An Open Letter from Gaza Academics


“We have come together as Palestinian academics and staff of Gaza universities to affirm our existence, the existence of our colleagues and our students, and the insistence on our future, in the face of all current attempts to erase us.”

The damaged gate of Al Aqsa University, which was destroyed by the Israeli army. April 14, 2024 [Reuters/Doaa Rouqa]

So begins an open letter from Gaza academics and administrators.

It continues:

We call upon our friends and colleagues around the world to resist the ongoing campaign of scholasticide in occupied Palestine, to work alongside us in rebuilding our demolished universities, and to refuse all plans seeking to bypass, erase, or weaken the integrity of our academic institutions. The future of our young people in Gaza depends upon us, and our ability to remain on our land in order to continue to serve the coming generations of our people…

Our families, colleagues, and students are being assassinated, while we have once again been rendered homeless…

Our civic infrastructure—universities, schools, hospitals, libraries, museums and cultural centres—built by generations of our people, lies in ruins from this deliberate continuous Nakba. The deliberate targeting of our educational infrastructure is a blatant attempt to render Gaza uninhabitable and erode the intellectual and cultural fabric of our society. However, we refuse to allow such acts to extinguish the flame of knowledge and resilience that burns within us.

The letter asks for a few things:

(a) for “universities and colleagues worldwide to coordinate any academic aid efforts directly with our universities” rather than through “alleged [Israeli] reconstruction schemes that seek to eliminate the possibility of independent Palestinian educational life in Gaza.”

(b) for financial and technical assistance in transitioning to online teaching “to mitigate the disruption caused by the destruction of physical infrastructure,” including “comprehensive support to cover operational costs, including the salaries of academic staff.”

(c) for “all concerned parties to immediately coordinate their efforts” to take the “urgent measures” needed to “address the financial crisis now faced by academic institutions, to ensure their very survival.”

You can read the whole letter and see its list of signatories here.

(via Matthew Smith)


Related: American Philosophers Should Condemn the War in Gaza

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TakingLivesSeriously
TakingLivesSeriously
26 days ago

This reminds me of all those colleagues who recently expressed their deep concerns about maintaining an international community of scholars…

junior
junior
26 days ago

Has the APA issued a statement yet? 7 months in, it’s shameful that a clear case of scholasticide is something we are meeting with silence. If it can make statements about programs losing funding, it can also wade into every university in Gaza being destroyed.

Simon Lucas
25 days ago

Discussing the “deliberate targeting of educational infrastructure” and the “assassination” of scholars is, to put it mildly, a narrow interpretation of the gritty realities of warfare and using a term like “scholasticide” is a peak of ignorance. In a more reflective mood, these scholars might have acknowledged the military misuse of their academic institutions and the disturbing reality that some have exploited their authority to spread perilous genocidal ideologies of Jew-hatred and martyrdom. Needless to say, there is no mention of the very real threats posed by Hamas—whose religious totalitarianism is antithetical to academic scholarship—to genuine education and academic advancement in Gaza. “Independent Palestinian educational life in Gaza“ should, first and foremost, be independent from Hamas.

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  Simon Lucas
25 days ago

What an ignorant and utterly racist comment.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Yazan Freij
25 days ago

What is racist about it? And what is ignorant? Please clarify for those of us who don’t understand your comment.

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  Peter
25 days ago

What is racist? I don’t know..Maybe the fact that this White person whose country is a major enabler of the ongoing massacre of Palestinians in Gaza is tone-policin Palestinian academics who have had their institutions, homes and lives destroyed, and he protests the use of a term that has been increasingly been used by experts.

https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2024/04/un-experts-deeply-concerned-over-scholasticide-gaza

What’s ignorant? Maybe the fact that this person is repeating Israeli propaganda about the military use of academic institutions which not a shred of evidence has ever been shown to support. In fact, the evidence points to the contrary, such as the demolition of Al-Israa University by detonation AFTER it was occupied and used as a base by Israeli troops and after the contents of its museum were looted and transported into Israel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLcEt2L4DYc

Last edited 25 days ago by Yazan Freij
On the Market Too
On the Market Too
Reply to  Yazan Freij
24 days ago

The referenced comment doesn’t seem to be tone policing. Maybe “context policing” is a better fit.

Is the charge of “racism” here supposed to be that the comment would not have been made were Gazans white (or something in that ballpark since race doesn’t seem to really fit here)? For instance, if the letter were from academics in 1940’s Dresden?

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  On the Market Too
24 days ago

The APA issued a statement (rightly) expressing solidarity with Ukranian academics without receiving any backlash. In the case of Palestine, not only no similar call of solidarity was expressed but even calls by Palestinian academics surviving genocide are met with despicable policing of language . This is the comparison you should be using ( Ukraine and Palestine) and not with Nazi Germany where the Third Reich committed genocide and started the deadliest war in human history. Maybe backlash would be directed towards a letter by Dresden academics and maybe not. I don’t know. But the point is even if there was backlash it would be explained in terms of recent grievances against Nazis. In the case of Palestine, I see no other reason apart from balatant racism and Islamophobia, and you cannot point to grievances of 7 Oct as a motive since Palestinians have been on the receving end of much more violence for decades and we saw no reaction from Western academia. So, If you seriously want to compare Palestinians to Nazis ( a typical Zionist trope btw) instead of comparing them to Ukranians because you are among the people for whom history starts on 7 Oct not a day earlier, then I have nothing more to add.

Last edited 24 days ago by Yazan Freij
Mohan Matthen
Reply to  Peter
24 days ago

Baffled by the question. I think it’s (at the very least) obvious what Yasan means, and what he thinks is racist about the comment. If you disagree with his assessment, you can say why. But I find your passive aggressive attitude here quite inappropriate to the situation–which even you must agree is grave beyond this kind of frivolity.

