We the Georgetown Faculty for Gaza write to voice our outrage at the scale and nature of Israel’s military aggression against the Palestinians in Gaza since Dec. 27 and at Israel’s gross disregard for the principles of proportionality and distinction that are central to international humanitarian law. We decry Israel’s massacre of innocent Palestinian civilians, as well as its repeated violations of their most basic human rights. We are especially appalled by the way American political, academic and media circles have treated the bombing and blockade of Gaza’s population and the disproportionate level of Palestinian casualties.
Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas on earth. A great deal of its population consists of two or three generations of refugees who were driven from their homes in 1948. Since 1967, they have lived in abject poverty under Israeli occupation. Even after pulling its soldiers and settlers out of Gaza in 2005, Israel has continued to control all access by land, sea and air, and has carried out frequent raids and attacks on Gaza.
When Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in 2006, Israel imposed a stringent blockade on the territory, forcing the inhabitants to live on the edge of starvation and effectively turning Gaza into a large concentration camp. During the June cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, Israel did not live up to its promise to end the siege of Gaza, and on Nov. 4, the fragile truce was broken when an Israeli raid killed six Hamas operatives. Hamas retaliated and Israel in turn launched the current military offensive against Gaza.
By Jan. 14, Israeli forces had killed more than 1,000 Palestinians, of whom 80 percent were civilians. About 300 children were among them. More than 4,500 Palestinians have been injured, of whom 1,600 are children and 678 are women. Many more will die for lack of medical supplies and facilities.
Israel has directly targeted and completely or partially destroyed mosques, schools, civil police compounds, a medical storage center and numerous government buildings. Its air strikes and ground incursions have to date resulted in the total destruction of countless homes and shelters. The methods of attack and the number of casualties indicate a reckless disregard for civilian life synonymous with intent. But Israel’s offensive has been met with little concrete action by the international community.
Israel’s massive bombardment and collective punishment of civilians contravened international law and the United Nations Charter. While a humanitarian catastrophe of untold proportions unfolded in Gaza, Israel continued to deny access to humanitarian workers, human rights monitors and media representatives. It even rejected requests by the International Committee of the Red Cross to investigate scenes of supposed humanitarian abuse.
We demand an immediate end to the isolation of Gaza by the Israeli military, and an urgent international response to the growing humanitarian crisis therein.
Since the start of the military operations, Israel has targeted and leveled the American International School, the Islamic University of Gaza, the Ministry of Education and several United Nations schools. Aside from causing scores of fatalities among teachers and students, the bombing campaign has obliterated Gaza’s educational infrastructure, with clear political, economic and humanitarian ramifications for its population in the long term. As academics, we strongly condemn Israel’s unjustified and immoral assaults on the educational institutions and students of Gaza.
The direct assaults on Gaza’s schools form yet another chapter in Israel’s ongoing denial of the Palestinians’ right to education, as guaranteed by international conventions. Since 1967, Israel has systematically undermined, curtailed and disrupted Palestinian aspirations to study at home or abroad.
As an occupying power with effective control over the Gaza Strip through its domination of airspace, territorial waters, land borders and the population registry, Israel is obligated by the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to respect international humanitarian law and to refrain from destroying Palestinian academic facilities and educational institutions. We therefore insist that Israel abide by its international responsibilities to ensure the rights of Palestinians to education as mandated in the 1992 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
We pledge to educate our students and the American public at large about the right to education and the egregious violations of Palestinians’ rights by the government of Israel. Our campaign aims to raise awareness of the plight of the Palestinians among U.S. educators and journalists, and to pressure U.S. governmental bodies to do everything in their power to implement and maintain a durable cease-fire in Gaza; begin deliveries of critical humanitarian aid to Gaza’s population and require that Israel allow those supplies to be delivered; and call for investigations into the reported cases of Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza by the appropriate international authorities.
Ahmad Dallal is the chair of the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies. John Esposito is a professor in the School of Foreign Service and director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin-Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. Louis Seidman is the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Constitutional Law at the Law Center.
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