The Palestinian academic and activist Refaat Alareer was killed on Wednesday in an airstrike in northern Gaza, according to his father-in-law. He was 44.
A literature professor at Islamic University of Gaza, Mr. Alareer became known outside the territory for editing two books of essays and short fiction in English about the struggles of life in Gaza, “Gaza Writes Back” and “Gaza Unsilenced.”
Mr. Alareer, who also wrote his own poetry and short fiction, gained a global following for his political activism on behalf of Palestinians. But in Israel, he was notorious for comments he made online and in his classroom that were virulently anti-Israeli and antisemitic.
“We could die this dawn,” Mr. Alareer wrote on Dec. 4, in one of his last social media posts. “I wish I were a freedom fighter so I die fighting back those invading Israeli genocidal maniacs invading my neighborhood and city.”
In one of his last poems, posted on the social media website X, he discussed the possibility of his death:
If I must die
let it bring hope
let it be a tale
Saker Abu Hain, Mr. Alareer’s father-in-law, confirmed his death to The New York Times. Mr. Abu Hain, 68, a retired deputy minister in Gaza’s Hamas-controlled government, said Mr. Alareer was killed along with Mr. Alareer’s brother, sister and several other family members.
To many Palestinians and their supporters, Mr. Alareer was an important champion of Palestinian writers who brought their voices and anger to the attention of the world.
“More than a teacher, he was a mentor, a friend, and he truly cared about his students beyond the classroom,” Jehad Abusalim, a Palestinian writer who studied under Mr. Alareer, wrote on social media.
Among Israelis, Mr. Alareer was known for posting hateful comments about Israel and its citizens. He regularly cursed Israelis and people he considered to be their supporters, describing them as “scum,” “Nazis” and “filth.” Mr. Alareer said Israel was “the root cause of evil” and “worse than Nazi Germany,” and said that Palestinian violence against Israel could not be described as terrorism.
In response to early, since debunked, claims that an Israeli baby, killed in the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7, had been found in an oven, Mr. Alareer asked in a social media post, “with or without baking powder?”
Since Oct. 7, Mr. Alareer had also been criticized for portraying the assault, which killed an estimated 1,200 people, as a valid act of resistance and dismissing reports of sexual violence during the raid.
Mr. Alareer’s anger at Israel was exacerbated by its previous military campaigns in Gaza, one of which killed his brother in 2014, and the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza, which at times prevented him from leaving Gaza to teach and study abroad.
In 2021, Mr. Alareer was the subject of a profile in The Times, in which a reporter described a lecture in which Mr. Alareer spoke positively about a poem by the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai.
Mr. Alareer described the poem as “beautiful,” and said it showed the “shared humanity” of Israelis and Palestinians. Mr. Alareer also said he admired how it showed that Jerusalem is a place “where we all come together, regardless of religion and faith.”
After the article was published, it emerged that Mr. Alareer had given a very different presentation of the poem two years earlier. In a video of a lecture he gave in 2019, Mr. Alareer said it was “horrible” and “dangerous,” and “brainwashed” readers into thinking that Israelis were “innocent.”
In the same lecture, Mr. Alareer also said that a second poem, by the Israeli poet Tuvya Ruebner, was “in part to blame for the ethnic cleansing and destruction of Palestine.”