Any on the Bus
Any on the Bus
Reply to  Mohan Matthen
23 days ago

It strikes me that Peter’s comment is really about the nature of Hamas’ ideology and how wide spread that ideology is in Gaza. It seem obvious that Hamas’ ideology is highly problematic and that its influence at local universities is also problematic. If the extreme right in Israel and actions of its government might result in calls to boycott those institutions, it would seem a fortiori that schools in Gaza ought to be subject to the same calls.

That is of course not justification for the bombing of those institutions or the assassinating of university professors; however, the evidence that is occurring as systematic policy as opposed to as collateral damage to a massively destructive war isn’t clear. There have certainly been a few incidents of universities being destroyed, but it sounds like the Israeli military has taken some steps to punish those involved.

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  Any on the Bus
22 days ago

It is not a “few incidents”. It is EVERY SINGLE university being destroyed. Again for the millionth time on this thread, I repeat that no one here has provided any evidence whatsoever on the supposed military uses of these universities because Israel has not shared any, just like it has not shared any evidence on the supposed UNRWA collusion with Hamas. And it is simply not true that anyone was held accountable for these crimes. The IDF is famous for ‘starting probes’ and ‘looking into things’ without anyone ever being punished.

Any on the Bus
Any on the Bus
Reply to  Yazan Freij
22 days ago

Given that there is a good possibility that some of this information may be sensitive intelligence, I don’t think the lack of evidence at this point is very determinative.

The IDF has already issued a reprimand for at least one of these attacks.

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  Any on the Bus
21 days ago

“I believe Israel even though it has been caught lying about UNRWA and has provided no evidence, but I am sure the evidence exists somewhere” OK buddy.

Any on the Bus
Any on the Bus
Reply to  Yazan Freij
21 days ago

So on your reasoning we shouldn’t believe anything that comes from the Palestinians because both the PA and Hamas have been caught lying, correct?

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  Any on the Bus
21 days ago

No. My reasoning is not to believe anything without evidence. The evidence is that Israel has destroyed every single university in Gaza. This has been verified by International organizations and media. There is no evidence whatsoever that they were put into military use because Israel has not provided any. At this point, I see no difference between people like you who insist on believing Israel with no evidence and Trump supporters who claimed that the elections were rigged in 2020. Both of you choose to ignore the evidence at hand and assume there is hidden evidence contradictory that no one has ever seen. Not a very epistemologically healthy attitude, especially for philosophers. But again, as per my comments below, this does not surprise me at all.

Any on the Bus
Any on the Bus
Reply to  Yazan Freij
21 days ago

The issue is that the evidence you’re asking for may exist but is very likely not disclosable to very obvious security concerns.

David
David
Reply to  Any on the Bus
17 days ago

You really think the IDF is sitting on a mountain of evidence directly linking Hamas to all or most of the universities which they’ve destroyed, and they’re just sitting on it because it’s *all* super top secret? You really think that’s more likely than the obvious explanation, which is that they are deliberately targeting universities *as such*—along with the rest of Gazan civilian society?

It’s almost like there’s NOTHING that could convince you the IDF is run by war criminals.

David
David
Reply to  Any on the Bus
17 days ago

I’m sorry, but you don’t know what you’re talking about. Do some research on what the Israeli government has actually done to schools and universities and what they’ve actually done to hold people accountable.

Matthew Smith
Matthew Smith
Reply to  Simon Lucas
25 days ago

Yes the big problem that the blown up universities and dead professors and maimed students face these days is Hamas.

And I’m sure that the academic and intellectual interests of the librarians whose libraries were destroyed, the students whose schools were bombed, and the teachers whose dead bodies lie beneath rubble are first and foremost served by Israel continuing to bomb and attack Gazan infrastructure in a quest to “finish” Hamas.

Whatever serious threats Hamas posed to intellectual life in Gaza, these threats have rendered trivial – meaningless really – in relation to the devastation’s caused by Israel since October. Who cares about Hamas controlling university education if there are no more universities?

The constant effort at blaming Hamas every time Israel commits a war crime is such a dereliction of responsibility that it suggests that a dumb, amoral obstinacy infects defenders of Israel’s war.

Simon Lucas
Reply to  Matthew Smith
25 days ago

“Yes the big problem that the blown up universities and dead professors and maimed students face these days is Hamas.”—Indeed it is. And the failure to acknowledge this reality is a glaring demonstration of both ignorance and moral confusion. Moreover, the incessant focus on academic matters, often encapsulated by terms like ‘scholasticide,’ appears to disregard the severe humanitarian crisis extending far beyond the confines of lecture halls, libraries, and research labs. Such myopic reasoning not only exemplifies academic decadence but also reflects a lack of genuine commitment to understanding and addressing the root causes of suffering in Gaza.

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  Simon Lucas
25 days ago

If your previous comment was racist and ignorant, then this one must be satirical. Keep up the good work.

Matthew Smith
Matthew Smith
Reply to  Yazan Freij
25 days ago

Yes I think he is not actually serious.

An adjunct
An adjunct
Reply to  Simon Lucas
25 days ago

simon lucas, you have established beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are the true humanitarian.

Matthew Smith
Matthew Smith
Reply to  Simon Lucas
25 days ago

The “root causes” of suffering in Gaza. This language is dumb. How far back do we go Simon? To Oct 7? 2005? 1967? 1948? Where does the root run out and the undifferentiated earth begin? Only an Occupation apologist, an American diplomat, or ignorant college student will lean heavily on “root causes” as opposed to some other metaphor.

Of course, what is needed to alleviate the suffering in Gaza is an immediate ceasefire. However fragile that might be, it’s a necessary first step.

