The crime against ideas thought and education.

Eight months after the attack perpetrated by Hamas and the subsequent Israeli reprisals, which are still ongoing, the gravity of the Zionist actions against the Palestinian population in Gaza and other occupied territories is such that we are in danger of “genocide” becoming a “flatus vocis” and losing all meaning.

Within this brutal genocide unleashed by Israel against the Palestinian people is what has come to be called ‘academicide’, the deadly assault on institutions and individuals in Palestine who cultivate and promote thought.

Outrage is not enough. Nor is the recognition of the Palestinian state by some countries of the old, peaceful Europe enough. Strong action by supposedly democratic governments is needed to put an end to this criminal vendetta that violates the most basic human rights. Civil society initiatives are also required to denounce the massacre and try to stop the genocide.

Last April, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the situation of institutions and university staff demonstrating against the situation in Gaza. In many parts of the world, students and teachers are camping out to denounce the genocide and academicide that Western complicity is condoning in a conflict that has been unresolved for decades.

To learn more about these university initiatives, we contacted Eva Aladro Vico and Joan Pedro Carañana, lecturers at the Faculty of Information Sciences at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM).

They told us that the students’ initiative began in February 2023 with the protests against the visit of the Israeli ambassador to the UCM, which were brutally repressed by the police (El Salto, 10.2.2023), and that it was strengthened two months ago with the union of the Inter-University Students’ Bloc and the Network of Professors for Palestine “to demand action from the university against genocide”. In Spain, the flame was lit at the University of Valencia at the end of April, joining those in the United States, France, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Germany.

Both professors are part of the Network of Teachers and University Workers of the Community of Madrid for Palestine, a group of more than three hundred professors who, together with other workers in Madrid’s public universities, have mobilised against the genocide and academic murder of the Palestinian people.

United Nations experts have warned that in these two hundred and thirty long days of siege and bombardment, more than five thousand students and three hundred teachers have been killed in Gaza and almost 60% of educational centres have been damaged or destroyed. For Joan Pedro, the academicide “seeks to deprive the Palestinian people of their right to produce their knowledge, to express their voice against genocide and to show their humanity”. He also points out the danger to freedom of information, as there is a deliberate strategy to end free journalism in an area that the Israeli army has turned into the most dangerous place in the world for journalists.

According to Eva Aladro, “We are living an absolute collective human drama, not only because of the thousands and thousands of civilian victims, children and the elderly, intellectuals and doctors who have been mercilessly murdered but also because of the inability to resolve a conflict that has lasted for decades”, which shows the “total failure of goodwill and human communication for 70 years”, in which “a brutal and unjust colonisation has been tolerated and consented to”.

The two professors stress that the teachers behind the university camps want “the media, the universities, the government and Spanish society to be aware of the criminality of genocide and the importance of putting an end to it” and that they support the voice of the students because “they represent our future in the ethical dimension of society. They represent the arrival of a new humanism and we welcome them from the academy as our greatest treasure”.

The Network of Teachers and Workers of the Community of Madrid for Palestine and the Inter-University Students’ Block demand that the Rectors of the Public Universities of Madrid, the Conference of Rectors of Spanish Universities (CRUE) and the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities officially condemn the genocide and academicide, demand an unconditional ceasefire, cut relations with Israel and with companies and organisations collaborating with the genocide, and provide aid to academic, research and student staff in Gaza. They also hope that the public universities of the Community of Madrid will follow in the footsteps of the six other universities in Spain that have already cut ties with Israel.

Posters in favour of Palestine and against genocide in Bogotá’s Bolivar Square (photo: Iñaki Chaves).

For their part, the collective of academics and administrators at the University of the Gaza Strip has published an open letter in which they say in part: “Our civic infrastructure – universities, schools, hospitals, bookstores, museums and cultural centres – built by our people over generations, is in ruins because of this deliberate and permanent Nakba. The deliberate targeting of our educational infrastructure is a blatant attempt to make Gaza uninhabitable and to undermine the intellectual and cultural fabric of our society. However, we refuse to allow such acts to extinguish the flame of knowledge and resilience that burns within us.

All eyes should be on Palestine; all ears on the plight of its people – where almost every night is a night of broken glass; all minds thinking about how to stop the genocide; and all hearts feeling that stamping out thought and critical voices is just another way of murder and annihilation.