SOAS UCU & UNISON Branches unreservedly condemns Israeli aggression against the people of Gaza.
We are writing to express our deep outrage and condemnation at the massacres and collective punishment being wrought on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip since Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” was launched on July 8.
At the time of writing, Gaza’s health ministry reports the death toll has surpassed 1360, including 315 children, and a further 7600 wounded. On July 30, Israeli forces shelled a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school in Jabalia refugee camp, killing 15 people and wounding 70 who were sheltering there – it was the sixth time that an UNRWA school had been hit by Israeli bombardment. According to UNRWA, more than 200,000 displaced Palestinians have now taken refuge in 85 UNRWA schools in Gaza. A crowded market in Shujai’iya was hit in the late afternoon of 30 July, causing at least 17 deaths, including a journalist, and injuring around 200 people. These attacks come after more than three weeks of relentless bombardment – including that of schools, mosques, hospitals, basic infrastructure and densely populated residential areas. Moreover, Israeli forces have also killed 11 Palestinians during Gaza-solidarity protests across the West Bank.
Whilst the scale of destruction and suffering in Gaza is unprecedented, the current crisis should not be a surprise to anyone. It is the result of decades of political failure and continuous Palestinian displacement at the hands of the Israeli military. Since 2007, more than 1.6 million Gazans have been living under a suffocating, deadly siege imposed by Israel and accommodated by Egypt, whereby all movement of people and products are strictly curtailed. This is a defenseless civilian population, densely packed into a besieged enclave with no place to take refuge from the ongoing military onslaught.
As university workers, we know that Palestinian students in both Gaza and the West Bank are routinely denied the right to education; and we know that Palestinian schools and universities have been bombed, raided, and ransacked, with hundreds of students and student leaders arrested, tortured, imprisoned, and killed. In Gaza, half of the population is aged less than 16 years old. Given this demographic, Israel’s military attack is principally a war against youth and children. Yet while these attacks continue, Israeli university administrations have reaffirmed their longstanding complicity in the oppression of the Palestinian people. Tel Aviv University announced on the 24 July that it would offer a year of free tuition for any students serving in the attack on Gaza. A notice circulated at Hebrew University – signed by the university, its academic staff committee and official student union – announces a collection of goods “for the soldiers at the front according to the demand reported by the IDF [Israeli army] units.” (1) Actions such as these point to the importance of supporting the Palestinian call for a boycott against Israeli academic institutions.
UCU has a proud record of international work, including solidarity with Palestine. Now more than ever, it is time to step up these efforts. On July 30, the Palestinian trade union movement and the Congress of South African Trade Unions issued a global call for labour solidarity, urging: “… trade unions internationally to take immediate action to stop the Israeli massacre in Gaza” (2). In this context, and given the worsening humanitarian crisis and the specific targeting of educational institutions in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, SOAS UCU calls for:
• An immediate end to all Israeli aggression against the people of Gaza, an immediate halt to all illegal settlement building in the occupied Palestinian lands and an end to the occupation itself;
• The UK prime minister and foreign secretary to make a clear and unequivocal condemnation of the Israeli aggression and to exert maximum pressure on Israel to halt its attacks;
• The UK trade union movement, and UCU in particular, to step up its efforts to implement the TUC motions passed in 2009, 2011 and 2012 by actively building the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign’, particularly the academic boycott;