The following is the text of a letter signed by numerous academics and staff from the University of Galway – myself included – and forwarded to the University’s Management Team (UMT) about our growing concern with the situation in Gaza.
Like many others in Ireland and further afield, we have been deeply affected by the intolerable suffering of the people of Gaza over the past three months. The University made a statement on the conflict on the 18th of October, rightly acknowledging the suffering of both the people of Gaza and Israel. Since then, however, it has been reported that over 25,000 Palestinians have now been killed in Gaza, with thousands more missing or still buried under rubble. This figure of 25,000 includes more than 10,000 children. Countless more children and babies have been maimed or orphaned, leading to the coining of a new abbreviation used by humanitarian organisations, WCNSF, or ‘wounded child, no surviving family’, and to UNICEF spokesperson James Elder declaring it a ‘war on children’. Millions of Palestinians have been displaced from their homes, and several international humanitarian organisations such as the United Nations have warned of the escalating risks of starvation and death by disease due to the conditions that have been created. Taking into account statements of Israeli leaders and the relentless bombardment of civilians and civilian infrastructure which appears intended to create conditions that are incompatible with human life, the South African government has brought a case to the International Court of Justice alleging that the attacks by Israel against Gaza amount to a campaign of genocide. This is a claim supported by many international human rights scholars.
Of particular relevance to the University of Galway is the fact that all of the universities in Gaza have now been destroyed and many leading academics in Gaza appear to have been killed deliberately in targeted strikes. Attacking civilian infrastructure is a war crime unless the infrastructure is in active use by combatants, which has clearly not been the case, given that controlled explosions have been used to destroy university buildings. As we know, a university is more than just a building, it is a place that symbolises growth, creativity and nurturing of life and learning within a community. As a national SDG champion and a member of the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), the University has committed itself to the promotion and protection of human rights, access to education, sustainability, and conflict resolution. These attacks on Gazan universities and academics place particular demands of solidarity on us as a university community and entreat us to uphold our responsibilities as an SDG champion and UNAI member, and to embody those principles. Indeed, the ceaseless attacks on healthcare facilities and healthcare staff also demand particular solidarity from those of us who work in the health sciences, as does the destruction of Gazan museums, culture, and artefacts of cultural significance to our colleagues within the arts. We also have a duty of care to our Palestinian students and a responsibility to offer recognition and support consistent with the recognition and support rightly offered to Ukrainian students, in particular. For clarity, we also categorically condemn the abduction and killing of Israeli civilians by Hamas on October 7th and wish for an immediate safe release of all remaining hostages; however, these atrocities do not justify the appalling actions of the Israeli government. We also echo the concerns of our University of Galway Students Union and wholeheartedly support their recent statement condemning antisemitism and highlighting the importance of support for our Jewish community at this time. We, the undersigned, therefore request that the University make a strong statement condemning unequivocally the destruction of universities in Gaza and the apparent targeting of academics as well as attacks directed at healthcare facilities and healthcare workers, calling for the release of all hostages and demanding an immediate ceasefire.