Ivar Ekeland, president of the French Organization of Academics for the Respect of International Law in Palestine, wrote to France Universités (formerly Conference of University Presidents) to ask them to comment on the siege of Gaza as they expressed themselves on the attack of October 7, 2023 and on the invasion of Ukraine. Quoting the United Nations Secretary General who declared that the siege of Gaza was not a humanitarian crisis, but a crisis of humanity, the honorary president of Paris-Dauphine University asked his colleagues to sanction Israeli universities as they sanction Russian universities.
Mr. Guillaume Gellé , President of France Universities
President of the University of Reims-Champagne Ardenne
Ms. Virginie Dupont , Vice-President of France Universities
President of the University of Bretagne Sud
Mr. Dean Lewis , Vice-President of France Universities
President of the University of Bordeaux
On October 11, you rightly condemned “with the greatest firmness the terrorist attacks perpetrated at the end of last week by Hamas on Israeli territory against civilian populations, including students”, and condemned “with the same vigor the threat now brandished to carry out the execution of hostages, including children”. The Association of Academics for Respect for International Law in Palestine unreservedly associates itself with this condemnation.
We now expect you to condemn, with the same vigor, the siege carried out for a month by the Israeli army against the Gaza Strip, already strangled for 16 years by a merciless blockade. One of the most densely populated areas in the world (2.5 million people over 365 km2) is under constant fire, bombs fall from the sky night and day, no area is safe, neither hospitals , neither ambulances , nor schools , nor universities , nor UN buildings , nor even the French Cultural Center . As we write to you, the number of direct deaths in the bombings of Gaza has exceeded 11,000 , including more than 4,500 children , without any sign of slowing down; quite the contrary, since the Israeli government is resisting to international calls for an immediate ceasefire.
In addition to human deaths, there is the destruction of infrastructure. In one month, the Israeli air force dumped the equivalent of 25,000 tons of TNT on Gaza – the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima was “only” 15,000 tons. Remember what you wrote on March 10, 2022: “The war led by Russia in Ukraine forces the academic, national and international community to reiterate its condemnation of this aggression which results in unacceptable attacks against the civilian population and by the deliberate bombing of public buildings, hospitals, student residences, or teaching and research premises.” Israel’s destruction in Gaza is no less severe than Russia’s destruction in Ukraine, on the contrary. To speak only of the universities , two of them, Al-Azhar and the Islamic University, have been the target of airstrikes, and the 80,000 students and faculty of the Gaza Strip are being bombed along with everyone else; more than 400 university students and staff were killed in Israeli attacks. To use the terms of your press release of March 22, 2022, “By attacking a university at the risk of killing or injuring students, professors and researchers, it is Ukraine’s lifeblood, its youth and their future prospects, that are coming intentionally under attack.” Just replace “Ukraine” with “Palestine”, and you couldn’t say it better.
All this is happening in broad daylight, the images are relayed daily around the world, they are unbearable. The bombs falling on Gaza were not all made in Israel, the responsibility for this situation in the eyes of the world is not limited to Israel, and we Europeans bear our share. It is high time to take responsibility for it.
This is a historic moment. The United Nations Secretary-General declared last Monday that this was not a humanitarian crisis, but a crisis of humanity. The director-general of the World Health Organization said history will judge us all on what we do to stop this tragedy. At this crucial moment, when history is hesitating on the threshold of a catastrophe (many jurists and political leaders no longer hesitate to speak of genocide in Gaza), we ask you to express your opinion on the siege of Gaza in the same way that you have spoken out on the attack of October 7, 2023 and on the invasion of Ukraine. Not to do so would be to discredit in the eyes of the world all the universal values that France and its universities hold: freedom for all, equality for all, fraternity among all.
In your statementof March 10, 2022, you invited “French establishments to suspend until further notice any form of institutional cooperation with the signatory Russian universities while maintaining interpersonal relations compatible with the values recalled above”, on the grounds that the rectors of Russian universities supported the invasion of Ukraine which “contravenes the values held by European universities and on which they do not intend to compromise”. Israeli universities support the Israeli army no less than Russian universities support the Russian army. They are currently repressing any opinion contrary to the continuation of the siege of Gaza : at least three teachers have been suspended from their duties and more than 100 students excluded. On October 28, a mob besieged one of the dormitories of Netanya Academic College in which Israeli Arab students had taken shelter, shouting “Death to the Arabs!” “. This support is not new: the Israeli doctrine of disproportionate use of force, used in Gaza, was developed in 2008 at Tel Aviv University , and the Technion ‘s links with Elbit Systems (private) and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Lt (public) make it an essential node in the Israeli military-industrial complex. We therefore ask you to sanction Israeli universities as you sanction Russian universities.
Ivar Ekeland, president of the French Organization of Academics for the Respect of International Law in Palestine (AURDIP) and honorary president of Paris-Dauphine University
- Photo: Israeli airstrikes destroyed Al Azhar University in Gaza on November 4, 2023.