Statement on the situation in Palestine and Israel

As academics working in the field of justice we are concerned about the massive violations of human rights international law in Palestine and Israel. We stand in solidarity with Palestinian and Israeli victims and human rights defenders. While Justice Visions does not conduct research in the Palestinian or Israeli context, as scholars invested in human rights and working with victims of human rights violations in contexts of authoritarian regimes and armed conflict, we cannot remain silent about the ongoing impunity and the lack of political will to stop Israel’s annihilation of Gaza.

First and foremost, we insist that respect for, and compliance with, international law should be at the heart of political and academic debates on Palestine and Israel. Israel cannot justify its violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) by the conduct of Hamas, and vice versa, Palestinian armed groups cannot invoke the ongoing occupation and crimes to disregard the rules of IHL. As we have stressed before, even the worst violations of these rules committed by one party to an armed conflict do not release the opposing party from its obligations. Given the unprecedented Israeli offensive, we align ourselves with the analysis of scholars who sound the alarm about the risk of the crime of genocide being perpetrated in Gaza. We also endorse the analysis by Palestinian, Israeli and international civil society organizations, human rights defenders and scholars that place the primary responsibility for the failure of the Middle East Peace Process and the two-state solution on Israel as an occupying power and an Apartheid state. In this respect, it is essential to highlight Israel’s privileged position within the EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy, which grants it access to European agencies and programs such as Horizon 2020 without effectively conditioning this on the respect for human rights and international law.

Furthermore, we want to underscore that in its relentless campaign of bombardments on Gaza, Israel has targeted civilians, and specifically 1) knowledge workers such as doctors, medics, aid workers, journalists, writers and academics; and 2) cultural heritage and religious sites, educational and health infrastructure. By targeting these epistemic communities and civilian infrastructure, Israel is attempting to erase Gaza’s past while preventing it from rebuilding future civilian life. As academics, our particular concern lies with universities, their staff and students under attack. Israeli strikes have inflicted damage upon all six universities in Gaza, leading to a suspension of education due to electricity and internet disruptions and shortages of essential resources. We emphasize the importance of defending scholarly communities under attack and upholding academic freedom: we cannot stick to the sidelines under the pretext of neutrality. In this context, we recognize our duty to create an environment conducive to debate and solidarity, especially on globally significant issues such as human rights.