Millions are protesting worldwide in support of the Palestinian cause and against Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Gaza. Support for Israel is dwindling and the voices calling for a ceasefire are becoming louder. In the US, Jews are taking to the street to demand a ceasefire. How many more innocent civilians must die before the international community steps in?
On 24 May 2021, 500 Biden staffers signed a letter calling on President Biden to do more to protect Palestinian lives in the aftermath of the Israeli police raid of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on 10 May 2021 (https://matan-aradneeman.medium.com/dear-president-biden-b19600918a67). The 2021 memo stated: “We remain horrified by the images of Palestinian civilians in Gaza killed or made homeless by Israeli airstrikes. We are outraged by Israel’s efforts to forcibly and illegally expel Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah. We are shocked by Israel’s destruction of a building housing international news organizations. We remain horrified by reports of Hamas rockets killing Israeli civilians … While Israelis had to spend nights hiding in bomb shelters, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip had nowhere to hide”. After the Israeli police raid, following an 11-day war and more than 200 Palestinians killed and more than 10 Israelis killed, nothing was learned.
Fast forward to October 2023 following the horrific terrorist attack by Hamas on 7 October 2023, Israel has relentlessly bombed civilians in Gaza. The death toll on the Palestinian side is rising by the hour. The illegal bombing of the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza on 17 October, which killed an estimated 500 innocent Palestinians, including many children, women and elderly, has not stopped Israel from continuing its relentless attacks on Gaza’s civilian population.
EU Officials Criticize Von der Leyen
On 20 October more than 800 EU officials wrote a letter to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen criticizing her “uncontrolled” support of Israel. They stated that this does not reflect EU values in light of the “seeming indifference demonstrated over the past few days by our institution towards the ongoing massacre of civilians in the Gaza Strip, in disregard for human rights and international humanitarian law”. The letter goes on to state that the Commission’s “double standards” and its “recent unfortunate actions or positions seem to give a free hand to the acceleration and the legitimacy of a war crime in the Gaza Strip”.
The signatories of the letter cannot understand how Von der Leyen, a staunch defender of Ukraine, can totally ignore the plight of Gaza civilians under siege and bombardment by Israel. “If Israel does not stop immediately, the whole Gaza Strip and its inhabitants will be erased from the planet. … We urge you [von der Leyen] to call, together with the leaders of the whole Union, for a ceasefire and for the protection of civilian life. This is at the core of the EU existence,” warning that a failure to do so will result in the EU losing all credibility. “We would have been proud if the European Union … had called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and indiscriminate violence against civilians.”
Despite the growing divide between EU staff members, EU policy is unlikely to change, according to an anonymous EU source quoted in Al Jazeera on 20 October. This source has stated that von der Leyen’s team completely misread the situation, believing it would be another “Ukraine moment” to gain the moral high ground, and goes on to say “… I think they’ve just been purely ignorant of the scale of oppression Palestinians have experienced, and the widespread understanding of the conflict as being a violent reaction to occupation”.
Capitol Hill Staffers Criticize Congress and Biden
On the same day, over 400 Capitol Hill staffers signed an open letter directly calling on US President Joe Biden and the US Congress to demand a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. The staffers were both Muslim and Jewish.
The open letter stated: “Today, we write to implore our bosses, Members of the United States Congress, to join calls for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Millions of lives hang in the balance, including the 2.3 million civilians — half of whom are children — in Gaza, civilians in Israel, and Jews and Muslims around the world”.
The staffers also called for the safe return of all Israeli hostages and the opening of safe passage for humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. Israel’s total siege and displacement of an entire civilian population from northern Gaza is a violation of the laws of war and the Geneva Conventions protecting civilians in time of war and amounts to ethnic cleansing. The Israeli attacks on Gaza’s civilian population are an outrageous example of collective punishment, illegal under international humanitarian law.
The open letter continues: “We have appreciated seeing nearly every Member of Congress express quick and unequivocal solidarity with the Israeli people, but we are profoundly disturbed that such shows of humanity have barely been extended to the Palestinian people. … Only a fraction have called for a ceasefire or at least cessation of hostilities. We believe that Palestinian civilians deserve to be remembered, mourned, and defended with the same rigor that Jewish Israelis deserve from the U.S. Congress.”
According to Politico, the 400 signatories chose to remain anonymous. This choice is not surprising, after the backlash against 34 student organizations at Harvard University which signed an open letter in support of Palestinians in Gaza.
Harvard Student Organizations Support Gaza Civilians
In the open letter published on 8 October titled ‘Joint Statement by Harvard Palestine Solidarity Groups on the Situation in Palestine’ the signatories stated they “hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence” following decades of occupation, adding that “the apartheid regime is the only one to blame. Israeli violence has structured every aspect of Palestinian existence for 75 years. From systemized land seizures to routine airstrikes, arbitrary detentions to military checkpoints, and enforced family separations to targeted killings, Palestinians have been forced to live in a state of death, both slow and sudden.”
