Palestinians evacuate an injured girl in Gaza

Palestinians evacuate an injured girl following an Israeli airstrike on Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip on October 18, 2023.

(Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

600+ Western Writers, Artists Back Call for Immediate Cease-Fire in Gaza

"We plead for an end to all violence, an end to all oppression and denial of human rights, and a path towards a just and sustainable peace for all."

As Palestinians in Gaza endured "another day of hell" due to the ongoing assault by Israel, over 600 artists and writers from the European Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States on Wednesday released an open letter demanding "an end to the violence and destruction in Palestine."

The letter, published by the London Review of Books, is backed by academics, actors, artists, curators, dancers, designers, directors, educators, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, playwrights, poets, translators, and writers—including Naomi Klein, Laila Lalami, Sally Rooney, David Yates, and Gary Younge.

Since Gaza-based Hamas militants launched a major attack against Israel earlier this month, killing more than 1,400 Israelis and taking at least 199 others hostage, Israeli forces have responded with airstrikes on the besieged strip, killing at least 3,478 Palestinians and devastating civilian infrastructure.

"The state of Israel is committing grave crimes against humanity. Its allies, our own governments, are complicit in these crimes."

After a 16-year blockade, Israel has also imposed a "complete siege" of the strip, cutting off the people of Gaza from electricity, fuel, water, and other essentials. More than 800 global scholars have sounded the alarm "about the possibility of the crime of genocide being perpetrated by Israeli forces against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip."

The new letter states that "the deliberate killing of civilians is always an atrocity. It is a violation of international law and an outrage against the sanctity of human life. In Gaza, neither the occupying power, Israel, nor the armed groups of the people under occupation, the Palestinians, can ever be justified in targeting defenseless people. We can only express our grief and heartbreak for the victims of these most recent tragedies, and for their families, both Palestinians and Israelis."

"The unprecedented and indiscriminate violence that is still escalating against the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza, with the financial and political support of Western powers, can and must be brought to an end," it argues. "By cutting off vital electricity, food and water supplies; by attempting to displace by force over one million Palestinians from their homes, with no guarantee of return; and by carrying out continual airstrikes against civilians, including those who are attempting to evacuate, the state of Israel is committing grave crimes against humanity. Its allies, our own governments, are complicit in these crimes."

"Human rights groups have long condemned Israel's occupation of Palestine and the inhumane treatment of—and system of racial domination over—Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli state. But we are now witnessing a new and even more drastic emergency," notes the letter, pointing to experts' allegations that Israel is engaged in ethnic cleansing and genocide.

"We call on our governments to demand an immediate cease-fire and the unimpeded admission of humanitarian aid into Gaza. We also demand an end to all arms shipments and military funding, supplies that can only exacerbate the humanitarian catastrophe at hand," it concludes. "Although these measures will not be enough to secure true justice, liberation, and equality for all in the region, they represent an urgent and indispensable first step. We plead for an end to all violence, an end to all oppression and denial of human rights, and a path towards a just and sustainable peace for all."

The letter came as a Jewish-led direct action demanding a cease-fire resulted in arrests in Washington, D.C. It also came as U.S. President Joe Biden visited Israel and as the United States—which already gives Israel $3.8 billion in annual military assistance—vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning violence against civilians and calling for pauses to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.

HuffPost reported last week that U.S. State Department staff wrote in emails that press materials related to the war should not include the terms "de-escalation/cease-fire," "end to violence/bloodshed," and "restoring calm," a policy that critics called "unconscionable." The outlet revealed Wednesday that Biden administration staffers confirmed a similar "culture of silence" across federal agencies.

In a Wednesday letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Democratic Reps. Delia Ramirez (Ill.), Summer Lee (Pa.), and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.)—the only Palestinian American in Congress—demanded a briefing on the status of civilians in Gaza and efforts to evacuate Americans, free hostages, and get humanitarian aid into the strip.

"Blinken said on Sunday that the Egyptian-controlled Rafah border crossing in southern Gaza would reopen and the U.S. was working to get humanitarian assistance through it to ease the crisis," Al Jazeera reported Monday, noting that the estimated 500-600 Americans in Gaza were told "to move closer to the crossing for possible safe passage into Egypt."

Zakaria Alarayshi and his wife are among the hundreds of Americans trapped in Gaza. He told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that "I worked three jobs. I built a business. I pay taxes. I did everything right to build a better future for myself and my family and live honorably. But now I feel like a second-class citizen. President Biden should take care of everyone."

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