Endless war and cultural genocide?

« Israeli occupation soldiers bragged about attacking a classroom inside a school in Gaza and vandalizing schoolchildren’s property. » or « A Palestinian school caught fire after Israeli occupation soldiers fired tear gas canisters into the school, located in the Al Isawiya neighborhood of occupied Jerusalem.  » or « Dozens of Palestinians were killed and wounded on Saturday in an Israeli strike on the UNRWA-run Al-Fakhoura school in Gaza City. » Journalist briefs of this nature are extremely numerous, with videos to back them up. And it doesn’t matter whether these schools are run by the UN or not.

Two Gaza universities, the Islamic University and Al Hazar University, have already been completely destroyed by bombs. The targeting of Palestinian places of learning and culture, including religious ones, appears to be a deliberate act, working against the creation of social bonds. Mosques and churches appear to be systematically destroyed. The 1400-year-old Grand Mosque Al-Omari, a legacy of the Crusades — a former church — has already suffered some painful blows, even if it is not (yet?) in ruins. Nearby, St. Porphyry’s Church, also built by the Crusaders, is already well damaged. Yes, it’s a battered old land.

Places where people live, such as Al Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest hospital, suffer « inhuman » fates, to quote Scott Ritter. Emptied by force, at the cost of deaths due to lack of medical care, the Al Shifa hospital is certainly being destroyed, a « zone of death » according to the WHO (November 19), but more serious are the skills too: « Professor Rafet Lobad, head of the internal medicine department at the Shifa hospital, he and his entire family — his wife, children and siblings — were killed by Israeli warplanes » (announcement of November 18 from a Gazan source).

Are we facing genocide, i.e. large-scale killings of populations for what they are, in a planned manner? In any case, it seems undeniable to me that there are not only acts that appear to have this character, but that there are also genocidal intentions on the part of Israeli leaders, if we take their statements (nuclear bombs, animals, and so on). Is it necessary to recall the Prime Minister’s incantations referring to the chapter 60 of the book of Isaiah, (Bible, Old Testament) with its prophecy, and from then on also the conditions of the prophecy of which the now odiously « famous » verse 12: « For nation or kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; these nations shall be utterly laid waste.« 
It’s true that when religious delirium and/or its pretext, using only its most violent writings, takes over, it’s always been, throughout the ages, a human catastrophe, whatever the religion. It seems crazy to talk like that in the 21st century, but it’s true.

It’s certainly worth reflecting on and critiquing. The question I want to ask: is there such a thing as « cultural genocide »? This notion is not included in the legal corpus of international bodies, but it illustrates the apparent desire to destroy social ties, not only where they are built, but also where knowledge is passed on. Does the Israeli occupation want to eradicate the Palestinians’ ability to educate, to transmit knowledge, and thus knowledge itself?

I’ve spent part of my life passing on knowledge in a university setting. Destroying universities by means of extreme violence, with no regard for human life, says a great deal not only about the intentions, but also the aims of those who in this way desecrate the very essence of what builds and fulfils man.  who thus desecrate the very essence of what builds and realizes mankind in a long chain that goes back to the dawn of time. The people responsible for these acts are thus very consciously and voluntarily opposing the capacity for peace between human groups, including their own people. They are truly creating the conditions for endless war.

Indeed, to break the chain of knowledge of a human group is « particularly odious », both in its realization and in its effects. It is therefore urgent to break the cycle of violence and forge the chain again.

« That, like the methods of community destruction specific to physical/biological genocide, the procedures of cultural genocide are adopted with a view to annihilating a national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such, and that they are just as apt to achieve this criminal purpose, which is considered particularly odious, for which reason they should also be qualified as genocide and repressed as such. » Jasmina Zagorac, Cultural genocide: a forgotten crime in international law? 2022.

Christophe de Brouwer
Honorary full professor and former chair of the School of Public Health at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. (November 22, 2023)

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