Dec 1, 2023

Assault on Education

 (Below this section is a statement from Palestinian Higher Education Institutions)

Al-Azhar University before and after

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 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

For more background on Gaza see

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
A Unified Call for Justice and Freedom in Palestine
A call from Palestinian Higher Education institutions 
Do not be Silent during Israel’s Unfolding Genocide

We, the undersigned Palestinian higher education institutions from occupied Palestine unite in a call for justice, humanity, and an end to 75 years of Israel’s regime of settler-colonial oppression and apartheid. We stand resolute, determined to stop and overcome the relentless brutality that has deeply scarred our homeland during the ongoing Israeli bombings on Gaza and the military-settler attacks on our people, our homes, and our institutions across all of occupied Palestine.

Israel's indiscriminate bombardment of our 2.3 million Palestinian civilians in the occupied Gaza Strip, which has been besieged by Israel for the past 16 years, coupled with its ban on the entry of water, food, medicine and fuel, has caused immeasurable suffering, with thousands of lives lost, one third of whom are children.

Israel’s deliberate targeting of entire neighborhoods, hospitals, schools, UN  shelters, and universities constitutes a grave violation of international law. As of 25 October, According to UNOCHA, Israeli bombardment has struck 219 educational facilities, including at least 29 UNRWA schools.

Moreover, under international humanitarian law, ‘civilian objects’ such as educational sites cannot be targeted for attack. The Islamic University of Gaza was attacked along Al-Azhar University and other Universities by Israeli airstrikes. In view of the continuing and escalating occupation violations in the West Bank, and due to fear of Israeli settlers’ assaults with more restrictions to Palestinians movement most Palestinian Universities switched to distance education starting 9 October. The universities in Gaza Strip, however, have  been totally paralyzed, as a result of no electricity, no stable internet connection and the priority of all staff members and students to care for survival.

The cumulative effect of the bombardment has resulted in massive and ongoing killing of people many of whom are students, faculty and staff. It also caused displacement, and destruction, imperiling, even the possibility of access to education for generations of Gazan children and students into the indefinite future.  Israel is waging a genocidal war on our people, as described by leading  Palestinian human rights organizations, more than 800 international  scholars, the US-based Center for Constitutional Rights, Jewish civil society  groups, Holocaust and genocide studies scholars and others who have by now warned of an imminent genocide against the Palestinian population in Gaza.

While the Israeli army is committing several crimes against Palestinians that fall within the purview of "war crimes," "genocide," "apartheid”, to name a few, we reiterate that it is crucial to place these measures within the wider framework of the occupation of Palestine and blockade on Gaza. As Palestinian national and political rights are denied, including the right to exist, resist, return, and most importantly the right to self-determination.

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has explicitly affirmed the right of Palestinians to resist Israel’s military occupation, in harmony with international law. This right was affirmed in the context of the right to self- determination of all peoples under foreign and colonial rule. Some of the most relevant UN resolutions on this matter include UNGA Resolution 3314  (1974) and UNGA Resolution 37/43 (1982).

We also hold Israeli universities responsible, as they have been indispensable to the regime of settler colonial oppression and apartheid,  complicit in grave violations of human rights including developing  weaponry, military doctrines, and legal justification for the indiscriminate, mass targeting of Palestinians.

In light of the latest assault on Gaza, we call upon international academic institutions to take the following concrete actions immediately to end the genocidal war and Israeli settler colonialism.

1. Call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, guaranteed by the UN
2. Urge immediate entry into Gaza of sufficient amounts of life-saving humanitarian needs (incl. water, food, fuel, medicine), equitably distributed throughout the whole territory of Gaza Strip.
3. Demand UN protection for the 2.3 million Palestinian civilians trapped under siege in Gaza
4. Issue clear positions rejecting any ethnic cleansing
5. To support in dismantling the settler colonial and apartheid system and to achieve and a just, comprehensive, and lasting peace.

We urge the international academic community to fulfill its intellectual and academic duty to seek the truth and hold perpetrators of genocide accountable. Israeli universities, complicit in human rights violations, should face international isolation.

In unity and with unwavering determination, we declare that justice will prevail. We will not be silence; we will resist, remember, and record. The world must recognize Zionism for what it is: a genocidal settler project built on false mythology and sustained through perpetual violence against Indigenous Palestinians.

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