicycle past the al-Aqsa University, leveled by Israeli bombardment in Gaza City on February 15, 2024.

Over 1,600 academics in North America have signed an open letter condemning Israel’s destruction of the education system in Gaza over the past six months, with most major universities in Gaza now destroyed or damaged due to Israel’s genocidal assault.

In the letter, the group says that Israel has been committing scholasticide, or the destruction of a region’s education system. They cite Israel’s bombing of all 12 Gaza universities and at least 378 school buildings, or 76 percent of school buildings in the region, as well as the killings of numerous academic leaders, staff and students.

“We, the undersigned, write to condemn Israel’s systematic targeting of academics, students, educational institutions and cultural heritage sites in Gaza, in violation of international human rights, humanitarian and criminal law,” the letter says.

The group further points out that Israel has a long history of targeting education in Palestine as part of its decades-long occupation, noting that North American governments are complicit in the historic destruction of Indigenous education and knowledge.

“These attacks are deeply personal,” the letter continues. “Some of us have taught Palestinian students, or collaborated with faculty from academic institutions in Gaza who have been killed or injured or who have seen their institutions destroyed. We mourn what these losses mean for world knowledge and culture, and for the future of the Palestinian people, and we stand in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues and students and all others who deplore this scholasticide.”

The letter was signed by academics across Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. Signatories include prominent academics and human rights leaders like James Cavallaro, former president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and Wesleyan human rights law professor; Alex DeWaal, a famine researcher and World Peace Foundation executive director; Nancy Fraser, critical theorist and feminist philosopher; and several former UN officials like Michael Lynk, who formerly served as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.

The group calls for a permanent ceasefire, restoration of funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), Israeli compliance with provisional orders by the International Court of Justice, and support from North American universities and governments to fund the rebuilding of Gaza’s education system.

Israel’s assault on the education system in Gaza has been incredibly violent. Since October, Israeli forces have killed at least 100 Palestinian academics, while also trapping hundreds of students in Gaza, preventing them from going abroad for their studies and instead forcing them to experience genocide.

Palestinian academics have labeled Israel’s assault as a “war against education.” Dismantling education in Gaza not only severely hampers the growth of young people in the region, but also destroys the culture and knowledge that Gazan educational institutions had fostered and documented for decades.

Academics killed include Refaat Alareer, a professor at Islamic University who was known internationally for his writings and speeches condemning Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Alareer was killed by Israeli forces, along with six of his family members, in his home in December. He was reportedly being specifically targeted by Israeli forces in the days leading up to his killing.