Geneva - About a hundred leading European academics have condemned Israel’s genocide against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, ongoing since 7 October 2023, and its physical and cultural liquidation of them. including the systematic destruction of the educational system in the Gaza Strip.

In a Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor petition titled “Annihilation of Gaza Education: Israel is systematically erasing the entire educational system”, the academics decry Israel’s physical and cultural liquidation of Palestinian civilians in the Strip and express deep concern about the Israeli army’s continued targeting of academics, educational institutions, and cultural heritage sites there.

The scholars point to knowledge and education as fundamental to human civilisation worldwide, but emphasise that for an occupied people like the Palestinians, education plays a distinctly vital role in society. Education preserves hope and freedom against oppressive, apartheid-era, and depressing policies, plus fosters culture and is essential to the achievement of both individual and societal prosperity. 

   The current Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip have caused the entire educational process there to be completely disrupted   


The current Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip have caused the entire educational process there to be completely disrupted, assert the scholars. The petition warns of grave long-term ramifications due to the bombing of homes of academic, scientific, and intellectual figures without prior notice, which has already led to the killing of hundreds of teachers and thousands of students. The academics also cite estimates from the International Monetary Fund that 70% of the Strip’s colleges and universities have been destroyed, costing the education sector $720 million.

Israeli military attacks have entirely or partially destroyed six universities in the Gaza Strip: Islamic University, Al-Israa University, Rabat University, Al-Azhar University, Al-Aqsa University, and Al-Quds Open University.

The academics state that on 11 October 2023, Israeli airstrikes completely destroyed the Islamic University in Gaza City—one of the oldest institutions of higher education in the besieged Strip—in violation of the rules of international humanitarian law. These rules prohibit deliberate attacks against civilians and require the distinguishing of civilian objects from military objectives; they also call for special protection for educational and cultural institutions.

Al-Israa University was completely destroyed after the Israeli army blew up all its buildings and facilities on 17 January 2024. Before attacking the school, Israel had turned it into military barracks and then used it as a temporary detention centre. The destruction included the National Museum, which housed over 3,000 rare antiquities under licence from the Palestinian Ministry of Antiquities. The university’s administration affirmed in an official statement that the antiquities are believed to have been stolen by the Israeli army.

Additionally, three university presidents have been killed in the Israeli attacks, along with more than 95 university deans and professors; 68 of whom held professor’s degrees. Meanwhile, 88,000 students have been deprived of receiving their university education, and 555 students were not granted the international scholarships they were offered prior to the genocide.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Education, 4,327 students have been killed and 7,819 others have been injured during the ongoing attacks, while 231 teachers and administrators have been killed and 756 injured.

The Israeli military actions may amount to premeditated killing and destruction, i.e. an attempt to kill and silence scholars involved in the Palestinian education system, which would have a massive impact on Palestinian future generations. The petition states that attacks by Israeli forces on civilian objects, particularly those classified as historical or cultural monuments protected by special laws, not only constitute a grave breach of international humanitarian law and a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, but also fall under the purview of genocide.

Signatories to the Euro-Med Monitor petition urge academics, scholars, and higher education institutions worldwide to vehemently denounce Israel’s unlawful killing of Palestinian academics and its systematic destruction of Palestinian cultural and historical assets in the Gaza Strip, such as schools, universities, libraries, and archives. The academics call for the international community to shed light on this specific example of Israel’s crime of genocide, which aims to physically and culturally destroy the Palestinian people as a whole and render the Gaza Strip uninhabitable, in order to force them to relocate.

The petition demands a boycott of Israeli academic institutions that support the occupation of Palestinian lands, especially those situated inside illegal Israeli settlements and in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. These establishments normalise apartheid policies against the Palestinian people, gradual ethnic cleansing, and occupation, contend the academics.

In the same vein, over 180 British academics recently signed a separate petition denouncing the effects of the ongoing Israeli military assaults on Gaza Strip educational institutions as well as the targeting of professors, researchers, and students.

Both petitions stress that these Israeli military attacks against educational institutions in the Gaza Strip represent a clear violation of international humanitarian law, and, in addition, express solidarity with the people of Gaza, particularly students and researchers, in light of the targeting of their basic rights to survival.