Statement in support of the 831 academic and administrative staff at Gaza universities placed on forced early retirement

USACBI is an organization of scholars and cultural workers that since the Israeli invasion of Gaza in 2008-9 has been committed to opposing Israeli apartheid and to securing Palestinian academic rights along with all the rights stipulated by international law and human rights norms. USACBI therefore strongly condemns recent measures by the Palestinian Authority that force all university academic staff in Gaza into retirement, on as little as 15% of their salaries, while being expected to continue to conduct teaching and research. This measure, which constitutes a collective punishment of academics along with other civil servants in Gaza, is not only a serious violation of Palestinian Basic Law, Civil Service Law and International Labor Law, but also a breach of international treaties, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) to which the PA is a signatory.

Part of a series of measures that inflict punishment on Gazan civil servants who depend on payment of their salaries by the PA, this assault on academics has clearly been undertaken to exert political leverage and in the context of its ongoing collaboration with the government of Israel.  But it indiscriminately affects all academics, and constitutes a violation of academic freedom and freedom of speech irrespective of the political affiliations of any academic. Furthermore, it creates intolerable conditions for students who, on account of Israel”s ongoing blockade, have no alternative to studying in Gaza.

Given our long-standing commitment to the attainment of the fundamental rights of Palestinians everywhere–in the 1948 territories, in the diaspora, in the Occupied Territories and in Gaza–we urge the PA to rescind this measure, which makes a mockery of international efforts to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for liberation and justice.  As academics and cultural workers in the United States, we also firmly reject any pressure that might be exerted by the U.S. government to cut funding and salaries for Palestinian academics and other sectors in Gaza.

We also recognize that the condition that permits the enactment of this punitive measure, as with the recent cuts in electricity supplies to Gaza, is Israel”s continuing blockade and its military occupation and settlement of the West Bank, which relies on PA security forces to maintain order and repress the Palestinian population.  Both the occupation and the blockade are violations of international law and human rights and deny Palestinians their right to self-determination, justice and democracy.

Without the ending of the blockade and the occupation, and without the realization of all the internationally recognized rights of Palestinians, neither freedom nor justice can be attained.  While condemning this latest action by the PA, USACBI hereby confirms its commitment to work for the realization of those rights through the boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions, as called for by Palestinian civil society.

We urge academics and cultural workers everywhere to join us in signing this petition against the arbitrarily mandated retirement and salary cuts imposed on university faculty in Gaza.



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