Anyway, I am hardly emphasizing the destruction of educational infrastructure, but instead trying to locate it within the broader Israeli project of at best negligently killing thousands of innocent Gazans for the sake of a hopeless strategic objective. One might think that the objective is so obviously impossible to achieve that the killing of innocent civilians is the point.

Simon Lucas
Reply to  Matthew Smith
25 days ago

The root cause lies in Gaza being in the grip of a nihilistic death cult. This dumb, college student or diplomatic insight is far preferable to the convoluted sophistry often espoused by professors, who, snug in their armchairs, don’t seem to bother even taking a glance at a map of the Middle East.

Daniel
Daniel
Reply to  Simon Lucas
24 days ago

Nothing shows that you’re winning an argument like descending from substantive claims to ad hominem attacks. Well-done, Simon.

Simon Lucas
Reply to  Daniel
24 days ago

If anything, I’m presenting an ad expertum or ad professorum argument which seems a little appropriate here: The body of commentary and open letters penned by academics—presumably most of those commenting here—largely exemplifies sophistry, as many of the authors and signatories, despite their good intentions, seem incapable of viewing conflicts through anything other than an oppressor-oppressed lens; they overlook the stark moral asymmetry between Israel and Hamas, lack an understanding of or willfully disregard the political and historical context, and fail to grasp the dangers of religious indoctrination and extremism. The latter is particularly puzzling: Among academics, there is a prevailing secular confusion about the plausibility of peaceful coexistence with Islamists, the effectiveness of non-violent responses to jihadism, and the deliberate engineering of humanitarian crises such as the current situation in Gaza by Hamas.

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  Simon Lucas
24 days ago

It is very convenient for a supporter of colonialism to dismiss the colonialist/colonised , oppressor/oppressed paradigm with just a wave of the hand and some ad-hominem attacks. And nothing speaks of moral superiority more than a rogue state commiting atrocities and then threatining a prosecuter of the International Criminal Court to not investigate and then threatining the editor of a national newspaper (Haaretz) to not publish the story. On another regard, it is quite ironic that all of your points about religious extremism apply to the current Israeli government with one caveat. The Israeli Kahanists are much more dangerous since they have access to much more sophisticated and lethal weapons (including nuclear bombs).

David
David
Reply to  Simon Lucas
24 days ago

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is being engineered by Israel.

junior
junior
Reply to  Simon Lucas
23 days ago

There is a stark moral asymmetry between Hamas and Israel but it goes the other way. One is resisting occupation and the ethnic cleansing of their people, the other is backed by the world’s strongest nations and waging a murderous war (not to mention the conditions that gave rise to Oct 7).

If you’d rather we not focus on history, Hamas has so far twice accepted ceasefire deals the US has tabled only for the Israelis to reject them. They also proposed an all-for-all hostage exchange in October so I’m not sure what you mean.

Simon Lucas
Reply to  junior
23 days ago

I’m hesitant to express gratitude for your provision of the strongest evidence supporting the necessity of further ‘ad expertum.’ I don’t find any gleeful satisfaction in your confirmation of my stance; instead, I’m filled with bitter disillusionment regarding the pervasive educational and moral failures within our academic institutions.

junior
junior
Reply to  Simon Lucas
23 days ago

It is quite rich to decry the sophistry of experts for falling for “oppressed-opressor” frameworks (which can be applied simplistically at times) while in the same breath claim there is some obvious moral asymmetry between Hamas and Israel which justifies the Israeli war machine’s crimes.

It would be a lot more consistent, philosophically, to simply admit you hold a strong “might-makes-right” position when it comes to politics if you will dismiss everything else as sophistry.

Daniel
Daniel
Reply to  Simon Lucas
17 days ago

In 20 years, if not 10, people will look back and marvel at how many “respectable” people in the West were at best unmoved—and at worst actively complicit—in the first high-tech genocide of the 21st century.

They will be astounded that in the face of all the evidence—shared desperately by Gazans, and shared gleefully by IDF soldiers—otherwise decent and not-dumb people refused to see what was right in front of their eyes: the systematic destruction of an entire society’s social, political, and cultural infrastructure and the very deliberate infliction of trauma, terror, and hunger on 2.3 million human beings. Half of whom were children.

That is what people will regard as the “pervasive educational and moral failure” of the West vis-a-vis the Gaza genocide which began in 2023.

And the question will be: how could so many people be so willfully obtuse? How could they be so cruel?

Last edited 17 days ago by Daniel
Michel
Reply to  Daniel
16 days ago

If Iraq is any indication, quite a lot of them will retroactively remember themselves as having been against it all.

Daniel
Daniel
Reply to  Michel
16 days ago

Oh yes. Which is why I’m glad there are screenshots.

On the Market Too
On the Market Too
Reply to  junior
23 days ago

“There is a stark moral asymmetry between Hamas and Israel but it goes the other way.”

This would be an example of the moral mistakes that stem from “oppressor/oppressed,” “colonial/decolonial” binaries.

Do you oppose the Oct 7 attacks?

Do you think the rape and torture of the music festival attendees didn’t happen?

Do you think Hamas wouldn’t do it again a thousand times over?

Do you think Hamas wants to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties?

The moral issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are complex and indeed, there are plenty of wrongs committed by Israelis; however, the moral status of Hamas *is* pretty simple.

junior
junior
Reply to  On the Market Too
23 days ago

On the market too,

I support an investigation into the events of Oct 7, and wish foreign media was allowed to conduct such an investigation. Israel blocking the UN investigation into alleged rapes does not help, especially when they promote such farcical stories like the one the NYT published.

Hamas has offered long term truces numerous times, since 2010. They’ve been rebuffed each time. So I really cannot say what they would or would not do. I would take a look at their 2017 Governing Charter where they explicitly say their enemy is Zionism rather than Judaism as a hint to their intentions.

“Do I think Hamas wants to minimize Palestinian casualties?” What makes you think they do not? Unless you think they’re irrational actors who want nothing but death, they do have specific goals as a political actor. Part of that is presumably to protect its citizens the same way Israel seeks to protect its citizens.

another_adjunct
another_adjunct
Reply to  junior
22 days ago

“Hamas has offered long term truces numerous times, since 2010. They’ve been rebuffed each time”

That doesn’t appear to be accurate. Gaza was bombarding Israeli civilians with rockets during every one of the “truces” accepted by the Israeli side. October 7 massacre occurred during one of the “truces” accepted by Israel.

Any on the Bus
Any on the Bus
Reply to  junior
21 days ago

1) The 2017 Charter says that all of the land between the river and the sea is Arab Islamic land. It is clear they do not intend to agree that any part could be a non-islamic/arab state.

2) Rational self-actor does not necessarily mean that you want to minimize civilian deaths. A rational actor just means that your actions are tied to your goals. If you think Hamas’ goals are minimizing civilian harm, you aren’t paying attention.

Any on the Bus
Any on the Bus
Reply to  junior
21 days ago

Hamas also calls for the ethnic cleansing of 6 million Jews or at the very least for them to live under strict Islamic rule. Let’s not pretend that Hamas is just a resistance movement.

David
David
Reply to  Simon Lucas
24 days ago

I’m sorry, but you don’t get to destroy an entire human society just because a handful of people from that society carried out an act of terrorism. And this trope of displacing responsibility onto Hamas by pretending that it isn’t a free and deliberate choice to commit these crimes is, frankly, sociopathic.

efz
efz
Reply to  David
24 days ago

“a handful of people”? Come on.

David
David
Reply to  efz
24 days ago

Efz – right, I forgot there are no uninvolved civilians. Everyone in Gaza, children, women, old men, is responsible to some degree for 10/7. I stand corrected. So it must be ok to starve them all.

efz
efz
Reply to  David
24 days ago

It is amazing and quite telling that this is what you inferred from my comment.

By questioning the term “handful of people”, I wasn’t suggesting that all Gazans were complicit in the attack. But that “handful of people” is a misleading understatement. Over 3000 Hamas members (and some others) participated directly in the attack, and by the scale of it clearly many other Hamas members and others were involved in the planning. And they are not just some random people. They are the ruling body in Gaza, whose leaders are proud of the attacks and said they will repeat it given the opportunity.

David
David
Reply to  efz
23 days ago

As you are (presumably) aware, when people scoff at the observation that by any count only a small minority of Gazans were criminally involved in 10/7, the implication is usually that some form of collective punishment is justified. I’m glad to hear that you did not intend this implication.

I assume, therefore, that you do not support the collective punishment of the entire civilian population of Gaza, which is obviously what we are seeing right now.

But I would also be curious to hear your thoughts about a counterfactual.

As you (again) presumably know, in 2014 the IDF killed approximately 2,300 people in Gaza. Of these, approximately 2/3 were estimated to be civilians. This is confirmed by the UN-Gaza inquiry.

https://www.ohchr.org/en/un-gaza-inquiry-finds-credible-allegations-of-war-crimes#:~:text=In%20the%2051%20day%20operation,and%20injuring%20at%20least%201%2C600.

Incidentally, this is approximately the same civilian: combatant ratio as 10/7. Of the 1,139 confirmed fatalities, approximately 800 were civilians and approximately 300 were soldiers.

So in terms of the amount of human suffering that was knowingly inflicted on civilians, we should be able agree that the two were at least comparable. If you disagree, please explain why.

Now suppose–and this is where we need to use our imaginations a bit–that a Hamas-Iran alliance was in a position to inflict, on Tel Aviv, something comparable to what the IDF has done to Gaza. Suppose that in retaliation for the 2014 Gaza War, they rendered 85% of the Tel Aviv population homeless, killed tens of thousands of civilians, completely destroyed the health care infrastructure, bombed the universities to smithereens, and brought 100% of the civilian population to the brink of starvation. All the while, there’s a steady stream of videos of Hamas/Iran fighters bragging about their destruction of people’s homes, their torture of Israeli Jews, and so on. The leaders of Iran and Hamas motivate this conduct by making openly genocidal pronouncements about Israeli Jews, like calling them “human animals.”

I assume that you would use a number of phrases to describe this hypothetical war on Tel Aviv. For one, I assume you would say that it was morally indefensible. Grossly disproportionate to the attack which provoked it. A series of war crimes and crimes against humanity. And, quite plausibly, genocide, or at least attempted genocide.

These are my two questions for you.

(1) If I’m right in thinking that you would characterize the hypothetical war on Tel Aviv in these terms, do you also describe the actual war on Gaza in these terms?

(2) If the answer to (1) is no, why not? What exactly is the morally relevant difference between the two scenarios in virtue of which one is patently indefensible and the other is not?

Honest question: I’d like to know. And welcome others’ reactions.

Simon Lucas
Reply to  David
23 days ago

First, I believe we agree on many points. Civilians are not liable targets, collective punishment is reprehensible, the rhetoric used by some Israeli officials in the immediate aftermath of October 7th is appalling, misconduct or war crimes by individuals or combat units are deplorable and should be prosecuted. However, while there can be disagreement about the susceptibility of civilians to incidental and collateral harm and what kind of harm as a foreseeable side effect is justified, I do not think the evidence convincingly equates this inflicted harm with collective punishment.
 
