Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Israeli military technology and tactics kill the kids bomb the schools and universities

All eyes have been on the terrible toll of dead and injured and the extensive destruction - as well as the dire humanitarian situation of the population under siege in Gaza.

But less attention is being paid to the longer-term damage caused by the current Israeli crackdown throughout the occupied Palestinian Territory to the education facility and provision there of, which of course must have a far-reaching and detrimental consequences for the development of Palestinian society as a whole.

Israeli attacks on Palestinian universities and other educational institutions are a case in point. They have greatly increased since the military crackdown began in June.

The Palestinian Education Ministry condemned Israel's repeated bombing of educational institutions after 10 schools which sustained damage during air raids on Gaza in June. Weeks later, the United Nations reported 90 schools damaged and in need of repairs due to the bombardment. A technical college was also one of the many civilian institutions targeted in Gaza by the Israeli military, despite international appeals for a cease-fire.

By the end of July over 95 schools in Gaza were being used as shelters for the nearly 190,000 of 215,000 people that had been displaced from their homes. The UN also reported that at least 194,000 children were in need of direct, specialized psychosocial support because their families had experienced death, injury, or the loss of their home over the past four weeks.

The trauma of Israel's current offensive on so many young lives in Gaza will continue long after any cease-fire and is likely to have a severe impact on their education.

While some may argue that the wider repercussions of Israel's actions are not intentional, education is by no means an incidental casualty of Israeli policies and practices. In a single week earlier this summer, the Israeli army raided the campuses of five institutions of higher education, including Birzeit University near Ramallah, the Arab American University in Jenin, Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem, and the Polytechnic University of Palestine in Hebron.

The Israeli army also raided and subsequently used the Palestine Ahliya University as a holding ground for detainees arrested during a separate raid of Duheisha Refugee Camp near Bethlehem. In the course of these raids, heavily armed Israeli soldiers attacked and arrested students, detained university guards, destroyed university property and equipment, and confiscated student organization materials.

These blatant attacks and abuses are the most recent manifestation of what has been an ongoing Israeli policy to target and repress Palestinian education under the country's military occupation. Israeli restrictions on freedom of movement have for decades seriously hindered the ability of students to attend their schools and universities as have repeated closures of educational institutions.

At the same time, Israeli authorities also deny entry to visiting professors interested in teaching. Teachers, students, and other personnel in the West Bank regularly report harassment, intimidation, and violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers and soldiers.

Willing partners of this sustained assault have been no other than Israeli educational institutions themselves, through indisputable linkages with the Israeli military and the silence or even proactive collusion of Israeli academia. To give but one example, Tel Aviv University, which is built on the ethnically cleansed Palestinian village of Shaykh Muwannis, is heavily involved with the advancement of Israeli military technology and tactics, as well as projects that enable the continued dispossession and displacement of Palestinians.

Attacks on universities are often justified through their depiction as hotbeds for inciting hostility against Israel and as spaces for creating a culture of hate. This belief, which undergirds Israeli policy, is not only discriminatory; it is inaccurate and misguided. Palestinian universities have since their foundation been spaces for political expression, organization, and debate, precisely what a future Palestinian state needs to foster the development of its leaders in diverse spheres.

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