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There’s No Path to Ending Bloodshed If Palestinian Rights Continue to Be Denied

The U.S. must stop enabling Israel’s brutal collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza.

A man wails after Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on October 9, 2023.

Part of the Series

Since last weekend I’ve been glued to the news and frantically checking on my family and friends in Gaza and the West Bank. I grieve for the loss of Palestinian and Israeli lives and I mourn with all those who lost loved ones and those who continue to suffer the consequences of the longest occupation in modern history.

This week’s violence did not start with Hamas’s October 7 act of armed resistance against Israel, which surprisingly shocked Israelis and the world. As a result of the attack — which some have argued is better understood not as an act of war but as an “open-air prison revolt,” due to the suffocating conditions of the never-ending siege of Gaza — Israelis have momentarily experienced what Palestinians have endured on a daily basis for decades. The nightmare that has unfolded is the direct and inevitable result of a decades-long policy of ethnic cleansing and apartheid.

Since taking office, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has moved quickly — together with his racist, far right, anti-Palestinian partners — to implement new policies that have escalated the violence. These new policies include intensified military raids and targeted assassinations of Palestinians labeled as threats by the Israeli state, stepped-up demolitions of Palestinian homes, and the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian land.

It is heart-wrenching to see the images of death, massive destruction and demolition of entire residential neighborhoods in Gaza, including schools, hospitals, apartment buildings and mosques. As I write, Israeli missiles and airstrikes are pounding Gaza indiscriminately in violation of international law and human rights law.

In a press conference after forming an emergency war government with opposition leader Benny Gantz, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Every Hamas member is a dead man … Hamas is ISIS, and we will crush and eliminate it.” He then ordered the carpet bombing of Gaza targeting not only Hamas but also hammering Palestinian residential neighborhoods indiscriminately. According to the Gaza health ministry, the death toll after the fifth day of bombardment exceeded 1,200 Palestinians, including over 300 children and nearly 200 women. Israel is utilizing its military might — which includes one of the world’s most powerful and dangerously equipped army, air force and navy, with a significant unacknowledged nuclear arsenal — against a caged, occupied and crowded population. Israeli politicians, including Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel army Major General Ghasan Alyan, are calling for “turning Gaza into rubble” and “opening the gates of hell.” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant made a genocidal announcement and ordered an even more complete “full blockade” of Gaza and said that Israel will “cut all water, electricity, fuel and food…. We are fighting human animals and we act accordingly.”

The nightmare that has unfolded is the direct and inevitable result of a decades-long policy of ethnic cleansing and apartheid.

How many times before have we heard Israel threaten the “flattening” of Gaza? It is outrageous and shortsighted to describe Hamas’s actions as “an unprovoked attack,” as U.S. mainstream media, the White House and members of Congress are doing. (Notably, some voices in Israeli media such as Haaretz are more willing to acknowledge the roots of the violence.)

Over 2 million Palestinians — most of whom are refugees from the wars of 1948 and 1967 — have been under siege since 2007 and subjected to relentless airstrikes every few years that have caused a tragedy of unimaginable proportions: families displaced from their destroyed homes; a shattered economy with 42 percent unemployment rate; no freedom of movement; lack of life-sustaining resources such as food, water, and fuel; and 80 percent of the population relying on international humanitarian aid for survival. The root cause of the violence is the oppression of a people, who for decades have been struggling to gain their freedom and equality and are witnessing an “international community” unwilling to address the injustice, systemic gross violations of international law, denial of their rights and the horrific conditions they have endured.

A friend in Gaza said to me recently, “What is worse than dying in Gaza is living [in Gaza].” The dire humanitarian conditions in Gaza — coupled with shortages of food, electricity, fuel and medical supplies — have left Palestinians without life-sustaining goods and services, and with endless misery and hardship.

As I write, Israeli missiles and airstrikes are pounding Gaza indiscriminately in violation of international law and human rights law.

It is the continuous, nonstop aggression, settler violence and abhorrent crimes of apartheid that provoke an armed response. Let us also be clear that the U.S. government is complicit in these acts and is the prime enabler of the continued oppression and dehumanization of Palestinians. The U.S. and other European allies who are supporting the Israeli military as it carries out collective punishment against Palestinians — bombing apartment buildings, razing entire neighborhoods and cutting electricity to the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza — bear full responsibility for the bloodshed. In a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Biden reiterated the U.S.’s “rock solid and unwavering support” and ordered U.S. military ships to move closer to the eastern Mediterranean. According to a report by CBS News, the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group includes the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, which is the largest warship in the world, as well as five guided missile warships.

We call on our elected officials and all those who care about justice and human life to do everything they can in order to secure an immediate ceasefire, to stop the annihilation of Palestinians, to end the 17-year-old suffocating blockade on Gaza and end U.S. funding of the Israeli apartheid regime with taxpayers’ dollars. Sending more U.S. weapons to Israel will only add fuel to the violence and result in more deaths and devastation.

On October 10, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Ranking Member Gregory W. Meeks (D-New York), joined by 390 of their colleagues, introduced a bipartisan resolutionstanding with Israel as it defends itself against the barbaric war launched by Hamas and other terrorists and condemning Hamas’ brutal war against Israel.”

Without a change in current U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine and without Congress’s ability to see that a “barbaric war” against the Palestinians has been taking place since before 1948, there will never be a just peace in the region.

Isn’t it time to put an end to all this suffering by supporting freedom and equality for all?

International human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have issued extensive reports that concluded that Israel practices apartheid. United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory Francesca Albanese has come under vicious attacks following her report highlighting Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid. Hagai El-Ad, director of B’Tselem, Israel’s oldest human rights organization, recently said in its report, “Israel is not a democracy that has a temporary occupation attached to it: It is one regime between the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, and we must look at the full picture and see it for what it is: apartheid.” Yet, our elected officials disregard all of this, including the International Criminal Court’s labeling of apartheid as “a crime against humanity.”

Why hasn’t the U.S. government shown Palestinians the same empathy, compassion, support and resolve that it has shown our brothers and sisters in Ukraine? In a clear display of double standards, U.S. government officials hail Ukrainians fighting the illegal Russian occupation as heroes and supply them with arms to defend themselves, but Palestinians — who also struggle to end an illegal occupation — are routinely labeled as terrorists (long before Hamas even existed). Some officials falsely accuse American supporters of Palestinian rights of antisemitism, while others slander Jewish supporters of Palestinian rights as self-hating Jews.

This outrage must end. There can be no hope for peace until there is an end to the occupation; until Palestinians get justice, freedom and equal rights; and until Israel adheres to international law. Those who care about humanity — and those who care about the lives of Israelis and Palestinians — will have to ask themselves a simple question: Isn’t it time to put an end to all this suffering by supporting freedom and equality for all?

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