Friday, January 9, 2009

Gaza Statement

We are an ad hoc group of university and college professors in Michigan that condemns in the strongest possible terms the Israeli bombardment and invasion of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli assault on Gaza has caused hundreds of Palestinian deaths and the massive destruction of civilian infrastructure. Although the Israeli government and its US supporters claim that Israel is responding to Hamas rocket fire, the military operation, codenamed “Operation Casting Lead,” constitutes a disproportionate retaliatory action that indiscriminately targets the entire population of the Gaza Strip.

Since 1967, Israel has committed numerous war crimes and human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories with impunity. Once again, the international community has failed to respond substantially to Israel’s life-stifling blockade and its devastating invasion of Gaza. Furthermore, US politicians in both parties have given support to Israel’s military operation, justifying what many other international observers view as an excessive use of force on a largely defenseless civilian population.

As educators, we are particularly appalled at the destruction of educational institutions and student casualties. Human Rights Watch reported on December 27, 2008 that an Israeli air-to-ground missile struck a group of students leaving the Gaza Training College, killing eight and wounding 19 others. Israel then bombed on December 29, 2008, the Islamic University of Gaza. Most tragically, on January 6, 2009, Israel bombed a UN-operated school in Jabaliya refugee camp killing at least 40 people. These attacks against Palestinian students and educational institutions are part of a long history of Israel’s obstruction of the Palestinian right to education guaranteed in international conventions.

Despite its disengagement from Gaza in 2005, Israel remains the occupying power according to international law, and retains control of Gaza’s land borders, air space and sea ports. Israel has the responsibility to secure the safety of Palestinian civilians and to abide by the Geneva Convention and other instruments of international law. As noted by UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk, “That such a human catastrophe can happen with minimal outside interference also shows the weakness of international law and the United Nations, as well as the geopolitical priorities of the important players.”

It is urgent that we join with others around the world seeking peace and justice in the Middle East and call for an immediate cease-fire, a lifting of the blockade of Gaza and ultimately an end to the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. We believe in the need to achieve justice for Palestinians, and call on Michigan’s local, state and federal political representatives as well as the broader public to protest Israel’s violations of international law.

This statement was signed by 104 professors at colleges and universities in Michigan. For the list of signatories, please contact MPAO by e-mail.

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