Proportionality and Israel Bombing of Islamic University (Gaza)

Islamic University Gaza apparently under attack

As an academic, I can think of few “targets” more delicate and worthy of sparing from aerial attack than educational institutions. In the latest strategic bombing of densely populated Gaza, Israel has deliiberately attacked Islamic University on late Sunday, December 28, 2008. This outrage cannot be justified by military necessity regardless of disinformation and unproven claims that it was primarily a haven for weapons deployment.

Attacking universities is similar to the strategic bombing campaign of the Second World War in which German cities were targeted without mercy. While it appears that the majority of casualties in these aerial raids of rage and hate are not civilian, some sixty non-combatants have been killed. The purposeful destruction of a university, not to mention the general violation of proportionality from the air, should be construed as a war crime. While a nation has the right of self-defence to suppress rocket attacks into its territory, it does not have the right to destroy civilian infrastructure and other vital components that support civil society.

A university represents knowledge, the search for truth and in this case the potential elevation of an occupied people. The Bush administration frequently justified its invasion of Afghanistan and its growing deployment of forces there as a countermeasure to prevent the Taliban from restricting the education of women. Yet there is apparently no concern about the destruction of a university which is one of the few avenues of potential progress in a region that is blockaded and utterly impoverished by Israel.

I would hope that university presidents, the American Association of University Professors and unions such as the National Education Association would condemn the bombing of educational institutions in this manner. Where will these students be relocated should be asked? Where will professors teach should be asked? Can a military nuclear power be allowed to use such violent measures to suppress the educational aspirations of an impoverished, helpless population without any criticism?

As we saw in the Lebanon-Israel war in 2006, few or zero casualties in Israel is met by force far beyond proportionality. An appropriate response should be measured by casualties, by targets selected and by length of campaign. Israel has used far more force and caused infinitely more human and material destruction than it received. I am not optimistic that the Obama administration will reassess American policy in the region as the war against Islam continues to create needless suffering and potentially a nuclear exchange at some point.

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