Supporting Higher Education in Gaza (guest post)

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“No matter what else one thinks of this conflict, our hearts should break over the loss of educational opportunities for over a million people which will extend far beyond this war.”

Preston J. Werner, senior lecturer in philosophy at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is donating to a fundraiser by the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES) to support higher education in Gaza, and has offered to match donations to it by any philosophers and philosophy students up to a total of £2000 (approximately $2500.00).

As BRISMES notes on their fundraising page,

Since October 2023, Israel has damaged or destroyed buildings on every university campus in the Gaza Strip. Libraries, science labs, and historical archives have all been obliterated. Israel has killed hundreds of university students and more than 100 academics, including numerous internationally respected scholars, deans and presidents, thus serving a harsh blow not only to the physical infrastructure of higher education in the Gaza Strip, but also to its intellectual underpinnings. At a time when the Palestinian population in Gaza needs them most, it will take years to rebuild university programmes in social work, physiotherapy and medicine, but also in engineering, physics, chemistry, biology, literature, law and history.

In what follows, Dr. Werner discusses why he is donating to the fund, and encourages you to do so, too.


Part of a university in Gaza destroyed in the war

Supporting Higher Education in Gaza
by Preston J. Werner

What can we do, as philosophers and academics, about the ongoing war in Gaza? This is a secondary question to what we can do, as citizens of our respective countries, and as human beings, about the ongoing war in Gaza. But the first question is a question that is also of central relevance to most people reading this blog.

One answer to this question is that we can engage in moral, political, and legal thinking surrounding the war. Several people have done so on this blog and elsewhere, and while I of course have strong opinions on the issue, I don’t intend to add to that discussion here. I instead encourage you to read work on the topic by philosophers and academics who have spent large chunks of their life thinking about these issues.

Here is something that I think should unite most philosophers, and indeed, most academics: Everyone should have access to education, including higher education, regardless of nationality, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or financial means. As the UN Declaration of Human Rights Article 26 says, “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.”

This principle holds regardless of what you think about the war or about the history of Israel and its relationship to the Palestinians.

And the fact is, whoever you blame, the infrastructure of education, including higher education, has been utterly destroyed in Gaza in the last 9 months. It has even been labeled an ‘educide‘ and a ‘scholasticide‘. Many, probably hundreds, of Gazan academics have been killed (I found conflicting numbers).

The way I see it, no matter what else one thinks of this conflict, our hearts should break over the loss of educational opportunities for over a million people which will extend far beyond this war. This is not the most pressing moral or political issue that this war raises, but it is one that we, as academics, can stand in solidarity on qua academics. If you believe Israel’s response to the violent and criminal attack by Hamas on October 7th is disproportionate, you should want to support Gazans as they (hopefully soon) rebuild their educational infrastructure. If you believe that Israel’s response is proportionate and justified, and that this is a war against Hamas and not the Gazan populace as a whole, you too should want to support the rebuilding of educational infrastructure in Gaza to support the next generation of students and researchers.

The British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES) is running a GoFundMe dedicated to this task. I have no affiliation with BRISMES or the GoFundMe, but this is the only fund that I have seen which is specifically dedicated to the task of rebuilding the higher education infrastructure in Gaza`.

As an academic in Israel, I feel a special obligation to support our colleagues in Gaza. So I will match any philosopher’s contribution to this fund up to a total of £2000 (approximately $2500.00). Simply post your contribution (with proof) in the comments of this thread or email me at pjwerner1 [at] gmail.com


Related:
American Philosophers Should Condemn the War in Gaza
An Open Letter from Gaza Academics

Beyond the Ivory Tower. Workshop for academics on writing short pieces for wide audiences on big questions. Taking place October 18th to 19th. Application deadline July 30th. Funding provided.

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