New Zealand’s Tertiary Education Union (TEU) is calling on the elected Israeli and Palestinian governments to respect the peaceful role that education institutions play in communities, and keep their war out of Palestine’s schools and tertiary education institutions. The TEU condemns yesterday’s deadly bombing of a Gaza school and the earlier the use of Gaza’s Islamic University and the Training College as targets for Israeli bomb attacks.
Yesterday’s attack on a school in Jabaliya refugee camp reportedly killed 30 and wounded many more. Meanwhile the extent of the damage to the Islamic University, which has been hit by six air strikes in recent days, is still unknown. Luckily there were no casualties, as the university was evacuated when the Israeli assault began. The training college was less lucky, with 8 students killed and more injured in attacks on December 27.
“Israel’s bombing of education institutions is a horrific action in an increasingly horrific war,” said Tangi Tipene, one of the TEU’s transitional presidents. “To retain our civility universities, schools and education institutions need to be sanctuaries from violence.”
The Islamic University was established in 1978 with the approval of Israeli authorities and is the most important institution of higher education in Gaza, serving more than 20,000 students, 60 percent of whom are women.
“Children died in yesterday’s attack on a school. We don’t know the reason for the attack but we do know Israel claims the university was harbouring a suspected arms depot for Hamas. It has given no evidence yet for this claim, but if it is true that is tragic use of one of Palestine’s’ most important cultural and educational symbols,” said Tipene. “Hamas can hope for neither victory nor peace if it turns the things it values into military depots. Likewise Israel cannot hope to retain any moral control over the war if it attacks the home of higher learning in Gaza.”
TEU spokespeople are willing to provide longer opinion pieces on the peace promoting role of tertiary education institutions in Palatine and Israel.