Dear CCAS and ACMCU Community,
These have been terrible days in the Middle East and in Washington, DC. As we write these lines, Israel is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip with the full military and diplomatic support of Western governments, the United States at the head of this charge.
The US and its allies are complicit in these war crimes. A leaked State Department memo, confirmed by The Washington Post has warned US diplomats from using the words “de-escalation/ceasefire,” and “end to violence/bloodshed” because these words did not comport with current U.S. policy. The Biden Administration is thus actively engaged in facilitating egregious violations of international law including what the UN has called the “mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.”
Last week started with a surprise attack on Israel on October 7, 2023 by armed groups based in Gaza (Hamas and Islamic Jihad) and the killing of over 1300 Israelis, many of them civilians. This was a moral obscenity that we unequivocally condemn. We must always condemn the killing of unarmed civilians wherever and whoever they are — Israeli or Palestinian. The killing of civilians is a clear violation of international law. These laws, however imperfect, are meant to protect us all; otherwise they are meaningless.
Israel’s response has been disproportionate. It has taken revenge on the entire population of Gaza’s 2.3 million people, half of whom are children, in acts of collective punishment that human rights groups have categorized as war crimes and crimes against humanity. We watch in horror the indiscriminate wiping out entire neighborhoods; cutting off water, electricity, and food supplies; the use of illegal white phosphorus; bombing hospitals, schools, and ambulances; targeting and killing of journalists; and demanding that half of Gaza’s population leave their homes within 24 hours. The founding prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Luis Moreno Ocampo has stated that “a full blockade of Gaza could be considered a crime against humanity and a genocide. It could be investigated by the International Criminal Court.” We would like to add it must be investigated by the ICC.
All this is happening on the heels of a 16 year blockade and de facto occupation that has turned Gaza into an epicenter of misery, poverty, and hopelessness in the region.
What we are witnessing is a Nakba of grave proportions, with active support from the United States and other Western liberal democracies. The dehumanization of the Palestinian people by US and European officials, as well as many mainstream media outlets is abhorrent. This has given the Israeli government a green light to commit these crimes with impunity.
When we study about great injustices in history — slavery, genocide, ethnic cleansing — many of us wonder what would we have done to stop these injustices. Would we have remained silent or would we have taken a stand against morally reprehensible policies unfolding in real time? We are now faced with this decision.
We urge you all to organize and take action in ways that are available and safe for you — write to your political representatives, protest, speak up in your classrooms, workspaces and neighborhoods. We know that the current climate is making it difficult to speak up and we want you to know that we are a resource for you in these difficult times. We must demand an immediate ceasefire and when this horrible violence stops, we must continue to fight for an end to occupation, lifting of the blockade of Gaza, a dismantling of the Israeli apartheid system, and freedom for the Palestinian people. Only then will all peoples — Israeli and Palestinians — know peace.
Fida J. Adely
Director, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
Director, Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding