Letter condemning the devastating military campaign in Gaza

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 
Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant
Minister of Education Yoav Kisch
Minister of Justice Yariv Levin
Major General Ghasan Alyan
Head of Civil Administration in the West Bank, Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)
Prime Minister, Ministers, Major General:
We write to you on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) to vehemently condemn the ongoing brutal military campaign against the Palestinians of Gaza and demand its immediate cessation. The death toll since 7 October 2023 of Gazan Palestinians has reached a devastating 25,000, with at least 62,000 wounded as a result of Israeli attacks. In this letter, as in our previous one (21 November 2023), we focus on the decimation of the education sector in the Gaza Strip through the Israeli military’s killing of students, faculty, and staff and its targeted destruction of schools and university buildings, including laboratories, libraries and classrooms. 
MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, MESA publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 2800 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.
Over the past 15 weeks, the unprecedented level and extent of death and destruction wrought by Israel’s war on Gaza has devastated the educational sector. According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 625,000 students—90,000 of whom are university students—and close to 23,000 teachers have been impacted by attacks on educational facilities and school closures. All remain without access to education or even a safe place to shelter.   
The Ministry of Education in Gaza reports that between 7 October 2023 and 17 January 2024, 4,327 Palestinian students and 231 teachers and school administrators were killed, while 7,819 students and 756 teachers and administrators were injured. To date, 281 government schools and 65 schools belonging to UNRWA have been completely or partially destroyed. In addition to UNRWA schools, some 133 government schools are being used as shelters for Palestinians who have fled and/or lost their homes. However, roughly 90% of school buildings in Gaza, including those being used as shelters, have sustained varying degrees of damage; 29% have been completely or partially destroyed. Combined, these schools previously served some 433,000 children and employed more than 16,200 teachers. 
Israeli forces have also targeted universities and colleges in the Gaza Strip with particular ferocity. These attacks began with the bombing and near total destruction of the Islamic University of Gaza (12 October 2023), the University College of Applied Sciences (19 October 2023), and Al-Azhar University (6 November 2023). They also severely damaged the University College of Applied Sciences and Technology, Al-Aqsa University, and the Palestine Technical College. The bombardment and eventual destruction of Al-Quds Open University (15 November 2023) and Gaza University (4 December 2023) followed. With the complete demolition of Al-Israa University (17 January 2024), Israeli forces destroyed the last remaining major university in Gaza. 
Prior to their destruction, some university facilities were occupied by Israeli military forces, while adjacent structures were transformed into detention and interrogation centers for Palestinians. After seizing Al-Israa University and using the site as a military barrack and an ad hoc detention/ interrogation center for 70 days, Israeli forces detonated explosives and demolished the university on 17 January. Drone video footage of this demolition was widely distributed on Israeli media. Prior to the Israeli army’s occupying the university, there was no evidence that it had been used for any military activities. 
In addition to the massive destruction of Gaza’s physical educational infrastructure – the rebuilding of which will require many years and billions of dollars – is the systematic killing of our colleagues there. Scholars from across the humanities, social sciences and STEM, widely respected by their peers and students, have been targeted and murdered. These academics represent the intellectual leadership of the Palestinian community in Gaza and were the foundation for the accumulation and dissemination of knowledge. 
The Euro-Mediterranean Observatory for Human Rights announced on 20 January that it had documented the killing by Israeli military forces of 94 Palestinian university professors. As precise documentation is encumbered by the targeted destruction of communications towers, routine internet blackouts, and deliberate attacks on Ministry of Education administrative staff and their families, we provide below only a partial list of the names of those scholars and, where available, their academic affiliation. These individuals represent only a small percentage of the hundreds of faculty and staff and thousands of students and their families who have been killed in military assaults, bombings, or through prolonged exposure to starvation and disease since 7 October 2023.  
University Presidents:
Professor Sufyan Tayeh, Islamic University of Gaza 
Professor Said Al-Zibda, University College of Applied Sciences 
Professor Muhammad Eid Shabir, former President, Islamic University of Gaza
Dean Ibrahim al-Astal, Islamic University of Gaza
Dean Khitam Al-Wasifi, Islamic University of Gaza
Dean Mahmoud Abu Daf, Islamic University of Gaza
Dean Omar Farwanah, Islamic University of Gaza
Dean Taysir Ibrahim, Islamic University of Gaza
Dean Ahmed Abu Absa, University of Palestine
Dean Ahmed Al-Dalu, University Of Palestine
Professor Adham Hassouna, Al-Aqsa University
Professor Ahmad Mahmoud al-Qara, Al-Aqsa University
Professor Nesma Abu Shaqra, Al-Aqsa University 
Professor Abdel-Nasir Al-Saqqa, Al-Aqsa University
