The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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The United States must stop the Israel-Hamas War

Illustration by Maliahguiya Sourgose on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2023.

We are a Jewish American and an Israeli American. We have strong empathy for the Israeli families that have lost loved ones or have a family member being held captive in Gaza. At the same time, we have equal empathy for the Palestinian families that have lost loved ones during Israeli bombardment.

Hamas massacred over 1400 Israelis on Oct. 7; they also captured 220 hostages, mostly civilians, as reported by Reuters. It was an atrocity and is considered a war crime by international human rights organizations.

The massacres are not justified by the immeasurable killing of Palestinians by Israelis over the past 75 years. They are rightly condemned by most people and governments in the world that demand the immediate release of all hostages.

As of Oct. 30, four civilians were released by Hamas, and a female soldier was rescued by Israel.

Israel surely has the right to defend itself and its people from future attacks by seeking justice against Hamas. However, Israel does not have the right to massacre Palestinians in revenge. Hamas’ war crimes do not justify Israel attacking the 2 million mostly civilians imprisoned by Israel and Egypt in Gaza.

War crimes must not be avenged by more war crimes. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening.

We must remember that Palestinians live under suffocating Israeli oppression—an occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and a siege over the Gaza Strip, the target of the current war. Over two million people living in the Gaza Strip have been under a 16-year Israeli siege that makes life unbearable.

Before the current bombardment, Israel’s siege destroyed Gaza’s economy–unemployment stands at 50%–and its infrastructure. Electricity is limited to a few hours each day, there is no clean drinking water, and sewage disposal is almost non-existent.

Israel’s ongoing siege prevents Gaza residents from traveling for work, education, health care, or family obligations. Moreover, regularly bombings over the years have killed thousands and destroyed homes, businesses, factories, farms and civic buildings, such as schools and hospitals.

The situation in the West Bank, where about three and a half million people live, is different. The West Bank has been under military occupation for 56 years. That means there are arbitrary arrests, home demolitions, limits on travel, and weekly killings of Palestinians civilians, including journalists and medical personnel.

The occupation is so deeply embedded and so completely controls the lives of the people that international and even Israeli human rights organizations consider it apartheid.

Perhaps the worst sin of the occupation is that since 1967 the Israel government has built about 200 segregated towns and villages, called settlements, across the West Bank. These settlements are for Jews only, even though many were built on stolen Palestinian land.

A similar parallel would be if a new subdivision in America was reserved by law solely for white Christians. Can you imagine that?

Even worse, Jews living in settlements are under Israeli civil law whereas Palestinians living in adjacent villages are under military law. Palestinians in the West Bank are subject to violent attacks from Jewish settlers, who have stolen their sheep, burned their olive groves, and have forced abandonment of several Palestinian villages.

Settlements embody apartheid.

Is it any wonder, then, that Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip and the West Bank are frustrated and have no hope for their future?

Where we are today
The first steps to end the present and long-term carnage would be for Israel to lift its siege on the Gaza Strip and to end its occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Alas, there is little hope of that happening with Israel’s present radical, far-right, Jewish-supremacist government.

Instead, Israel has set out on a path of retribution. On Oct.13, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog said, “it is an entire nation out there that is responsible,” suggesting that civilians in Gaza are legitimate targets.

On Oct. 27, Israel cut the internet and telecommunications, plunging Gaza into an information black hole. And on Oct.30, Israeli’s Intelligence Ministry suggested moving Gaza’s civilian population to tent cities in northern Sinai, building permanent cities for them, and blocking displaced Palestinians from reentering Israel.

Indeed, Israel’s retaliation has been inhumane. It has gone far beyond what is condoned under International Law. In the first 17 days since the Hamas massacre, as of Oct. 26, Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has killed over 7,000 mostly civilian Palestinians–66% were children and women. Over 1,600 Palestinians (900 children) are currently missing. Israel has even bombed Palestinians attempting to escape the onslaught, as reported by Reuters.

Despite this, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel is just getting started.

We fear the Palestinian death toll will sharply increase, especially when Israel starts its planned ground invasion.

Israel has attempted to end Hamas’ rule in five previous major attacks on Gaza. While Israel has claimed success, Hamas still remains in power. A military defeat cannot extinguish the fundamental Palestinian drive to live in freedom. The only thing Israel’s bombardment will accomplish is an endless cycle of violence and massacre.

Past, present and future role of the U.S. government
Hamas and Israel are the actors in the present war, but each side is enabled by outside powers. The United States and its allies are significant players in the conflict. They consistently back Israel in its denial of Palestinian individual and national rights, including military and diplomatic support for Israeli’s occupation/apartheid and siege.

President Biden’s full-throated support of Israeli retaliation encourages Israeli bombardment of Gaza, leading to massive amounts of death and destruction. The American media generally follows these political leaders, although there are occasional articles, op-eds, and broadcast reports that highlight Palestinian suffering and question Israel’s killing of civilians.

The American position has contradictory goals. One goal is humanitarian—to release hostages, to bring aid to the people in Gaza, and to advocate for the upholding of the laws of war.

Sadly, that is just talk. The only way to accomplish this goal is to follow the U.N. Secretary General Guterres’ demands for an immediate and complete humanitarian cease fire, release of all hostages, and to pressure Israel not to militarily invade Gaza. Otherwise, hostages will be inadvertently killed.

Most of the world is united in calling for a cease fire, especially since the Oct. 17 explosion at the Al Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza City that killed hundreds of people.

The release of hostages and a cease fire are interlinked for both sides: Israel wants the hostages released before a cease fire whereas Hamas wants a cease fire before it releases hostages.

But Israel is opposed to a cease fire and, on Oct.18, the U.S. vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that condemned Hamas, the killing of civilians, and called for a humanitarian pause in the fighting.

A second goal, shared by the leaders of the U.S., France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom, is to support Israel. They pledge the “steadfast and united support to the State of Israel, and our [their] unequivocal condemnation of Hamas and its appalling acts of terrorism,” while ignoring the thousands of Palestinians already killed by Israel’s bombardment.

President Biden asked Congress to authorize military assistance for Israel. He has also sent the U.S. 6th Fleet to the eastern Mediterranean to “protect” Israel from Hezbollah or Iran joining the war. While this action supports Israel, it also has a humanitarian aim by limiting a potential expansion of the war.

Hope for the future
It pains us to report that the U.S. has abandoned any pretense of being committed to Middle East peace and progress. It has a responsibility and obligation to pressure Israel to work for a lasting peace. The way to do that is clear—the U.S. must act on its long-standing goal of a Palestinian state alongside Israel with full security guarantees for all people in the region.

The U.S. is the only country in the world in a position to exert sufficient pressure on Israel to accept that solution.

Remember, it was President Carter’s pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin that brought the 1979 Camp David Accords into existence. If the U.S. pursues this path, it would be richly rewarded because a lasting peace will be welcomed by a majority of Israeli and Palestinian people and by most people and states in the world.

Will Israel and the U.S. ever learn that there is no military solution to Israel’s problem with the Palestinians and that legitimate and illicit resistance emerges in response to occupation/apartheid/siege? By not vigorously pursuing peace, the region will experience bloodbaths forever.

Jeff Warner is a long-time peace activist in Los Angeles focused on bringing peace to the people of Israel and Palestine. He is Action Coordinator for the peace group LA Jews for Peace. He is a retired geologist.
Yossi Khen is an Israeli-American who has been working for a Palestinian state alongside Israel since 1970, when he served in the Israeli army and saw first hand the oppression of Palestinians. He is a retired computer systems analyst.

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