In your hypothetical scenario, I also agree that the ‘amount of human suffering that was knowingly inflicted on civilians’ is comparable. However, there is so much more to consider beyond the numbers. Whatever caused the casualties in 2014, it was not the result of heinous terrorists willfully massacring innocent people with the aim of spreading as much horror as possible, fueled by nefarious religious zealotry. This is not a numbers game; motivations matter.
 
Try asking yourself instead: Can you imagine the mutilated and raped bodies of Gazan women being dragged through the streets of Tel Aviv while Israelis ecstatically celebrate and cheer, chanting ‘God is great?’ Can you imagine Israel changing its official state doctrine to declare, ‘The stones and trees will say, “O Jew, O servant of God, there is a Muslim behind me, come and kill him,”‘ backed by countries like Germany or the US? Can you imagine the Israeli military stationing operations next to schools or hospitals to deter Hamas? Conversely, do you believe Hamas would be deterred by such actions? Can you imagine Hamas, if it were capable in your hypothetical scenario, dropping leaflets over Tel Aviv to warn civilians to evacuate buildings that were about to be bombed, instead of just carpet bombing the entire city?
 
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then I don’t know what we’re talking about. This much, at least, should be clear to everyone when contemplating moral asymmetries.

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  Simon Lucas
23 days ago

Try asking yourself instead: Can you imagine the mutilated and raped bodies of Gazan women being dragged through the streets of Tel Aviv while Israelis ecstatically celebrate and cheer, chanting ‘God is great?’ Can you imagine Israel changing its official state doctrine to declare, ‘The stones and trees will say, “O Jew, O servant of God, there is a Muslim behind me, come and kill him,”‘ backed by countries like Germany or the US? Can you imagine the Israeli military stationing operations next to schools or hospitals to deter Hamas? Conversely, do you believe Hamas would be deterred by such actions? Can you imagine Hamas, if it were capable in your hypothetical scenario, dropping leaflets over Tel Aviv to warn civilians to evacuate buildings that were about to be bombed, instead of just carpet bombing the entire city?

There is no need to imagine any of this. It is already happening. You just choose not to see:

  1. There exists plenty of videos online shared by Israeli soldiers openly mocking Palestinian hostages as well as videos by Israeli citizens mocking dead Palestinians and their suffering.
  2. While you point out the abhorrent Hamas charter from 1987 we have had the Prime Minister of Israel in 2023 and 2024 repeatedly and explicitly invoke biblicial genocidal references about Amalek. Not to mention other deplorable statements by Kahanist Jewish supremacist members of his government, such as a call to nuke Gaza, to ethnically cleanse it, etc.
  3. The IDF HQ (“HaKirya”) is situated in the middle of the city, next to a huge mall and high-rise buildings (Azrieli Center) with the biggest hospital in the area (Ichilov/Sourasky) like 300 meters away, and many more residential and commercial buildings all around.
Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  Yazan Freij
23 days ago

By city, I mean Tel Aviv.

another_adjunct
another_adjunct
Reply to  Yazan Freij
22 days ago

“we have had the Prime Minister of Israel in 2023 and 2024 repeatedly and explicitly invoke biblicial genocidal references about Amalek”

In the 20th century Nazis were being described as “Amalek” on multiple occasions. Describing Hamas as “Amalek” seems to be completely justifiable – and that is what Netanyahu did. Hamas/Amalek must be destroyed, just like the Nazis had to be destroyed.

David
David
Reply to  Simon Lucas
23 days ago

Simon, thanks for engaging in good faith with the post.

A few points.

  1. Even if you ignore everything else, how do you interpret Israel’s policy of deliberately obstructing the entry of food and humanitarian assistance into the Strip as anything *other* than collective punishment? There’s a reason that’s the focal point of the ICC warrant application. There’s also a reason that’s what convinced Aryeh Neier, founder of Human Rights Watch and survivor of Nazi Germany, that Israel is indeed committing genocide. https://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2024/05/26/gps-0526-icc-charges-against-israel.cnn
  2. I agree that motivations matter. The question is whether they matter in the way you take them to matter. I don’t think knowingly killing 1,500 civilians is vastly less terrible than deliberately killing 800 such that we should have significantly different judgments about the Gaza v. hypothetical Tel Aviv scenarios. I think the latter would be an atrocity of the highest order, and I think the latter *is* an atrocity of the highest order.
  3. As to the “Can you imagine…” statements, I essentially second Yazan’s comment. There are many, many examples of IDF soldiers and their civilian allies having the time of their lives–laughing, joking, etc.–about the commission of war crimes. I don’t have the time or frankly the emotional energy to send you a bunch of links, but you can find them yourself.
  4. Sadly, these statements are not aberrations nor are they out of step with the majority of Israeli public opinion. Opinion polling since 10/7 has consistently shown that over 90 percent of Israeli Jews believe that the amount of force being used in Gaza is either “the right amount” or “not enough,” with clear majorities (hovering around 70 percent) opposing the entry of humanitarian aid. It pains me to say this as someone who once had respect, admiration, and even affection for the state of Israel–but this is what it’s become. This is the war the public wants.
Simon Lucas
Reply to  David
23 days ago

Thank you for your thoughtful reply, David. To reiterate, I do not grant Israel a moral free pass; I do not believe that all their actions or operations are justified by default. Similarly, I do not necessarily agree with the evolving notions of innocence within the Israeli public sphere, as they can be morally contentious. As I mentioned above, any misconduct, such as the incidents you referred to, should be investigated and prosecuted. Other issues, like humanitarian aid, I’d argue are a bit more complex and too difficult to resolve here. The issue of humanitarian aid necessitates consideration of Hamas’ nefarious religious agenda, among other factors, which unfortunately has received very little attention. Hamas not only tolerates civilian suffering and death but actively promotes it as martyrdom, repeating this stance openly and ad nauseam. They exploit Gazans, steal aid meant for them, forcibly sabotage aid deliveries, and prevent them from evacuating, among many other abuses.

