Dal faculty call for ‘an end to the scholasticide in Palestine’ | Education | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
The coalition of students' encampment on Dal campus reached week three on Sunday, June 2. They are demanding their five Halifax universities disclose and divest from their financial and academic ties with Israel.
The coalition of students' encampment on Dal campus reached week three on Sunday, June 2. They are demanding their five Halifax universities disclose and divest from their financial and academic ties with Israel.

Dal faculty call for ‘an end to the scholasticide in Palestine’

Prof says this comes amid ‘deafening silence’ by university to speak up

Graduation season is behind us, in Halifax. But Students for the Liberation of Palestine - Kjipuktuk–or SLPK–are still on campus at Dalhousie University. In May, the SLPK’s calls for divestment and disclosure from Israel were joined by two motions passed by the Dalhousie Faculty Association–or DFA–to take a stand against the war on Gaza.

“As people in academia, who talk about the importance of academics and education, we are hypocrites if we don't take action,” said Mohammed El Hazzouri. He is a professor in the Faculty of Management at Dalhousie University.

On May 16, the DFA held their annual general meeting, with an amended agenda that resulted in a larger-than-usual attendance. Three motions in relation to Gaza were brought to the top of the agenda for the AGM, the first two of which passed, without time to debate the third.

The meeting had 195 members attend, as opposed to the usual 30-35 member attendance, said El Hazzouri. “It shows how much interest there is in the university community, the faculty community, in wanting the university to take action.”

El Hazzouri brought the first motion to the AGM, which reads:

“The Dalhousie Faculty Association condemns antisemitism, anti-Palestinian racism, and all forms of violence against civilians. The association also condemns the Israeli violence against Palestinian scholars and students, as well as Israeli attacks on Palestinian educational institutions (universities, schools, libraries, archives, and museums), publishing houses, hospitals and heritage sites etc. and calls for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza and an end to the scholasticide in Palestine.”

He said all three motions came about organically between faculty members speaking with each other ahead of the meeting, once they saw the upcoming agenda contained nothing about Gaza or Palestine. El Hazzouri and other faculty members organized these motions amid what he calls a “deafening silence” by both Dal and the DFA up until then.

“This is a war on civilians,” said El Hazzouri during the meeting, “but it is also a war that is targeting schools, targeting universities–all universities in Gaza are destroyed–and targeting teachers–more than 200 teachers have been killed that we know of.

“This is a deliberate targeting of education in Gaza and Palestinians are known to have some of the highest literacy rates in the world and one of the highest participation rates in universities as well. This is a deliberate way to kill education among Palestinians and in Gaza.”

There is also a term for that: “scholasticide.”

The transnational coalition Scholars Against War in Palestine–or SAWP–define “scholasticide” in its original context, when it was coined in 2009 by professor Karma Nabulsi to reference to the Israeli assault on Gaza, Palestine in that year as well as “a pattern of Israeli colonial attacks on Palestinian scholars, students, and educational institutions going back to the Nakba in 1948, and expanding after the 1967 war on Palestine and the 1982 invasion of Lebanon.”

The SAWP write that in 2023-24 in Gaza, “scholasticide has intensified on an unprecedented scale…from a systematic destruction to a total annihilation of education,” and that “there is, indeed, an intimate relationship between genocide and scholasticide.”

The SAWP list 18 acts that can represent scholasticide, including “1) Killings and assassinations of university school teachers, students, staff and administrators…5) Bombarding and demolishing educational institutions…[and] 7) Impeding the import of essential materials for rebuilding damaged schools and universities.”

Of their list, the SAWP said all 18 “are currently being carried out to devastating effect in Gaza, Palestine.”

El Hazzouri said that, as academics, the group of faculty who brought forward these three motions to the DFA are first trying to get their union “on the right side of history and take a stance on what Israel is doing in Gaza, regarding scholasticide.”

As faculty members, he said their daily focus is on education and academic freedom. “Our lens is: this is happening not just to innocent civilians, it’s also happening to educational institutions and our colleagues who are in Gaza. ‘Why are you quiet?’”

Beyond that, the bigger picture is to pressure the university to take action, “whether it’s to condemn what’s happening–because they have not done that so far.”

El Hazzouri said universities and faculties speaking up can put pressure on public opinion.

