Pro-Palestinian Demonstrators March to Demand an End of the War

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators march on January 15, 2024 in New York City. Pro-Palestinian supporters marched on Martin Luther King Jr Day to demand healthcare and an end of Israel's war in Gaza.

(Photo by Eduardo MunozAlvarez/VIEWpress)

Silence is Complicity: Americans Must Oppose the Ongoing Israeli Assault on Gaza

Nothing can justify this. Collective punishment is a war crime.

More than two million Palestinians in Gaza are facing an existential threat at the hands of Israel, a nuclear-armed state with the full backing of the United States. It is critical that Americans do everything we can to end the violence and destruction immediately. Silence in the face of clear evidence of crimes against humanity and stated intent to destroy a people is complicity. Israeli President Isaac Herzog, for example, has declared that Israel will break the “backbone” of the “entire nation” in Gaza and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has vowed that “we will eliminate everything.” The scale and scope of the damage caused since confirm that these statements were not hyperbolic or idle threats. This is exactly what is happening.

The ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza has killed more than 24,000 people and injured another 61,000. According to Oxfam, 250 more Palestinians are killed every day; a far higher death rate than any other conflict in the 21st century. Seventy percent of those killed are children and women. In the first month of the assault alone, Israel killed ten times as many Palestinian children as the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine killed in its first year. Eighty-five percent of the population of Gaza is displaced, forced from their homes by Israeli soldiers, tanks, and fighter jets. Hundreds of schools, health facilities and religious sites have been attacked, and nearly 70% of the homes in Gaza have been destroyed by what US President Joe Biden and independent United Nations experts have called indiscriminate Israeli bombing.

All of Israel’s actions are enabled by the unwavering economic, diplomatic, and military support of the United States.

Palestinians in Gaza are also dying of hunger, cold, and disease. According to Human Rights Watch, hundreds of thousands face famine because Israel is using mass starvation as a weapon of war. On January 5, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths stated that “Gaza has simply become uninhabitable. Its people are witnessing daily threats to their very existence – while the world watches on.” This cannot be dismissed as simply “what happens in war.” Many experts in the field have characterized the Israeli assault on Gaza as genocide. The South African government has brought a petition to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Israel of violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. South Africa is seeking a provisional measure that would force Israel to end its military onslaught in Gaza.

The ongoing Israeli assault came in reaction to the October 7, 2023, Hamas-led attack in Israel that killed more than 1,100 people, including nearly 700 civilians. No matter the perpetrator, intentionally attacking civilians—and failing to distinguish between military and civilian targets—is strictly forbidden under international humanitarian law. The Hamas-led attack was abhorrent and clearly violated international law. But we must be crystal clear: The attack on October 7 does not, and cannot, justify indiscriminate bombing and intentionally starving millions of civilians in response. Nothing can justify this. Collective punishment is a war crime.

Moreover, it is crucial to understand that the October 7 attack, and the genocidal Israeli reprisal, did not happen in a vacuum. The most recent escalation is situated in a broader context of repeated Israeli military assaults on Gaza in 2008-2009, 2012, 2014, and 2021 that together killed more than 4,000 Palestinians and injured 20,000 more. According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, between the year 2000 and October 6, 2023, more than 10,000 Palestinians were killed by Israel. Around 1,300 Israelis were killed in that same period. Israel has maintained a near-total blockade of Gaza since 2007. And Israel has conducted an illegal 56-year military occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem that began in 1967, during which it has continuously, and illegally, annexed Palestinian land. As the occupying power, Israel has specific responsibilities under international law. It is obligated to end its occupation and until it does, Palestinians have a well-established right to resist.

All of Israel’s actions are enabled by the unwavering economic, diplomatic, and military support of the United States. Across decades, the US has sent Israel billions of dollars to fund its military and it has consistently stymied efforts to hold Israel accountable for violations of international law. As we speak, American-made and supplied weapons are being used to kill and injure tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians. That means that Americans have an urgent obligation to do everything that we can to oppose the violence and to work toward an immediate ceasefire. We need to demand an end to the siege and longstanding blockade so that critically needed aid can enter Gaza. We must push for an end to the illegal Israeli military occupation and support efforts to hold all perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity accountable. Finally, it is imperative to advance serious diplomatic negotiations that create just, peaceful, and lasting solutions that foreground the right to Palestinian liberation and self-determination that has been denied by Israel for decades.

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