Finally, I tend to place much greater emphasis on motivations, as I believe this is crucial. There is a stark moral difference between deliberately massacring innocent people and the civilian deaths of 2014 you mention, which were likely foreseen side effects or collateral damage from military operations, however regrettable they may be. This extends to my “Can you imagine…” statements. While I acknowledge the possibility of appalling individual misconduct, a scenario where IDF soldiers drag the corpses of raped girls through the streets of Tel Aviv, with Israelis ecstatically celebrating, cheering, and spitting on the mutilated bodies, is simply unthinkable. Similarly, imagine Israelis using their own women and children as human shields as I invited you to do in my “Can you imagine…” statements, and then consider how Hamas would respond. The image conjured is a masterpiece of moral surrealism as someone else has said previously—preposterous, like a Monty Python sketch where all the Jews die.

In my opinion, to offer justified criticisms of individual behavior or military misconduct, it’s essential to transcend the notion that the heinous attacks by Hamas and the military actions undertaken by Israel carry equal moral weight. Assuming moral equivalence is fundamentally flawed and undermines any critique founded upon it.

David
David
Reply to  Simon Lucas
22 days ago

And that’s exactly what it boils down to—isn’t it?

That some human lives are “innocent people” and other human lives are “side effects or collateral damage from military operations, however regrettable they may be.”

Last edited 22 days ago by David
Simon Lucas
Reply to  David
22 days ago

No, once again: it’s about being massacred versus dying as a foreseeable side effect.

David
David
Reply to  Simon Lucas
22 days ago

You’re missing the point.

The point is that in these discussions, some people’s lives are regarded as expendable—“regrettably,” of course, but expendable nevertheless—and other people’s lives are not.

What’s being done to the people of Gaza would *never* be tolerated if it was visited on the people of Tel Aviv in even *remotely* analogous circumstances because the lives being lost in that scenario have been constructed as mattering more morally than the lives being lost in Gaza.

Does anybody really believe that in *any* scenario, even one where it is *stipulated* that civilian deaths are merely foreseen and not intended, that the wholesale destruction of Tel Aviv and deliberate starvation of its entire civilian population would be a defensible thing to do?

Tighten the analogy. If far-right settlers carried out a 10/7 in the West Bank – I know it’s *so* difficult to imagine Ben Gvir’s armed followers doing that, but humor me, this is philosophy so hypotheticals are ok—does anybody really think it would be ok to do to the people of Tel Aviv what’s actually being done to the people of Gaza? Does anybody really think that would even be an open moral discussion?

Of course not. And that’s the point.

Bye.

Any on the Bus
Any on the Bus
Reply to  David
21 days ago

If Ben Gvir and several settlers carried out 10/7, they’d be in prison. That’s the difference.

Michel
Reply to  Any on the Bus
21 days ago

That’s not how things ever play out in the West Bank, so I rather suspect that’s wrong.

Any on the Bus
Any on the Bus
Reply to  David
21 days ago

When Ben Gvir or Baruch Goldstein kill innocent Palestinians, they are put in an Israeli prison. It is unfortunate that Ben Gvir has been elected to high office, but when he tries to undermine the Courts he’s stopped. So while I appreciate that doesn’t address the broader issue and what derives from it, it doesn’t change that there isn’t even a fig leaf of abiding by international law on the part of Hamas. So when we talk about accountability and what statements should be made, it is relevant that there is a functioning justice system on one side and not the other.

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  Any on the Bus
21 days ago

Settler pogroms (which have intensified since Oct 7) have killed dozens of Palestinians in the past years as well as burnt their properties and trees and stolen their sheep, and they are often accompanied by Israeli soldiers. Anyone with even of a hint of knowledge about the situation in the West Bank knows that what you describe is completely false. We have already had many pastoral communities ethnically cleansed in the past few months alone.

https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2024/2/26/settler-violence-israels-ethnic-cleansing-plan-for-the-west-bank

Any on the Bus
Any on the Bus
Reply to  Yazan Freij
21 days ago

There are certainly issues with non-state actors, and a significant concern has been raised with Israel’s current willingness to address these actors, and some concern has been raised with its historic willingness to address these non-state actors. It does, however, have a fairly robust system of laws especially compared to its neighbors, and it is light years ahead of the Gaza.

For the most part, Israel has a functioning judiciary and it is likely doing better than the vast majority of military occupations. Most importantly it does purport to follow international law and address these concerns.

Which brings us to the key point, Israel purports to follow international law, and has an independent judiciary. Unless it can be shown that the independent judiciary is unwilling to or cannot address the issues that you’ve raised, we defer to the independent judiciary of the country. That is important because it ensures international law does not become it protects sovereignty (meaning countries will buy into the scheme of international laws) and encourages countries to develop the bare minimal standards.

Hamas and Gaza do not meet that standard, so they are treated differently. If Hamas wanted to be treated more akin to Israel it would adopt international law, cease intentionally attacking civilian targets without even a fig leaf of legal justification, and embrace a two-state solution. It hasn’t and it won’t so it and the people governed by it are treated differently.

That isn’t racism. That’s making value judgements based on the rule of law.

another_adjunct
another_adjunct
Reply to  David
22 days ago

Israeli civilians on October 7 were intentionally murdered by the representatives of the democratically elected government of Gaza. Even IDF was at times criminally reckless (it is not in at least 90% of the cases), IDF never committed a massacre like that.

