Gaza assault has been ‘attack on education’


Irish Academics’ pledge to boycott Israel passes 170 signatories

Students, teachers and schools have been targets of Israel’s brutal attacks in Gaza, making it an attack on education as well as a war crime, a group of Irish academics said today — as Israel resumed its attacks on the Palestinian territory.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 141 schools were significantly damaged or destroyed by airstrikes and shelling, including 90 UN schools and four kindergartens. Seven of the UN schools that were bombed by Israel were designated as emergency shelters and hosted thousands of displaced persons.

In addition, Israel bombed the Islamic University in Gaza (IUG), causing extensive damage to Gaza’s largest institution of higher education. A lecturer from IUG was also killed in a military strike, and Israel also attacked a branch of Al Quds Open University, killing 22 people.

Academics for Palestine (AfP) chairperson Jim Roche, who gave a guest lecture in architecture at IUG last year, said this has been “an attack on education itself”.  

Roche added: “This is not new, as Israel similarly targeted education during the onslaught in 2008-2009 and it has continuously made Palestinians’ pursuit of education difficult through general harassment, the siege of Gaza and regular military incursions.”

At least 18 Palestinian students who have successfully completed their qualifying high school exams (tawjihi) in preparation for college were killed, before they had a chance to see their results. In UN schools, a school principal, five teachers, and a school attendant are among the UN staff killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza.

“It is all the more shameful that Irish universities have participated in joint research programmes, funded by the EU, in collaboration with Israeli educational institutes and companies with strong links to the Israeli military,” Roche said.

More than 170 Irish academics have now signed a pledge, launched by AfP earlier this year, to boycott such collaboration with Israeli institutions until Palestinian rights are respected.

The signatories come from a wide range of disciplines and include many well-known names, including the Trinity-College-based Haifa-born scholar Ronit Lentin, as well as Seamus Deane, Ailbhe Smyth, Luke Gibbons, Margaret Kelleher, Joe Cleary, Kieran Allen, Kathleen Lynch, Tadhg Foley, Terrence McDonough, John Kelly and Helena Sheehan.  AfP is supporting Saturday’s national demonstration for Palestine in Dublin.

As AfP revealed earlier this year, Irish academic researchers have collaborated in EU-funded projects with Israeli counterparts who make drones, develop high-tech weapons and engage in “counter-terror” activities with the Mossad. In all,  Irish universities have collaborated with Israel in 257 projects to date, seven of them listed as “security” and  13 as “aerospace”. These EU research programmes have bee3n administered by Irish Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.

Researchers at the University of Limerick collaborated with an Israeli security company, Athena GS3-Security Implementations Ltd, on an EU-funded programme worth almost €4 million from April 2009 to March 2011. UL also partnered with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), key players in the development of security and surveillance for Israel’s separation wall.

Academics at Trinity College Dublin have worked with Israeli drone manufacturers Elbit Security Systems and, separately, with Israel’s International Security and Counter-Terrorism Academy. Researchers at UCC coordinated a “counter-terrorism” project alongside Israel’s major weapons developer, Technion.

In addition, Dublin’s Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute recently launched a partnership with the Israeli-based Weizmann Institute of Science, which in addition to its medical research is an important site for Israel’s nuclear-weapons programme.

NUI Maynooth lecturer Conor McCarthy said the daily discrimination inflicted on Palestinian academics, along with savage attacks like those seen in recent weeks, were enough to justify such a boycott, but added: “Irish academia’s collaboration with institutions closely linked to Israel’s military-industrial complex is truly shocking.   

“It is not just Israeli universities that avail of this funding, but Israeli security and military companies – and they are often the lead partner in a research consortium. Some Irish universities may be effectively contributing to the denial of Palestinian human rights and academic freedom by collaborating with these Israeli security companies in EU-funded FP7 and Horizon 2020 programmes paid for by European  taxpayers,” McCarthy said.