Education organisations condemn attacks, demand talks

Education International (EI) and the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) have issued a statement condemning the “severe attack” Hamas launched against Israel but also appealed to both sides to renounce violence and commit to direct negotiations for peace.

“Education International stands in solidarity with the teachers, students and communities in the region and calls on the international community to do their utmost to stop the bloodshed and avoid a catastrophic humanitarian crisis,” said the statement which was first issued on 9 October and updated on 13 October.

Hamas militants broke through the Israeli border on 7 October. They gunned down people attending a music festival, from which 260 bodies have been recovered.

Testimony has also emerged of militants going from house to house in a kibbutz (a small community collective), breaking and entering and shooting civilians, including women, children and babies. Many homes were found burned out, Reuters reported.

They also reportedly took more than a hundred people hostage including elderly people, women, children and babies.

In response Israel has vowed to terminate Hamas’ ability to operate and has dropped more than 6,000 bombs on infrastructure in the Gaza Strip – leaving 583 children and 351 women dead according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza. Israel is preventing food, water and fuel from entering the Gaza Strip unless the hostages are freed.

By Friday 13 October the death toll in Israel had reached 1,300 and in Gaza was almost 1,800. Thousands of civilians had been injured on both sides.

‘The violence must end’

David Edwards, Education International general secretary, said: “The Hamas attack on Israel is unacceptable. Educators around the world stand with our colleagues, students and communities in Israel and Palestine and denounce the violent aggression. The violence must end.

“Our hearts go out to the families of all who have lost their lives. The international community must stand united in condemning any form of violence and in supporting lasting peace negotiations.”

Susan Flocken, European director of the ETUCE, which is the European region of EI, said: “Teachers, academics and their unions in Europe are shocked by the new outbreak of violence in Israel and Palestine.

“ETUCE condemns the military aggression and expresses its support and solidarity with colleagues, teachers, academics and students and all people in the region. This new outbreak of war and retaliation puts the lives of millions of people at stake. The war must end. We call on the international community to do their utmost to support a peace agreement.”

EI reiterated the call of the 2019 EI World Congress urging both Hamas and Israel to: “Renounce violence and commit to engage in direct negotiations.”

It said the organisation has engaged with member organisations in Israel and Palestine to promote the importance of dialogue and of preserving the values of education and peace.

“For too long the loss of human life has threatened the security of the entire region. The far-reaching consequences of war cannot be understated. The people in the region have a right to a future free of violence and war, " said EI.

On Friday Israel gave the population of northern Gaza 24 hours’ notice to evacuate to the south in advance of a potential ground invasion. But an air strike on one of the two evacuation routes caused 70 deaths.

With humanitarian aid not allowed into Gaza because it is under siege, and 188,000 people taking shelter in UN schools, the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency has warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe unfolding”.

German organisations condemn attacks

Meanwhile, in Germany both the Deutsches Studentenwerk (DSW – German Student Welfare Service) and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) said they condemned the “recent terrorist attacks on Israel” and pledged their solidarity with Israel.

“We are most deeply shocked by the brutal attacks on Israel launched from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. We extend our compassion to the victims and their families, and we express our sincere condolences to all those who have lost relatives or fear for them,” declared DAAD President Joybrato Mukherjee in Bonn.

“We firmly stand by all Israelis, particularly all our friends and partners at Israel’s universities,” said Mukherjee.

Last year the DAAD funded around 1,000 academic exchange measures with Israel, in the context of which it provided support for 380 Israeli citizens. It runs an information centre at the University of Tel Aviv. In addition to the exchange programmes, the DAAD maintains links with Israel via the centres for German and European studies at the University of Haifa and Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a number of other activities.

The organisation has announced that it will be closely following events on the ground, especially with regard to the safety of DAAD grant-holders in Israel. For this purpose, it is keeping in touch with Germany’s Foreign Office.

“We condemn the terrorist attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah in the strongest terms,” stated DSW General Secretary Matthias Anbuhl in Berlin. “There is absolutely no justification for them. Our thoughts are with the victims and their next of kin; it is to them and the State of Israel that we extend our sympathy and our solidarity,” he said.

Hamas, either as a whole or in some cases only its military wing, has been designated a terrorist organisation by the US, Canada, UK, Japan, New Zealand and the European Union.

Founded in 1987 during the first Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation, the political movement is the de facto authority in Gaza, having seized power over the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority in 2007.

Students blame violence on occupation

Meanwhile, a university leader in Egypt and a number of student organisations around the world have published statements suggesting that the continuing occupation of Palestine, the support for illegal settlements and the unequal treatment of Palestinians created the conditions in which outbreaks of violence are inevitable and have called for protection of Palestinians in the face of Israel’s military response.

Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, who is the ultimate authority of Al-Azhar University – which is a leading centre for Arabic literature and Sunni Islamic learning and is considered to be the ‘Oxford’ of the Islamic world – issued a statement saying: “We extend our condolences to the silent world for the innocent victims of Palestine and salute the steadfastness of the proud Palestinian people.”

He called on “the civilised world and the international community to look with reason and wisdom at the longest occupation in modern history”, which he described as a “disgrace to humanity”.

“The world must stand with them and redouble efforts to ensure peace. There is an urgent and imperative need for the international community to support, in every way possible, the realisation of a peaceful and sustainable solution,” he said.

At Harvard University, one of the leading universities in the United States, more that than 30 student organisations issued a letter titled “Joint Statement by Harvard Palestine Solidarity Groups on the Situation in Palestine” saying: “We, the undersigned student organisations, hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.”

It said the current events did not happen in a vacuum.

“For the last two decades, millions of Palestinians in Gaza have been forced to live in an open-air prison. Israeli officials promise to ‘open the gates of hell’, and the massacres in Gaza have already commenced. Palestinians in Gaza have no shelters for refuge and nowhere to escape. In the coming days, Palestinians will be forced to bear the full brunt of Israel’s violence.”

The statement says: “Israeli violence has structured every aspect of Palestinian existence for 75 years. From systematised land seizures to routine airstrikes, arbitrary detentions to military checkpoints, and enforced family separations to targeted killings, Palestinians have been forced to live in a state of death, both slow and sudden.”

It demanded action to prevent “the ongoing annihilation of Palestinians”.

Some of the groups that signed the statement include Harvard Muslim Law School Association, Harvard Jews for Liberation and the Harvard Islamic Society.

The General Union For Algerian Students issued a statement saying: “We call on the international world once again, through all its bodies, to the need to protect the Palestinian people and guarantee their right to establish their independent state.”

Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Deliberate killings of civilians, hostage-taking, and collective punishment are heinous crimes that have no justification.

"The unlawful attacks and systematic repression that have mired the region for decades will continue, so long as human rights and accountability are disregarded.”