Some of my fondest memories of Gaza are at the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG). The pride and joy among the students and faculty was palpable. Walking across campus, whether on the men’s side or the women’s side, I observed their intensity to excel and achieve their goals. A university degree might be their ticket . . . to a good job, to graduate studies abroad . . . to having some measure of control over their future.
Why did Israel target IUG and other schools in the Gaza Strip?
Brookings reported in early August 2014 about “Israeli forces bombing the Jabalia Elementary Girls School in northern Gaza while it served as an U.N.-designated shelter. At least 15 people—including four children—were killed, and many more wounded. An Israeli strike in the immediate vicinity of an U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school in Rafah killed at least nine and injured over 25 people, while on July 23rd, a similar attack on another UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun left 15—including six children—dead and over 100 injured.” Israel destroyed 141 schools during its 51-day bombardment of the Gaza Strip.
Refaat Alareer teaches world literature and creative writing in the English Department at IUG. He’s also Co-Editor of Gaza Unsilenced, along with Laila El-Haddad, and describes the level of destruction at IUG during Israel’s bombardment last summer, including the administration building, and the personnel department and English department offices.
Why would Israel bomb a university? Some say Israel attacked IUG just to punish its 20,000 students or to push Palestinians to despair. That is true, but to me IUG’s only danger to the Israeli occupation and its apartheid regime is that it is the most important place in Gaza to develop students’ minds as indestructible weapons. Knowledge is Israel’s worst enemy. Awareness is Israel’s most hated and feared foe. That’s why Israel bombs a university; it wants to kill openness and determination to refuse living under injustice and racism. But again, why does Israel bomb a school? Or a hospital? Or a mosque? Or a 20-story building? It could be, as [Shakespeare’s] Shylock put it, “a merry sport”?