• The Hub

    News, Notes, Talk

    An open letter from North American scholars condemns the “scholasticide” in Gaza.

    Brittany Allen

    April 10, 2024, 2:29pm

    A group of academics affiliated with North American institutions have written an open letter condemning the ongoing scholasticide in Gaza. This marks the most recent collective gesture in a series of statements from anti-genocidal culture workers. But unlike other expressions of solidarity, this letterwith its 2000-and-counting signatoriesprimarily focuses on “Israel’s systematic attacks on educational life.”

    Academics from the Global North who’ve been even faintly critical of Israel continue to face professional consequences. Just this week, we’ve witnessed Nancy Fraser’s unceremonious ousting from her appointment at the University of Cologne following the author’s expressed support of Palestine. And of course New Yorkers need look no further than Morningside Heights to peep some extra-egregious stifling of pro-Palestinian speech (read: academic freedom, student’s rights). So it’s nice to hear from an emboldened Ivory Tower, whose members are uniquely positioned to censure Israel’s assault on Palestinian culture.

    According to one of the drafting architects, Heidi Matthews of York University, the letter was conceived in late March and opened for signatures at the end of last month. Along with Faisal Bhabha of York University and Steve Rosenbaum of UC-Berkeley, Matthews “drafted the text and worked with a group of like-minded scholars from a range of institutions and academic specialities to arrive at the final language.” Some of which you can find below:

    We are witnessing an attack on a people and their culture. We have seen entire families and communities eliminated, the widespread destruction of the environment, mass displacement and forced starvation…As academics, we have watched with horror as Israel has systematically and deliberately attacked universities and schools in Gaza.

    The letter goes on to include detailed descriptions of such attacks on Gaza’s schools, educational workers, and cultural heritage sites. Then follows a series of charges:

    Denying access to education through the widespread and systematic destruction of educational infrastructure, along with deliberate and indiscriminate killing of educators and students, is an essential attribute of the collective punishment Israel is inflicting on Palestinians in Gaza in violation of international humanitarian law.

    These charges culminate in a list of demands. Among these are petitions for “an immediate and permanent ceasefire…an end to Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip…” and “financial and in-kind” reconstructive support for Palestine, which must come from North American universities, governments, NGOs, and individual academics.

    When reached for comment, Matthews, Bhabha and Rosenbaum offered this message to frame their project:

    As academics, we pursue intellectual questions because we are committed to the betterment of society and to the broad values of social justice. We view this commitment not only as a local and national one, but as extending to the international community as a whole. In this context, the Open Letter reflects the special obligation of academics to speak out against systemic oppression, particularly the deliberate destruction of academic life that is so central to civil society. The destruction of education in Gaza is particularly shocking because it is integral to the destruction of hope for the future in Gaza. We name this harm “scholasticide” first used by Karma Nabulsi in 2009because it is one means through which Israel is targeting the continued existence of the Palestinian people in Gaza and their culture. As the Open Letter notes, resisting this destruction means “protecting and fostering Palestinian education [which] is essential to the continuation of the Palestinian people as a distinct national and cultural group.”

    Well said, say I.

    You can read the rest of the letter here.

  • Become a Lit Hub Supporting Member: Because Books Matter

    For the past decade, Literary Hub has brought you the best of the book world for free—no paywall. But our future relies on you. In return for a donation, you’ll get an ad-free reading experience, exclusive editors’ picks, book giveaways, and our coveted Joan Didion Lit Hub tote bag. Most importantly, you’ll keep independent book coverage alive and thriving on the internet.

    %d bloggers like this: