Statement by some academics at the University of Cambridge about Gaza

This statement comes from academics at the University of Cambridge, from a range of disciplines, and from a range of political, religious and cultural backgrounds. We believe that we have a responsibility – whether as practitioners of our various subjects, as employees of this University, as academics, or just as human beings – to speak out against the recent actions and posture of the Israeli state. After more than a month of bombardment by Israel, over 2,000 Palestinians are dead, the overwhelming majority of them civilians. This includes 514 children by the last count, a figure which is almost certain to rise as survivors sift through the wreckage. Entire families have been wiped out. Five Israeli civilians, including one child, and 64 soldiers have died. Gazans have seen their cities reduced to rubble yet again, their infrastructure devastated, with many hospitals, schools, factories and electric plants targeted and destroyed. Israel has destroyed at least 17,000 residential buildings, leaving a significant proportion of Gaza’s 1.8 million Palestinians homeless. These events occur against the background of decades of Israeli occupation and illegal expansion – and we note that in the last few weeks, with the world’s attention temporarily focused on Gaza, the West Bank has seen a surge of settlement-building. It is this context, as well as the unmistakeable asymmetry of power between the two sides in this ‘conflict’, which makes it so disingenuous to accuse critics of ‘singling Israel out’. As many have persuasively argued over the last few weeks, it is Israel that singles itself out: through its claims to moral impeccability, its celebrated status as a democracy, through its receipt of massive support from the US and other nations, and through its abuse of the memory of the holocaust in order to deflect criticism and to discredit the Palestinian struggle – on this point, we wish to express our solidarity with the more than 300 holocaust survivors and their descendants who have recently called on the world to take action to stop Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians.
In our professional capacities as academics, we may emphasise different aspects of the history and current situation between Israel and Palestine. The lawyers among us may point out that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is illegal under international law; that despite the 2005 withdrawal of troops from the Gaza strip, the area is still recognised by the UN as occupied territory, due to Israel’s control of the borders and surrounding land, sea and air space; and that there is no legal right of ‘self-defence’ by an occupying power against the people under its occupation. Philosophers and political theorists among us may emphasise the moral hypocrisy in the apologism for Israel’s crimes, and the distortions involved in the attempt to discredit or silence criticism. Historians may insist that the recent events in Gaza can only be properly understood and evaluated as part of a long trajectory of colonial occupation: the building and continual expansion of settlements (and the theft of land and resources that this entails); the expulsion of Palestinian inhabitants of historic Palestine (beginning with the displacement of hundreds of thousands in the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, and culminating in the current situation in which millions of Palestinian refugees and their immediate descendants are scattered around the globe); and the increasingly violent and discriminatory treatment of those Palestinians who remain in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and in Israel itself.
We, the undersigned, differ not only in our fields of specialism, but no doubt also in our particular analyses of the history of Israel and Palestine, the significance of current and past events, and the most appropriate resolution of the situation. Such differences notwithstanding, we are united on several points: First, we wish to add our voices to those of the Palestinian resistance in appealing for an immediate lifting of the blockade on Gaza. Beyond this most urgent demand, we also believe that no satisfactory end to this on-going humanitarian crisis can be achieved without the realisation of a more far-reaching justice for the Palestinian people, including the displaced refugees, and at the same time the realisation of a situation in which the inhabitants of historic Palestine, whatever their ethnicity, religion, or culture, whether they now live as Palestinians or as Israelis, are able to coexist under conditions of meaningful freedom and equality – equality of civic status, of respect, and of access to land and resources. We believe that a radical change is needed in order to achieve this, and that whatever the substance of this change, it cannot happen without an end to the violence perpetrated by the state of Israel against Palestinians, an end to the siege of Gaza and to the occupation, and an end to the discriminatory and dehumanising treatment of Palestinian citizens within Israel. Finally, as academics, we are concerned by the recent instances of victimisation of students and lecturers, inside and outside of Israel, for speaking out on this issue. We demand an end to the persecution of critics of Israel within academia, and pledge to lend our support to those targeted. Lift the blockade. End the killing. Justice for the Palestinian people.

See the full list of signatories at

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