THE Islamic University of Gaza – which has a twinning programme with Glasgow University – lies in ruins.

The oldest higher education institution in the territory is not alone. Israel's bombardment of Gaza has destroyed every one of its four universities, Gaza City’s main public library, countless bookshops, publishing houses and 352 Palestinian schools.

South Africa’s genocide case against Israel, set to be brought to the International Court of Justice on Thursday, states among other allegations that Israel is destroying Gaza’s “future academic and cultural potential” – with 4037 students and 209 teachers and educational staff among the dead.

Allison Phipps, a professor at the University of Glasgow (below), worked with the Islamic University of Gaza for 15 years on projects funded by the UK Government and the European Union.

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“Some of my colleagues have now been killed by Israel or missing along with countless students, or simply out of contact.

“We worked on academic peace-building projects, on intercultural communication, language pedagogy, arts, cultural heritage & gender-based violence. It’s ALL destroyed.”

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The academic – who is also the UNESCO Chair for Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts – then referred to a video published on Twitter/X today (January 10) showing what little remains of the Islamic University.

“Papers blowing in the video are blowing around like tumbleweed,” she said.

“Bodies of scholars, trained medical workers and students lie decomposing under rubble, or in mass graves, years and years of the painstaking work of research and scholarship.”

South Africa’s legal filing noted that leading Palestinian academics who have been killed so far in the war between Israel and Hamas include the President of the Islamic University and award-winning physicist Sufian Tayeh, former president and professor of immunology and virology Muhammad Eid Shabir and poet and professor Refaat Alareer.

“Professor Refaat was our colleague working to develop the capabilities of and with women in storytelling and in preserving the intangible cultural heritage of Palestinian culture and the Gaza Strip,” Phipps said.

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“He was a brilliant decolonial thinker in the context of Palestine, especially with regard to the violence effects of all settler colonialism, not least that stemming from the Balfour Declaration.”

“He was beloved by his students who he taught to become writers, poets, story-writers and journalists, he was passionate about poetry and folktales and ensuring the survival of the intangible cultural heritage of Palestine.

Phipps told The National that she gets up every morning “unable to fully comprehend” the destruction.

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“15 years of our work and that right now all is literally in ruins. I write to my still surviving colleagues every day knowing every communication could be our last,” Phipps said.

She added: “It is like being with people on death row who are entirely innocent, caught up in a frenzy of destruction of everything it means to be Palestinian.

“It is beyond anything I have ever experience in my 29 year career as an academic.”

The University of Glasgow has been approached for comment.