In her essay “Exercising Rights : Academic Freedom and Boycott Politics,” Judith Butler expresses a similar notion in a full and comprehensive manner :
“[...] We might begin to understand checkpoints, erratic closures of universities, and the indefinite detention of students and faculty for espousing political viewpoints as relevant to both the right to education and academic freedom itself.”
Remaining blind to the destruction of Palestinian schools, universities and other infrastructures necessary to “academic freedom,” as well as to the direct human cost of the occupation in terms of deaths and injuries, should be increasingly hard to do now, given key reports issued by the United Nations and other agencies and groups.
For example, in January 2015, UNESCO released its “Rapid Assessment of Higher Education Institutions in Gaza.” It got no coverage at all in any major U.S. news venue. If it had, American readers might have learned that :
“ The scale of destruction and devastation after 50 days of conflict in July-August 2014 is unprecedented in Gaza, including in the education sector. According to the MIRA findings [Multi-Cluster/Agency Initial Rapid Assessment coordinated by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs], 26 schools have been completely destroyed and 122 damaged during the conflict, 75 of which are UNRWA schools. It is worth noting that already prior to the last conflict the education system in Gaza was suffering from a shortage of at least 200 schools, which led to a big number of classes running in double shifts, impacting on the quality of education. Early childhood development has also been highly affected.
Among a total of 407 kindergartens in Gaza, 133 were damaged and 11 totally destroyed. The Higher Education sector also suffered severe human and infrastructure damages. After 50 days of conflict, the right to quality education for all Palestinian children and youth has been further compromised.
In addition to kindergartens, primary and secondary schools and other education centres, 4 higher education institutions were directly targeted during the hostilities, sustaining significant injury and loss of life among staff and student populations, as well as damage to buildings and equipment.”
The study offers these and other details in terms of loss of life and injuries to staff and students :
- Staff and students suffered heavy casualties during the conflict, sustaining loss of life and serious injuries. A number of injuries have led to disabilities including mobility, hearing and visual impairments which will impact on individuals and their families throughout their lives.
- Nine academic and administrative staff from the HEIs [Higher Education Institutions] were killed and 21 injured.
- A total of 421 HEI students were killed during the conflict and 1,128 were injured.
And, perhaps most dramatically –
- Student deaths during the conflict constitute more than a quarter – or 27.4% - of total civilian deaths incurred in Palestine. Even considering the exceptionally high ratio of people aged 15 to 29 to the total over-15 population (53%), this is a shocking statistic.
[...] Reports from the United Nations have determined that Israeli armed forces purposefully attacked even schools designated as UN schools acting as shelters [...]:
The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which operated the school-turned-shelter in the Jabalya refugee camp, said it had gathered evidence, analyzed bomb fragments and examined craters after the attack. Its initial assessment was that three Israeli artillery shells hit the school where 3,300 people had sought refuge. [...]
And just recently, in April 2015, Ban Ki-moon issued this UN report on the findings of a UN Board of Inquiry into the attacks on UN facilities in Gaza, which showed that Israel deliberately shelled the UN schools. [...]