It took just four days of Israel’s assault on Gaza for it to bomb a university.
On October 11, parts of the Islamic University in Gaza City were completely destroyed in airstrikes by the Israeli military, who alleged that the campus was being used by Hamas. Several university buildings and other educational facilities were destroyed in the following days and months as Israel relentlessly bombed Gaza City and advanced south through the Gaza strip. Just weeks ago, Israeli forces blew up Israa University in an apparent controlled demolition after using it as a military base and detention centre for over two months.
In total, Gaza’s media officer estimates Israel has destroyed over 95 schools and universities completely and 295 schools and universities partially since the beginning of its assault on the Palestinian enclave.
Throughout all this, our university has remained silent. As Gaza’s educational institutions, and with it the hopes for its children’s future, have been obliterated, it has remained silent. Instead of issuing a public message of support to its Middle Eastern students, it has remained silent. Instead of condemning Israel’s massacre of civilian lives, it has remained silent.
Worse still, it has assured anxious social media pundits that it is committed to neutrality on the matter, as schools continue to be bombed, as Palestinians continue to starve and as the death toll continues to reach unimaginable numbers day after day.
There can be no caveats to Trinity’s silence. It is unambiguously, embarrassingly shameful.
Apologists for this silence will disingenuously point to concurrent conflicts across the globe in places like Tigray, the Congo and Nagorno-Karabakh and ask whether College should be outspoken on all of these as well; the answer is probably yes. There is no hierarchy of victims.
But the information economy which has surrounded Gaza since October, in which at least 85 journalists have been killed for their efforts to document the devastation, in which Palestinians are “broadcasting their own destruction in real time”, makes Trinity’s and other Irish institutions’ silence profoundly deafening.
Trinity’s moral compass appears to be calibrated by geopolitical convenience, rather than genuine principles
What’s more, Trinity’s status as a university of sanctuary shows that it is not blind to injustice. Try as it might to block out criticism by disabling comments on its social media posts, College is acutely aware of its own hypocrisy as it showcases its humanitarian credentials while remaining completely, blissfully passive to unfolding genocide. Its assertive response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine appeared to show a university not only with a conscience but the courage to act on it. In fact, Trinity’s moral compass appears to be calibrated by geopolitical convenience, rather than genuine principles. Its hypocrisy reveals a calculated PR strategy, not a commitment to justice.
Trinity’s deference to Zionist narratives doesn’t derive purely from its direct collaboration with Israeli institutions. Its reliance on industry collaboration also restricts its freedom for political expression. Israel’s prominent role in the tech industry, especially in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, makes its goodwill highly valuable to a vast number of companies in the sector. The highly securitised state offers opportunities for lucrative contracts for technologies with military applications. For Trinity, with committed ties to industry giants including Microsoft and IBM, the potential losses in funding of taking a critical stance on Israel are not insignificant. But this fact excuses nothing; it merely boils down to an unconscionable sacrifice of the Palestinians on the altar of research funding. Trinity’s complicity will be a permanent stain on its history.
No humane scientific endeavour relies on a pluralistic environment in which the view that there are valid grounds for genocide is as acceptable as the view that there are not
The Kalven Report of the University of Chicago, behind which universities often hide their unwillingness to engage in issues of social justice, emphasises that the university “is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic”. But the purpose of this separation is to allow freedom of enquiry for its researchers, to allow the “widest diversity of views within its own community”. There are no acceptable reasons not to acknowledge the desperate plight of Gaza. No humane scientific endeavour relies on a pluralistic environment in which the view that there are valid grounds for genocide is as acceptable as the view that there are not; there simply are not. There is no morally sound view of the world in which the massacre of thousands of children is an acceptable price for any goal.
Universities do eventually embrace social justice issues, but rarely before mainstream consensus makes it practically impossible to do otherwise. Gaza doesn’t have the luxury of time. There was a time when it was unquestionable that university was a male-only pursuit. Now it is almost universally agreed that such a thought is ridiculous. History will almost universally recognise the horror of what has been inflicted on the Palestinians. Millions in Ireland, and thousands on this campus, already do; this paper regrets that the college whose community it serves refuses to do the same. If institutions wait until it is acceptable or politically permissible to publicly acknowledge obvious injustice, it will already be too late.
College’s vow of silence calls into question not whether it shares the values of its students and staff, but whether it has any values at all
If they read this at all, those with the authority to heed it will likely shake their head and assure themselves that unfortunately it isn’t so simple. But it is.
This isn’t about anything as complex as an academic boycott, or even so drastic as seeking new suppliers for lab equipment. This is about the bare minimum of acknowledging the unimaginable loss of life that continues to take place in Gaza, and demonstrating support for students in a moment of extreme distress. College’s vow of silence calls into question not whether it shares the values of its students and staff, but whether it has any values at all.
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the provost assured the college community that “our immediate priority has been our students and staff”. Whether or not this was ever the case, it is incredibly clear that it is not now. College’s utter refusal to even engage in dialogue with hundreds of students and staff shows a disregard bordering on contempt. All the while Gaza’s civilian population are suffering daily bombardment, physical and psychological trauma and imminent starvation. A population of two million people is facing genocide. And our university remains silent.