U.S. President Joe Biden

U.S. President Joe Biden answers questions about Israel in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on February 8, 2024.

(Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

3,600+ US Scholars Outraged Over Gaza Want 'Action, Not Expletives' From Biden

"Mr. President, with all due respect, there is simply no explanation that PM Netanyahu—or you—could offer to justify this ongoing massacre and weaponization of humanitarian aid against the people of Gaza."

More than 3,600 university and college faculty, instructors, fellows, and research associates from across the United States have signed on to a Wednesday letter urging U.S. President Joe Biden to prevent genocide in Israel's war on the Gaza Strip.

After detailing how the Israeli assault has devastated Gaza, the scholars wrote that "we therefore urge your administration to apply human rights, international humanitarian law, and U.S. pressure consistently, not only when it comes to the attacks committed by Hamas or other militants on October 7, 2023, which killed an estimated 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals, including 36 children."

"Upholding this basic moral and legal principle demands that American officials also condemn the Israeli military's siege and bombardment of Gaza that has now killed over 27,000 Palestinians, including at least 10,000 children," the scholars asserted. "Yet, Mr. President, you have not only failed to condemn the ongoing massacre in Gaza. You have enabled it."

"Mr. President, you have not only failed to condemn the ongoing massacre in Gaza. You have enabled it."

The U.S. provides Israel with $3.8 billion in annual military aid, and in the wake of Hamas' October attack Biden sought a $14.3 billion package, which was passed by the Senate earlier this week but still needs House approval. The scholars' letter was also sent to senators.

"Given the unprecedented scale, duration, and nature of Israel's ongoing assault and multiple statements by Israeli officials conveying an intent to destroy all of Gaza under the pretext of destroying Hamas, there are substantial risks that genocide is unfolding in Gaza right now," the letter states.

"The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has found this charge plausible in its interim ruling on January 26, 2024 in South Africa v. Israel, and, more recently, a United States federal district judge has declared that 'the current treatment of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military may plausibly constitute a genocide in violation of international law,'" the letter continues. "These developments have only strengthened our resolve to speak out against atrocities taking place with U.S. support in real time."

The scholars are calling on Biden to:

  • Demand an immediate and permanent cease-fire and an end to Israel's blockade of Gaza;
  • Call for the peaceful release of all hostages held in Gaza and Palestinian political prisoners through further negotiations;
  • Refrain from dismissing legal proceedings underway at the ICJ;
  • Support the authority of the ICJ and the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate alleged genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes;
  • Restore funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA); and
  • Halt the transfer of weapons, munitions, and other military equipment to any parties of the conflict.

"We are not alone in our concerns," the scholars stressed, pointing to an October warning from over 300 U.S. legal experts about supporting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's war, a November request from 26 U.S. senators for assurances about the legality and viability of Israel's military operations, and a December New York Times opinion piece in which humanitarian leaders described the nightmare conditions in Gaza and argued that "the U.S. government must act now."

"Mr. President, with all due respect, there is simply no explanation that PM Netanyahu—or you—could offer to justify this ongoing massacre and weaponization of humanitarian aid against the people of Gaza," the scholars wrote Wednesday

The also calling on Biden to "demand that care and vigilance be extended to all threatened and vulnerable communities here in the United States," and rejected "the weaponizing of antisemitism to silence legitimate criticism of Israeli state policies and those speaking up for Palestinian human rights."

Some signatories are from institutions that have been part of national debates over speecn and action on campus related to Israel's war on Gaza, including Jhumpa Lahiri of Barnard College, Eve Troutt Powell of the Universtiy of Pennsylvania, and Sarah Schulman of Northwestern University.

Other signatories include Nancy McClean of Duke University; Angela Davis of the University of California, Santa Cruz; Juan Cole of the University of Michigan; and Peter Beinart of the City University of New York, who is also editor-at-large of Jewish Currents.

"It is unconscionable that our elected officials should continue to support such horrific violence while half of U.S. voters believe Israel has gone too far," Beinart said in a statement. "Biden's pejorative comments about Netanyahu serve as a frail smoke screen as the Senate and the president push military aid to Israel without restriction. We need action, not expletives from the president."

NBC Newsreported Monday that "Biden has been venting his frustration in recent private conversations, some of them with campaign donors, over his inability to persuade Israel to change its military tactics in the Gaza Strip," with the president saying that "he is trying to get Israel to agree to a cease-fire, but Netanyahu is 'giving him hell' and is impossible to deal with."

That followed Politico reporting last week that the U.S. president—a Democrat seeking reelection in November—has privately called Netanyahu a "bad fucking guy." In both cases, Biden spokespeople claimed the two leaders have "a decadeslong relationship that is respectful in public and in private."

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