“Universities speak with authority because of their knowledge–people trust universities…There’s power to say this is a human rights issue.”

Beyond that, the aim is to pressure Dal “to cut ties with Israeli institutions, including investments in Israeli companies and companies that facilitate genocide,” and end Dal’s collaboration with universities in Israel “as a stressor on the government of Israel to stop this genocide.”

The DFA’s second motion that passed on May 16 reads as follows:

“The Dalhousie Faculty Association demands that Dalhousie administration suspend all institutional partnerships with Israeli academic institutions and divest from and boycott all Israeli institutions until Israel ends its policies of military occupation and apartheid.”

El Hazzouri said Dalhousie’s academic exchanges with universities in Israel “gives legitimacy to those universities, and that gives legitimacy to Israel.

“If you’re still sending your students or still maintaining those ties, that means you do not have a problem with what Israel is doing.

“We’re hoping by putting the pressure there will send a strong message to Israel that we have a problem with this.”

Lastly, as a part of the second motion passed, is divestment from “companies that are either Israeli or that have contributed to the war that’s being conducted by Israel,” as the students at the encampment at Dal have been calling for, along with the Dal Student Union, and joined by statements of solidarity from other student groups and faculty across Halifax and Nova Scotia.

“If the university is to take this courageous action of divestment from any institutions that are helping with this genocide, that’s a big pressure point because money talks, eventually,” said El Hazzouri. “Think about it collectively, as Canadian universities or as universities across the world: that makes a lot of difference.”

This past Sunday, June 2, marked the third week of students camping on the front lawn of Dalhousie University.

They have renamed the encampment “Al Zeitoun University,” where a member of the coalition from Dal tells The Coast they have free housing, shared meals and free education–through teach-ins.

The SLPK is comprised of students from five Halifax universities:

  • Dalhousie University (Dal)
  • The University of King’s College (King’s)
  • Saint Mary’s University (SMU)
  • The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD)
  • Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU)

Al Zeitoun University and the SLPK are calling for each university administration to “disclose and divest” money that sustains Israel’s occupation of Palestine, reads a pinned Instagram post from the group. “We as students…are the primary funders of these [university] institutions. We have a right to know where our money goes.”

In that same post, they write that they are privileged to be able to “live our lives as students.”

“We can still attend classes. We can graduate. Our institutions still stand, and we can still dream of a future. This is not the case for students in Gaza. There are no universities standing in Gaza.”

Dal is the only university to make a public statement acknowledging the encampment. The administration has had an initial meet-and-greet with some SLPK students, however the details of the meeting remain confidential until a plan is created for what happens next.

SLPK members told The Coast that tents will continue to go up as long as Dal, King’s, SMU, NSCAD and MSVU ignore the demands of disclosure and divestment from their students.

Alexina St. Pierre-Farrow is the chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students Nova Scotia (CFSNS) which represents all post-secondary students, domestic and international, in the province.

St. Pierre-Farrow said that the CFS has had many conversations about scholasticide in Gaza and that the general consensus is that people within the federation are feeling “deeply unsettled on a level that I can’t quite describe…to know that there are no universities left in Gaza.”

“Knowing that, here, many of us have the privilege to graduate and I think that is also motivation for fighting for the Palestinians who aren’t able to graduate–because they’re dead or displaced, because they’ve been murdered in their institutions before being able to complete their studies.”

St. Pierre-Farrow said the “decimation of learning institutions, specifically represents an aspect of cultural genocide because universities are where we keep our knowledge.”

St. Pierre-Farrow is an art history major at NSCAD and said that the universities in Gaza “had a wealth of knowledge of the land that went back thousands of years, and to have that destroyed is destroying the history of a people–of an Indigenous people.”

St. Pierre-Farrow is a Mi’kmaw student who researches pre-colonial culture “before it was intentionally destroyed by colonization,” and said that “Israel is destroying the history of the people of Palestine very intentionally…to tell the same lie that European colonizers told about us: that we have no history. But we did, and it was destroyed on purpose.”

Lauren Phillips, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Lauren Phillips is The Coast’s Education Reporter, a position created in September 2023 with support from the Local Journalism Initiative. Lauren studied journalism at the University of King’s College, and has written on education and sports at Dal News and Saint Mary's Athletics for over two years. She won gold...
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