Kaila Draper
Reply to  another_adjunct
22 days ago

IDF has murdered tens of thousands of innocent people. In most cases the deaths were not intended in the sense relevant to double effect, but the victims were still murdered in the sense of being killed in violation of their fundamental moral rights. I don’t see much of a moral difference between bombing a crowded restaurant to destroy the building that houses the restaurant and bombing a crowded restaurant to kill the diners. If 100 diners are foreseeably murdered in each case, is there that much of a moral difference between the two cases?

Daniel
Daniel
Reply to  Kaila Draper
22 days ago

Just to underscore this point – I took you to be using “murder” as a normative ethical concept, but the Model Penal Code explicitly classifies both “purposeful” killing and “knowing” killing of a human being as “murder.” Nor is it a defense to murder if you don’t know the precise identity of the victims in advance, as when someone shoots into a crowd. To the MPC, it’s still murder.

As a matter of law the MPC isn’t intended to govern armed conflict of course. But maybe this tells us something about the fundamental morality of the IDF’s bombing campaign. I am sure the civilians in Gaza whose family members were knowingly blown apart regard them as having been “murdered” by the IDF. And they’re not wrong to do so.

another_adjunct
another_adjunct
Reply to  Daniel
22 days ago

Virtually every bombing campaign in urban areas leads to civilian deaths. IDF conducts itself much better than heroes from TV series like The Band of Brothers or movies like Saving Private Ryan. But the standards you seem to advance D-day should be described as the “introduction to the mass murder of the German people”

another_adjunct
another_adjunct
Reply to  Kaila Draper
22 days ago

IDF makes an unprecedented effort to avoid killing civilians. No army in the world goes to such lengths. I do not know how to interpret “in the sense of being killed in violation of their fundamental moral rights”: do you believe that millions of German civilians killed in the Allied bombings were murdered? Gaza’s democratically elected government started a war, starting a war in which Hamas attackers hide among the civilians has consequences, it is not a violation of the laws of war to cause damage once effort was made to avoid it.

David
David
Reply to  another_adjunct
22 days ago

This is a sad reiteration of debunked IDF talking points.

The idea that the IDF should be applauded for notifying civilians before bombing their homes/shelters is a sick joke given the repeated, documented pattern of targeting civilians in places they were expressly told were safe to evacuate to. This pattern is so pervasive that it is hard not to conclude it’s a form of psychological warfare. If you’re not aware of this pattern, you’re not reading credible sources.

And then there’s “Palestinians are like Nazis.” I’m not going to engage with that general trope but as far as Allied bombings, you do realize these are widely recognized to have been war crimes and indeed one of the major motivations behind creating the legal architecture of war crimes and crimes against humanity embodied in the Rome Statute under which Netanyahu and Gallant now have pending arrest warrant applications was things like the firebombing Dresden? So it really doesn’t help you case to point to that as a model.

Kaila Draper
Reply to  another_adjunct
21 days ago

Don’t I, an innocent bystander in a violent conflict, have a right not to be blown to pieces as a foreseen consequence of someone trying to destroy something in my vicinity? Is it possible to justifiably infringe that right? In some cases, perhaps, e.g., if it is quite certain that the innocent lives saved vastly exceed the innocent lives taken and there was no better way to save those lives. But it is my view that in the current conflict the IDF can’t plausibly claim that sort of a justification or any adequate alternative justification in the vast majority of cases in which it foreseeably kills innocent bystanders. Thus, as far as I can see, the IDF is engaged in mass murder in the sense of unjustifiably killing innocent bystanders in violation of their rights.

As for WWII, of course many Germans were murdered and even more Japanese were murdered.

Michel
Reply to  Simon Lucas
22 days ago

The IDF has used hospitals and schools as staging grounds, military bases, and command centres; e.g., the Indonesian hospital in Jabalia.

A month ago, Mondoweiss reported that the IDF had used the male members of at least one family as human shields. The same article describes them torturing members of that family, too.

There have been a number of reports of rape, too. Some of these have even been deemed credible by the UNHRC.

This isn’t an Aztec flower war, or a gentlemanly 18th century skirmish. It’s abominable, and very, very deliberate.

another_adjunct
another_adjunct
Reply to  Michel
22 days ago

The IDF has used hospitals and schools as staging grounds, military bases, and command centres; e.g., the Indonesian hospital in Jabalia.”

Outside of rare mistakes, IDF contacts civilians and asks them to leave before targeting terrorist hideouts. Hamas doesn’t try to warn Israeli civilians before targeting them.

Michel
Reply to  another_adjunct
20 days ago

It does not do so when it bombs apartment buildings in the night to kill alleged Hamas members and their families. It has also routinely bombed “safe” zones it tells civilians to evacuate to.

Let’s cut the “most moral army in the world” propaganda, please. Even if they _did_ shed a tear every time they shoot, it wouldn’t make one iota of difference.

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
25 days ago

The reason why the APA or other Western philosophical associations have not issued a statement against the scholasticide in Gaza is very simple. Anti-arab and anti- Palestinian racism as well as Islamophobia are widespread among Western philosophers. This is why we have seen unprecendented attempts to rationlise and justify Israeli war crimes and atrocities. This is why many philosophers, after all the times Israel has been caught off balatntly lying in the past months, think the UNRWA situation for the example, still echo Israeli talking points without a shred of evidence ( see the comment above). Only once Western philosophers can admit that this is a problem can there be a conversation about what to do next.

Last edited 25 days ago by Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  Yazan Freij
24 days ago

The number of likes the comments made by Simon Lucas have garnered add more evidence to the points made above. Neither he nor anyone else liking his comments have replied by providing any evidence of their claims. Unfortunately, philosophers can willingly endorse unjustified beliefs when they are blinded by hate and racism..

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Yazan Freij
24 days ago

Your confidence in your ability to discern the secret motivations of your interlocutors is remarkable.

