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The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) is joining others in the international community in calling for an immediate end to the Israeli military action in Gaza that has resulted in many Palestinian civilian deaths and injuries.
CAUT condemns the rocket attacks by Hamas on Israeli civilian targets in violation of the ceasefire agreement. However, Israel’s military response is disproportionate to the threat it faces. Both sides should agree and adhere to an immediate ceasefire, and Israel should open crossings into Gaza to allow humanitarian relief.
CAUT is especially concerned about the destruction of civilian infrastructure within Gaza – including educational facilities. On 27 December, Human Rights Watch reported that an Israeli air-to-ground missile struck a group of students leaving the Gaza Training College, adjacent to the headquarters of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in downtown Gaza City, killing eight students and wounding 19 others. Two days later, on 29 December 2008, Israel bombed the Islamic University of Gaza, destroying the science laboratory block and destroying or damaging other blocks of buildings, including the library. Although Israel has claimed that the science laboratory facilities were used as “a research and development center for Hamas weapons,” this claim has been denied by officials of the Islamic University, and according to the New York Times of January 1, 2009, Israel has not produced any evidence for its claim. On January 3, the Israeli air force destroyed the American International School, and, on January 6, 30 people were killed and 55 injured when Israeli artillery shells landed outside a United Nations-run school in Gaza.
These latest assaults on Palestinian students and educational institutions raise renewed questions about the ongoing violation of academic rights. Palestinian students have been frustrated in their right to study, not just in the West Bank and Gaza, but at universities abroad, as most recently demonstrated by the Israeli government’s refusal to allow Palestinian students awarded prestigious Fulbright fellowships to leave for the United States. University students living in Gaza have not been able to leave in order to attend universities throughout the world, let alone at Birzeit University in the West Bank. Students in the West Bank itself have to negotiate roadblocks and checkpoints to get to their classes Â— often never making it. The government of Israel must end these practices and respect the right to education as guaranteed in international conventions.
CAUT is urging the Government of Canada to do all it can to bring about a ceasefire in Gaza and to make clear to the Israeli Government that the widespread military assault on Gaza is unacceptable. The military action will do nothing to promote peace in the region.
CAUT is also responding to the plea from the Physicians for Human Rights-Israel for assistance in providing vital medical supplies for treatment of those badly injured in Gaza. With a medical system already on the verge of collapse as a result of the ongoing border blockade, the thousands of injuries are requiring Palestinian doctors and nurses to provide services in intolerable conditions – performing surgeries without gloves, local or general anesthetics, gauze, or sterilized equipment, and unable to provide basic care of medicine for patients with cancer, cardiac or other serious chronic disorders who have had to be discharged from hospitals to make space for civilians injured in the latest military actions.
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, a non-party-affiliated, non-profit foundation, whose goal is the advancement and defense of health-related human rights for all the residents of Israel and the occupied territories, is seeking to raise money for purchase and direct transfer of supplies to Gaza hospitals. CAUT is donating to PHR-I and encourages others to do so as well. Information about Physicians for Human Rights-Israel can be found on their web site.
For further information, contact:
Associate Executive Director
Canadian Association of University Teachers
2705 promenade Queensview Drive
CANADA K2B 8K2
tel: +1 613.820.2270 x. 188