تأسيس منظمات مناصرة لفلسطين مؤلفة من أساتذة جامعات يشير إلى تحول في الأوساط الأكاديمية
Date:
28 mars 2024
Thématique: 

Scholars Against the War on Palestine (SAWP), a transnational coalition founded out of Israel’s most recent genocidal rampage on Gaza since Oct. 7, released an international call to action in February for the public to stand against scholasticide. SAWP defines scholasticide as a term “first coined by Professor Karma Nabulsi… to describe the systematic destruction of Palestinian education by Israel.” 

The week of action took place between Feb. 18-29 and asked faculty and students around the world to organize events about scholasticide in Palestine, pass related motions in unions, associations, senates, and organizations, and share content related to scholasticide on social media. 

SAWP’s definition of scholasticide includes eighteen criteria encompassing a variety of forms of systemic violence. One form is leveraging policy against the academic sector, such as “revoking residency rights of students or academics who may pursue educational opportunities abroad.” The list also includes more immediate and physical forms of violence, such as “killings and assassinations of university and school teachers, students, staff and administrators” and “bombarding and demolishing educational institutions.” 

Abed Takriti, a principal founder of SAWP and the Arab-American Educational Foundation Chair in Arab Studies at Rice University, told Palestine Square that “the nature of scholasticide has changed because it has shifted from policies that were geared towards undermining education to actual, comprehensive elimination of education and of the educational sector [in Palestine].” 

“Scholasticide is a key aspect of the genocidal campaign that is happening now. Part of genocide is destroying people’s capacity to produce knowledge and to reproduce [themselves] through knowledge,” said Takriti. “And part of what [Israel is] doing is killing not only our people's bodies but all of the knowledge, creativity and ideas contained within them.” 

Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza has killed more than 32,000 Palestinians, wounded nearly 75,000, and resulted in the total destruction of every university in Gaza. In addition to the bombing of university campuses, renowned and beloved professors and university presidents have been targeted and killed by Israel. Beyond higher education, schools of all levels have been targeted with Israeli bombs and missiles, leaving Gaza’s education sector completely demolished. 

The term ‘scholasticide,’ presently used in a widespread setting to refer to Israel’s most recent genocidal attacks on Palestinians in Gaza, “emerged out of an activist setting that was trying to confront what was happening in Gaza in 2009 during Operation Cast Lead,” said Ahmad Shokr, a professor of history at Swarthmore College and organizing founder of Israeli Apartheid Week. 

Shokr told Palestine Square that “the concept has been around for over a decade, but… the heightened forms of activism that are mobilizing this concept are specific to the genocidal war that Israel is now waging on Gaza.”

SAWP’s international call to action around scholasticide has resulted in organized vigils and other events across the globe, including in Canada, South Africa, the U.K., and the U.S.

Ragad Ahmad, a Palestinian student organizer at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, commented on local students’ response to SAWP’s international call to action.

 “As part of a larger coalition of students in the Philadelphia area advocating for Palestine and against the genocide, we have [investigated] the connection through which [our] universities maintain relationships with universities in Israel,” Ahmad said. “Through finances and collaborative processes like study abroad and co-research initiatives, and simultaneously, [you have] universities and [educational] institutions in Gaza are being destroyed.”

Ahmad told Palestine Square students from Swarthmore College, Haverford College, and Bryn Mawr College “recognize the power struggle in which [they] are engaged and remain committed to shedding light on scholasticide.” Ahmad noted that part of that commitment is mourning the professors, students, and researchers killed by Israel. As such, students and professors at Swarthmore hosted a kite vigil on Feb. 28 in honor of Gaza’s martyrs, focusing particularly on members of the Palestinian educational system. There, Swarthmore faculty and community members recited the poetry of Dr. Refaat Alareer, spoke about scholasticide and its relationship with Israel’s greater genocide in Gaza, and flew collaboratively designed kites. 

The widespread geographic hubs of SAWP’s actions reflect the coalition’s founding aim to be transnational, Takriti said to Palestine Square

“[One of our goals was that SAWP] wouldn't be restricted to one locale. It [is] a coalition of folks and affiliated organizations from Canada, the U.S., South Africa, Britain, as well as various closely connected organizations in Palestine and the rest of the Middle East.” 

SAWP’s geographic diversity is also a testament to its leadership and participation, as Takriti noted that the coalition maintains Palestinian, Black, South Asian, and Jewish leaders and members; this diversity extends to the academic sector as well, as SAWP boasts “academics who have written on a wide range of causes for social justice on a transnational scale,” added Takriti. 

