The Right is using Palestine to further its assault on higher ed and recruit centrists to its cause.

by Alberto Toscano, In These Times

On January 17, after having first occupied it as a military base and interrogation center, the Israeli army employed scores of landmines to blow up Israa University, the last institution of higher learning then left standing in Gaza. While the terms ​scholasticide,” ​educide” and ​epistemicide” have long been used to describe the assault on Palestinian intellectual life and infrastructure, they have become grimly literal as Israel’s war on Gaza effects what journalist Eman Alhaj Ali calls the erasure of Gaza’s education system. The logic of elimination undergirding Israel’s effort to make Gaza uninhabitable has included the demolition of academic buildings, the lethal targeting of its scholars and intellectuals — from the poet and literature professor Refaat Alareer to the rector of the Islamic University and scientist Sufyan Tayeh — as well as the slaughter of countless students. Genocide, to borrow from literary scholar and Al-Aqsa professor Haidar Eid, has gone hand-in-hand with sociocide and ideocide.

Any discussion of the latest phase in the United States’ so-called ​campus wars” must start from here, and not just to check the language we use to talk about conflict. Ever since the 1960s, intense fights over political speech, protest and curricula have periodically roiled U.S. universities. But the current war against Palestinian life and culture, which many young people correctly perceive as an Israeli-American war, has marked a new phase in these ideological and discursive conflicts, one whose violence has not just been metaphorical — recall the shooting of three Palestinian students near the University of Vermont in late November.

students hold flags and protest banners at a palestine protest

Over the last four months, as Israel has ratcheted up its long-term attacks on Palestinian intellectual life, pro-Israel political actors in the United States have tied the silencing of Palestinian solidarity to ongoing campaigns against critical and progressive agendas in education. In so doing, they are also bringing together the political center and far Right in ways that trouble the narrative of a coming battle between a broad liberal front and a proto-fascist Trumpism.

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