The unaddressed ‘educide’ in Gaza

By Azril Mohd Amin
FROM the rubble and ruins of Gaza, and the cries of oppressed Palestinian women and children, the
term “educide” emerges to describe the deliberate destruction of educational institutions, an assault on the foundations of a society’s identity and future.
This educide, like the broader genocide unfolding in Palestine, remains overlooked and underaddressed by the international community. More than 40 per cent of schools (288) in Gaza are run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and the rest are either operated by the Palestinian Authority or privately managed.
Gaza had 737 schools, according to UNRWA data from 2018. At least 9,367 teachers work in the 288 UNRWA schools. No Gaza child has been able to attend school since Nov 6, when the Education Ministry suspended the 2023-2024 school year due to the indiscriminate targeting of residential areas, including offices and schools. Up to 280 government- and 65 UNRWA-run schools have been destroyed or damaged, according to the Education Ministry. Up to 4,327 students have been killed and 7,819 others have been injured as of Jan 16 this year.
The stark reality is that a significant portion of Gaza’s physical devastation, often attributed to aerial bombardment, is the result of a methodical dismantling of educational and cultural landmarks.
Raphael Lemkin, the visionary behind the concept of genocide, initially sought to include the destruction of cultural and educational institutions in the Genocide Convention, the first human rights treaty adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. However, this crucial element was omitted in the legal committee of the fledgling UN, diluting the convention’s potency.
Lemkin envisioned the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as a mechanism to stop atrocities before they escalate. Yet, the ICJ falls short of his aspirations.
Moreover, the nations entrusted with upholding the rule of law — including the United States and the United Kingdom — often align themselves with the perpetrators of genocide, undermining the convention’s spirit.
This pattern persists today. During a White House press briefing on Jan 3, National Security spokesperson John Kirby criticised South Africa’s submission to the genocide case hearing at the ICJ, dismissing it as “meritless, counterproductive, and lacking any basis”.

The case has mostly been met with silence from Israel’s Western allies, including the European Union. The UK, despite submitting detailed legal documents to the ICJ about a month ago supporting claims of genocide against the Rohingya community in Myanmar, has refused to back the case against Israel — a clear case of double standard.
The tragic irony is palpable — the same day the convention was introduced at the UN, the US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima (Aug 6, 1945), illustrating the inherent contradictions of a world order purportedly based on justice and freedom.
Today, as the Zionist genocide in Gaza unfolds, facilitated by the support of powerful nations like the US, we are confronted with a sobering truth.
In a world where the interests of the few outweigh the rights of the many, where justice is elusive and power reigns supreme, the spectre of genocide looms ominously. As long as such states and ruling elites dictate our collective fate, the cycle of violence and oppression will persist, unabated.
Lemkin’s legacy serves as both  a warning and a call to action. It reminds us of our collective responsibility to confront injustice and uphold the dignity of every human life.
Until we break free from the shackles of power and privilege, educide, like genocide, will continue to haunt our conscience and stain our humanity. It’s time to heed Lemkin’s plea and reclaim the promise of a world, governed by justice, compassion and solidarity.
The urgency to address educide in Palestine is underscored by the UN Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organisation Declaration of 1994, which condemns the targeting of educational institutions during conflicts. This declaration emphasises the imperative to safeguard and preserve cultural heritage as a fundamental aspect of humanity’s shared heritage.
In the face of such grave violations, the world community must act swiftly and decisively to end educide and uphold the right to education for all Palestinian children, whose rights have been trampled upon for decades.
The writer is founder and chairman of the Centre of Human Rights Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA) and Chief Executive Officer of Institute Masa Depan Malaysia (MASA)
Source: NST

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