The Harvard letter has since been taken down after Harvard’s powerful administration and various lobbies, mobbed, attacked, and shamed those individuals who personally signed the open letter. Harvard’s Hillel President penned a letter condemning the original letter. This letter was signed by 3000 individuals affiliated with Harvard.
According to Reuters, some of the organizations who signed the letter included “Muslim and Palestinian support groups plus others named for a variety of backgrounds including the Harvard Jews for Liberation and the African American Resistance Organization”. Other groups included the Harvard Pakistan Forum, the Harvard Undergraduate Nepali Students Association, Harvard Kennedy Bangladesh Caucus, the Harvard Kennedy School South Asia Caucus Leadership, the Harvard Divinity School Students for Justice in Palestine and the Harvard Undergraduate Arab Women’s Collective.
The letter by the Harvard student organizations went on to state: “Today’s events did not occur in a vacuum. For the last two decades, millions of Palestinians in Gaza have been forced to live in an open-air prison. Israeli officials promise to “open the gates of hell,” and the massacres in Gaza have already commenced. Palestinians in Gaza have no shelters for refuge and nowhere to escape. In the coming days, Palestinians will be forced to bear the full brunt of Israel’s violence.”
Republican Senator Ted Cruz and Representatives Ritchie Torres (Democrat) and Elise Stefanik (Republican) condemned the letter arguing that the letter implicitly or explicitly condoned terrorism. According to Phoebe Barr, a Harvard senior involved in Harvard activist groups, the letter did not condone violence – it was “a statement about the origins of conflict in the region and the way that governments can provoke violent attacks.”
In a statement to The Harvard Crimson, a representative from the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) rejected “the accusation that our previous statement could be read as supportive of civilian deaths.” Instead, “the statement aims to contextualize the apartheid and colonial system while explicitly lamenting the devastating and rising civilian toll.”
By the morning of 10 October, the letter made headline news and billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman demanded in a tweet that Harvard release all names of the signatories so that he and other business leaders would not inadvertently hire any of the students who had signed the letter or had a membership in the signing organizations.
The original signatories are now being actively sought out to publicly shame them. According to The Nation, at least four websites are now listing the personal information of these signatories. Hundreds of strangers are now trying to contact these individuals to harass and intimidate them. Their social media accounts are being targeted and intimidating messages, including death threats, are being posted.
A doxxing truck with three large screens has been parked on Harvard’s campus. The truck flashed pictures of the signatories to publicly shame them. Similar tactics of public shaming on large screens are employed in China to enforce its social credit system (SCS) aimed at enforcing a moral ranking system. The CCP (China’s Communist Party) uses the SCS to control its population. Harvard’s new President Gay did not have the truck removed.
Bowing to public pressure and harassment, five original signatories retroactively removed their names from the Harvard letter, those being Amnesty International at Harvard, Harvard College Act on a Dream, the Harvard Undergraduate Nepali Student Association, the Harvard Islamic Society, and Harvard Ghungroo.
On 19 October a leading US law firm, Davis Polk, withdrew employment offers from three law students at Harvard and Columbia Universities after these students made pro-Palestinian comments.
Jewish Voice for Peace Protest inside US Capitol
On 18 October about 300 American Jews were arrested after staging a protest demanding a ceasefire in Gaza. The Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), IfNotNow, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), and other groups rallied on the Capitol grounds and inside the building. Many thousands took part in the protest. Four hundred of the protesters, including 25 Jewish rabbis, entered the US Capitol and took part in a peaceful sit-in. The Jewish Voice for Peace is the largest progressive Jewish anti-Zionist organization in the world.
JVP declared their slogans are “not in our name” and “cease-fire now”. “We’re here to say: not in our names, and never again. … Cease-fire is the first step to stop the ongoing genocide by the Israeli military of the over 2 million Palestinians in besieged Gaza, unable to leave… In the past week, over 3000 [which has now surpassed 4500] Palestinians, including 1000 children, were murdered by Israeli and U.S. bombs. Over 1 million people are displaced. We have the power to stop this violence.”
According to a JVP spokesman: “What we know from past Israeli state atrocities against Palestinians is that the bombs only stop once there is a sufficient mass outcry from the international community,” JVP stated that it is “on us to build that outcry—as fast as we possibly can.”
“Many of us are mourning our Israeli and Palestinian friends and loved ones,” the group continued. “We are in pain and grief, trying to process a week of horrific violence that has left so many that we know injured, traumatized, kidnapped, or killed. … But we refuse to let our grief be weaponized to justify the murder of more Palestinians”
“As American Jews, we demand a cease-fire now. No genocide in our name.”
Millions are protesting worldwide in support of the Palestinian cause and against Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Gaza. In London, on 21 October, over 100 000 took part in a peaceful protest in support of Palestinians, two days after the UK Prime Minister met with Netanyahu to reinforce the UK’s support for Israel.
Not in our name.