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Scholars Against the War on Palestine

End the Scholasticide in Gaza

February 23, 2024

Gaza’s top two universities, the Islamic University of Gaza and Al-Azhar University, have both been carpet bombed and reduced to rubble by Israel’s US-supplied jets and most advanced missiles. According to the UN, already in November a total of 258 schools, or 51% of all schools in Gaza, had been destroyed or partially damaged by Israel’s military assault. Since then, the destruction has only gained steam and become all but universal.

It is time for the entirety of the academic world to take urgent action to stop Israel’s genocide in Gaza and its ongoing scholasticide against all Palestinians.

Defining Scholasticide

Scholasticide is a term that was first coined by Professor Karma Nabulsi, an Oxford don and Palestinian expert on the laws of war. She conceptualized it in the context of the Israeli assault on Gaza, Palestine in 2009, but also with reference to a pattern of Israeli colonial attacks on Palestinian scholars, students, and educational institutions going back to the Nakba of 1948, and expanding after the 1967 war on Palestine and the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. The term combines the Latin prefix schola, meaning school, and the Latin suffix cide, meaning killing. Nabulsi used it to describe the “systematic destruction of Palestinian education by Israel” to counter a tradition of Palestinian learning. That tradition, Nabulsi observed, reflected the enormous “role and power of education in an occupied society” in which freedom of thought “posits possibilities, open horizons,” contrasting sharply with “the apartheid wall, the shackling checkpoints, [and] the choking prisons.” Recognizing “how important education is to the Palestinian tradition and the Palestinian revolution,” Nabulsi noted that Israeli colonial policymakers “cannot abide it and have to destroy it.”

During the latest Israeli genocidal war on Gaza, Palestine in 2023/2024, scholasticide has intensified on an unprecedented scale. Israeli colonial policy in Gaza has now shifted from a focus on systematic destruction to total annihilation of education. There is, indeed, an intimate relationship between genocide and scholasticide. Raphael Lamkin, the pioneering Polish Jewish legal scholar who first defined genocide and played a key role in inserting the concept into international law, saw genocide as an effort to “undermine the fundamental basis of the social order.” Key to this effort, in Lamkin’s conception, was the assault on the cultures of national, ethnic, racial, or religious collectivities.

Scholasticide is comprised of any of the following acts that entail systemic destruction, in whole or in part, of the educational life of a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group:

1) Killings and assassinations of university and school teachers, students, staff, and administrators.

2) Causing bodily or mental harm to university and school teachers, students, staff, and administrators.

3) Arresting, detaining, and incarcerating university and school teachers, students, staff, and administrators.

4) Systematic harassment, bullying, intimidation of university and school teachers, students, staff, and administrators.

5) Bombarding and demolishing educational institutions.

6) Destroying and/or looting of teaching and research resources including libraries, archives, and laboratories, as well as facilities supporting the educational process, including playgrounds, sports fields, performance venues, cafeterias, and residence halls.

7) Impeding the import of essential materials for rebuilding damaged schools and universities.

8) Obstructing the creation of new educational structures.

9) Besieging schools and universities and using them as barracks, logistics bases, operational headquarters, weapons and ammunition caches, detention and interrogation centers.

10) Closing educational institutions and/or disrupting their daily operations.

11) Invading educational institutions.

12) Restricting faculty, student, and staff access to educational institutions.

13) Denying education to political prisoners including child detainees.

14) Hindering access to the internet, disrupting the provision of electricity, and preventing free entry of educational supplies including books and laboratory equipment.

15) Blocking the hiring of academic staff and denying them entry to their institutions through visa denial and other restrictions.

16) Revoking residency rights of students or academics who may pursue educational opportunities abroad.

17) Preventing scholarly exchange in all its forms.

18) Disrupting international and domestic funding of educational institutions.

Responding to the Scholasticide in Palestine

All of these acts are currently being carried out to devastating effect in Gaza, Palestine. They are part and parcel of the genocidal effort to impede the reproduction of the social order in that occupied territory, as part of a broader effort to render it uninhabitable, hence paving the way for its comprehensive ethnic cleansing. Many of these acts have long been practiced against educational institutions and communities in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, and some are experienced by Palestinian citizens of the Israeli State.

Israeli colonial policy in Gaza has now shifted from a focus on systematic destruction to total annihilation of education.

Israeli academic institutions are deeply complicit in Israel’s regime of settler-colonialism and apartheid that has oppressed Indigenous Palestinians for 75 years. Israeli universities maintain strong ties to Israel’s military and arms industry and develop, implement, maintain, and justify Israel’s war crimes against Palestinians.

Scholars across the world, from faculty councils; to conferences; to academic associations, to faculty unions; to scholars of international law, conflict, and genocide studies, are taking a stand against Israel’s ongoing crimes. These calls to end institutional ties with complicit Israeli universities have been made by  scholars of philosophyfeminist scholars, and scholars in Ireland and the Netherlands, among others.

We urge all universities, scholars, faculty unions, university departments and academic associations; students, student unions, councils, and organizations; and alumni and alumni organizations to call for an immediate ceasefire, an end to Israel’s genocidal war on Palestinians in Gaza, entry to Gaza of life-saving humanitarian needs, and UN protection for the 2.3 million Palestinian civilians trapped under siege Israeli in Gaza.

We call on students, faculty, and alumni to demand that their universities condemn the destruction of Gaza’s two main universities, name Israel as the perpetrator, and call for an immediate ceasefire.

We call on international university networks, including the International Association of Universities, the Mediterranean Universities Union, and the Association of Arab Universities, to mobilize their networks to call for an immediate ceasefire.

Finally, we call on students and faculty members to work to end all ties between their universities and complicit Israeli academic institutions, as called for by Palestinian civil society, Palestinian universities, and academic organizations, including the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE). Only by working to dismantle Israel’s apartheid regime can we stop the violence, as it is undeniably the root cause.



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