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  Justin Kalef
24 days ago

These motivations are not secret anymore when my interlocutors hold beliefs not backed by any evidence that end up justifying atrocities and war crimes against a certain ethnic group that has been dehumanised in mainstream Western media for decades and especially in the last few months. My interlocutors are welcome to provide evidence to justify their beliefs and prove me wrong.

Last edited 24 days ago by Yazan Freij
Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Yazan Freij
24 days ago

What you said was, “The reason why the APA or other Western philosophical associations have not issued a statement against the scholasticide in Gaza is very simple. Anti-arab and anti- Palestinian racism as well as Islamophobia are widespread among Western philosophers.

There are all sorts of reasons why a given philosophical association might avoid making a statement about what you call “scholasticide.” Here are some possibilities:

1. The association might not see itself as being in the business of releasing statements about world affairs, etc., choosing instead to leave that to the private decisions of its members.

2. The association might not wish to set a precedent of weighing in on political issues that are not particularly relevant to the profession of philosophy in the geographical area it covers, especially when not all its members agree.

3. Those in leadership positions in the association might all agree that Israel’s actions in Gaza are wrongful, but not see them as entailing “scholasticide.”

4. Perhaps some influential members of the association’s leadership are persuaded by flawed arguments or distorted evidence of views that you disagree with, rather than being motivated by racism of Arabs or Palestinians or an irrational fear of Islam.

5. Perhaps some influential members of the association’s leadership are persuaded by good arguments for views you disagree with, and it is you who have been misled by distorted evidence or flawed arguments.

Those are just some of the possible explanations of the fact that the APA and other Western philosophical associations have not released statements condemning “scholasticide” in Gaza. The remarkable thing is that you have dismissed them all without comment, and confidently asserted that your own hypothesis is the only possible explanation.

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  Justin Kalef
24 days ago

Ok. 1 and 2 can be easily dismissed since the APA has already expressed solidarity with Ukranian academia, so the precedent has already been set. When it comes to 3, I am not going to be held up by semantics. The undeniable fact is that Israel has destroyed every single university in Gaza. This merits condemnation and solidarity with Palestinian academy regardless of what you want to call it.
For 4 and 5, can you kindly provide me with any reason as to why someone (let alone an academic or a philosopher) who is not racist or Islamophobic might justify the destruction of every university in Gaza without any evidence of their supposed military use ever being shared ? Even worse, why would anyone who claims to be a rational non-racist person continue echoing blindly (again without any evidence) the talking points of a genocidal rogue state that is currently violating the orders of the International Court of Justice and has been recently caught off lying about the UNRWA? It is easy to say that there is a possible reason unrelated to racism and Islamophobia. It is much harder to actually come up with one.

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Yazan Freij
24 days ago

Even worse, why would anyone who claims to be a rational non-racist person continue echoing blindly (again without any evidence) the talking points of a genocidal rogue state that is currently violating the orders of the International Court of Justice and has been recently caught off lying about the UNRWA?

If you are sincerely interested in understanding these other possibilities, there are many ways to find out the other side of the story that you seem to be unable even to conceive at this point. Perhaps some others here will even be willing to take the time to engage with you at length on these matters, which is what it often takes to get sufficient bearings on a matter as historically complex as the Israel/Palestine conflict, where the rhetoric on both sides can be so overwhelming that it is difficult for interlocutors even to agree on the empirical facts of the matter.

If you want to encourage such people to present you with the information you say you want, I recommend that you back off the rhetoric (like calling all your interlocutors ‘racist’ and describing them as ‘echoing blindly… the talking points of a genocidal rogue state) and also the confident mind reading. Those sorts of things are big red flags warning many people that engaging with you on this issue is apt to be a huge time sink, yielding nothing in the end since you give no indication of being willing to change your mind if it turns out that your picture of things is oversimplified. But that’s up to you.

For those reasons, I’ll bow out at this point. Good luck.

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  Justin Kalef
24 days ago

Ok .Thanks for the suggestions, and It’s a pity that you cannot think of any concrete reason of the many possible ones. Anyway, here is a rhetoric-free version for any other readers who might have some answers

  1. For anyone who reads this comment and thinks that Israel is justified in destroying every university in Gaza, what do you think is the justification for this?
  2. If the answer is “The universities were used as military targets”, then, first how can this justification be used in the case of Al Israa University detonated by Israeli troops on the ground after being occupied and used as a base, and secondly, what is the evidence of the military use of all of the other universities ?
  3. If the evidence is only based on what the Israel says, then why should we believe Israel when a few months ago, it claimed without providing any evidence that the UNRWA was colluding with Hamas?
Any on the Bus
Any on the Bus
Reply to  Yazan Freij
21 days ago

It isn’t so much that a reasonable person is saying the destruction of universities is justified so much as there isn’t enough information to assess that claim.

The Israeli army, like all armies, has a legal division that determines whether attacks are made in accordance with international law. While those judgements may be incorrect, they are made.

So just because you have a bunch of destroyed universities – which is awful – it doesn’t follow that a war crime has occurred. A lot of reasonable people aren’t comfortable making the call that someone has committed a crime until they have had an opportunity to reasonably look at the evidence involved.

Unfortunately, we likely won’t have that until after the war is over.

Yazan Freij
Yazan Freij
Reply to  Any on the Bus
21 days ago

And why won’t we have this information even after the war is over? I am sure as a justice-loving person, you have no problem with an International investigation that asks Israel to provide evidence in the absence of which destroying EVERY SINGLE (not a bunch) university in Gaza is indeed a war crime and amounts to scholasticide, If this evidence indeed exists that is. We cannot just shrug our heads and say “Oh well what a bummer we will never know” unless, of course, you don’t believe in justice.