SAWP’s week of action heeded the outcries of Palestinians in Gaza, who have spent the last few months asking the world to act to end the genocide perpetrated by Israel.

In November 2023, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) echoed calls from Palestinian civil society, universities, and academic organizations across the globe to work to “end all ties between their universities and complicit Israeli academic institutions,” citing the need “to take urgent action to stop Israel’s genocide in Gaza and its ongoing scholasticide against all Palestinians.” 

SAWP joins the ranks of other Palestine organizations emerging across fields and disciplines — such as Faculty for Justice in Palestine (FJP) — a decentralized national network of faculty local to the United States. FJP, like SAWP, is an organization that saw formation after Israel’s latest assault on Gaza. 

Takriti emphasized the overlap between SAWP members and FJP members, citing that both organizations approach different needs under the same cause:   

“FJP addresses primarily local organizing needs within different campuses, which is really important work, but is slightly different than [SAWP’s] international campaigning work,” said Takriti. [SAWP] is not addressing local needs, but carrying out campaigning in relation to Palestine and what is unfolding there. Both are important.”  

Takriti noted the significance of the emergence of new coalitions mobilizing toward Palestinian liberation: 

“Organizing is multilayered and multisectoral; Palestine needs people to actively organize in every sector possible. We cannot leave any arena without organizing. Academics have to be organized, teachers have to be organized, students have to be organized, and labor unions have to be organized. SAWP is a sign of the growing strength of the movement and the spread of it — that we have so many academics engaged. That is testimony to the strength of growth of consciousness around Palestine and the growth of commitment.”

SAWP’s membership expands beyond faculty, encompassing graduate students who don’t always find mobilization in Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters. 

“We see it as part of the sector of academic workers, but with very different conditions compared to professors that make our political actions strategically different,” said Erica Augenstein, a graduate student at Rice University and founding member of SAWP Grad. 

“Grad students are some of the most organized workers on campuses. SAWP Grad is going to be bringing the pro-Palestine solidarity message into workplace organizing… SAWP is trying to carve out space for graduate students and leverage the existing organizational frameworks that graduate students tend to have”. 

Graduate students have also been engaged with the international call to action against scholasticide, with Augenstein leading a vigil catalyzing around scholasticide at Rice University on Feb, 27. 

“We want professors and grad students to be putting out this publicly on their campuses, so that it becomes a conversation in the public and in organizing spaces in our sector. Part of it is continuing to act on [the fact] that we are in a state of emergency. This is meant to be a long-term campaign; we hope that building these public events that are connected to each other will build a longer campaign towards activism for Palestine,” Augenstein told Palestine Square

SAWP’s call to action, as well as the mobilization of faculty through FJP, comes after statements released from universities and university presidents that fail to mention the ongoing genocide in Gaza. Campus tensions across the nation have been heightened as a result, with Zionist violence on campuses going uncondemned and unacted upon by universities as pro-Palestine student organizers press administrative bodies for support.   

Augenstein identified the pressing need for SAWP’s mobilization of faculty demands in order to hold such universities accountable for their messaging and lack of action: 

“No universities in the West have really made any statements that seriously condemn the ongoing genocide, or [that] even recognize the ongoing genocide. Part of that is because faculty have not been able to launch a coherent demand or put pressure on their administrators. We also have a political environment where we have an entire class of professionals who should be weighing in [but who aren’t]. It should be the realm of leading scholars and intellectuals; unfortunately, that has not been the case. We have not seen the voices of people who should be weighing in as experts or as vocal as they should be. We hope to remedy that and bring conscience and clear political calls that can be leveraged by professors.” 

SAWP and FJP stand alongside SJPs on college campuses, simultaneously filling the gap of  Palestine organizing in the academic sector as well as heeding the call of Palestinian professors to mobilize university workers. 

This call becomes ever more pertinent as Texas Tech University becomes one of the first institutions of higher education to suspend a professor for pro-Palestine activity — now being a critical moment setting the standard for what the academic world will allow when it comes to Palestine. As students mobilize behind pro-Palestine academics with social media posts and letters, organizations like SAWP are put to the test.  

نجوم منتخب كرة الطائرة إبراهيم قصيعة (يمين) وحسن زعيتر (مواقع التواصل) استشهدا بقصف إسزائيلي على مخيم جباليا.
Ayham al-Sahli
المصدر: المركز الفلسطيني للإعلام
Maher Charif
معهد أريج (القدس).
Uday al-Barghouthi
مصدر الصورة: وكالة الأناضول
Kareem Qurt
مصدر الصورة: معتز عزايزة
Yumna Hamidi
مصدر الصورة: الأونروا
George J. Giacaman