Professor Nidal Qaddura, Al-Aqsa University
Professor Wiesam Essa, Al-Aqsa University
Professor Fadil Abu Hain, Al-Aqsa University
Professor Jihad Al-Masri, Al-Quds Open University
Professor Hassan Kafarneh, Al-Quds Open University
Professor Muhammed Atef Awad, Al-Quds Open University
Professor Muhammad Al-Nabahin, Al-Quds Open University
Professor Ibrahim Barhoum Abu Salah, Islamic University of Gaza 
Professor Islam Suleiman Haboush, Islamic University of Gaza 
Professor Midhat Saidem, Islamic University of Gaza 
Professor Nahed Al-Rafati, Islamic University of Gaza 
Professor Refaat AlAreer, Islamic University of Gaza 
Professor Mohammed Awad, Islamic University of Gaza 
Professor Rizq Arruq, Islamic University of Gaza 
Professor Amin Al-Bahtiti, Al-Azhar University of Gaza
Professor Ali AlQirinawi, University of Palestine
Professor Ibrahim Saidam, University of Palestine
Professor Mustafa Al-Laqta, University of Palestine
Professor Mustafa Al-Naqib, University of Palestine
Professor Naim Baroud, Islamic University of Gaza
Professor Azzu Affanah, Islamic University of Gaza (Deputy Dean)
Professor Muhammad Bakhit, Islamic University of Gaza 
Professor Salem Abu-Mukhdah, Islamic University of Gaza
Professor Muhammad Dabbour Assad, Islamic University of Gaza
Director Tareq Thabet, University College of Applied Sciences
Professor Shaher Yaghi, University College of Applied Sciences
Dr. Rafet Lobad
Professor Khalil Abu Yahya 
Professor Wael Al-Zard
Dr. Maisara Al-Rayyes
Professor Sereen Al-Attar 
Professor Usama Al-Muzayni
Professor Ismail Abu Sa’adah
Professor Khaled Al-Ramlawi
Professor Said Al-Dahshan
Professor Raed Qaddura
Professor Muhammad Abu-Zur
Professor Yusuf Juma’a Salameh
Professor Nida Affanah
Professor Mu’min Shuwaydah
Professor Siddiq Nassar
Professor Ahmad Abu Saadah
Professor Jamilah Al-Shanti
Professor Muhamamd Jamil Za’anin
Professor Ismail Al-Ghamri
Professor Walid Al-Amudi
Professor Abdullah Al-Amudi
Professsor Hassan Al-Radi’
Professor Muhammad Abu Amara
Professor Mahmud Al-Loh
Professor Khalid Al-Najjar
Professor Muhammad Al-Najjar
Professor Sharif Al-Assali, Islamic University of Gaza
Professor Muhammad Hassounah
Professor Yasir Radwan
Professor Jihad Al-Baz
Professor Hazem Al-Jamali
Professor Nasir Al-Yafawi, Islamic University of Gaza
Professor Jihad Al-Masri
Professor Ismail Abu Saada
Professor Muhammad Nassar
As evidenced by the many letters our committee has written to you (among them, letters dated: 26 May 20228 February 202221 July 202113 April 2021), your government and armed forces have engaged in persistent gross violations of international legal norms in your unrelenting attacks against Palestinian academics and students. In our previous letter on Gaza (21 November 2023), we insisted that as the occupying authority, your targeting of Palestinian educational buildings through bombings and other forms of aggression and incursions constituted a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, relating to the protection of civilians in time of war. Your government and military’s resultant obstruction of education has also been a clear violation of the right to education enshrined in Article 26 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 13 of the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. The right to education is binding under all circumstances and to be protected in all situations, including during crises and emergencies resulting from civil strife and war. Israel is a party to the UDHR and a signatory to the ICESCR and is therefore obligated to uphold them.  
The depth and breadth of the killing and destruction have now gone far beyond any previous violations your government and its military have committed.  Rather, the massive assaults against educational infrastructure, educators and students at all levels and throughout Gaza since 7 October have emerged as part of a larger campaign of ethnic cleansing intended to destroy the very foundations and bases of continued Palestinian life in Gaza. 
We thus join the millions of protestors around the world and call in the strongest possible terms for an immediate cease-fire, a lifting of the siege and the termination of what appears to be a genocidal campaign against the people of Gaza.   
We look forward to your response.
Aslı Ü. Bâli 
MESA President
Professor, Yale Law School
Laurie Brand
Chair, Committee on Academic Freedom
Professor Emerita, University of Southern California
Joseph R. Biden, President, United States of America
Anthony Blinken, Secretary of State, United States of America
Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense, United States of American
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Ambassador to the UN, United States of America
Josep Borrell-Fontelles, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine 

Viktor Almqvist, Press Officer - Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) and Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI), European Parliament 
Maria Arena, Chair of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights 

Dunja Mijatovic, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights 

Kati Piri, Member, Committee on Foreign Affairs, European Parliament
Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories
Farida Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education
James Heenan, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ramallah
UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, MENA section
Noha Bawazir, Head of Office and UNESCO Representative, UNESCO Liaison Office, Ramallah, Palestinian delegation to UNESCO
The Honorable Veronica Michelle Bachelet Jeria, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
The Honorable Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders
Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression

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