It’s been over a month since Israel launched its siege of Gaza in response to Hamas and other groups’ Oct. 7 attacks on civilians and soldiers in Israel. The war has brought devastation, and these past few weeks have revealed how painful and difficult the conflict has been for us and our peers.
As representatives of our campus’ student-run newspaper, it is our responsibility to speak up on issues that affect our student body and to write the first draft of history for our present moment. This war has implications for all of us, regardless of how direct our connections to the region are. Whether it’s having family members in Gaza or Israel, identifying as part of a diaspora, supporting friends, or criticizing those in power, this terrible situation has touched all of us in some way or another.
We here on the Editorial Board of the Campus Times demand an immediate cease-fire. Below, we lay out our position — touching on the war’s history and delving into its injustices. Our argument against the war is split into three essential points divided by subheadings. We hope our arguments are clear and that they are accessible even to those without intensive knowledge of the intertwined history of Israel and Palestine.
Lastly, we spell out a series of actionable steps you can take — either as a University student, administrator, or trustee — in the face of this crisis that can seem so disempowering, in the face of the horror, the bloodshed, and the sheer inhumanity we have all witnessed over the past month.
1. This war is illegal
Several elements of this war butt up against the limits of international law. Some constitute clear and obvious violations, while other elements are merely questionable, but this shroud of illegality means this war must end.
We will start with the obvious violations. Israel has indiscriminately targeted Gaza’s civilian population. There is no plausible deniability, no “human shields” defense at this point: Israel’s rain of bombs on civilian infrastructure and slaughter of children and noncombatants en masse — no matter what their purported target may be — is a barbaric transgression against international law and humanity itself.
We’ve watched and listened as the death toll has slowly climbed. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says Israel has killed over 12,300 people since Oct. 7, and they fear that over 2,000 more are buried under rubble. The Ministry doesn’t differentiate between combatant and non-combatant deaths, but over 5,000 of the dead have been children, and over half have been women and children (though killing male civilians should bring no less shame).
Don’t let the inhumanity of the numbers shield your heart from this tragedy. These were over 12,300 people who laughed and loved and sang, who were parents and siblings, who were humans just like any of us. They were murdered because they were in Gaza at the wrong time.
Like fish in a barrel, Gaza’s civilians have nowhere to go. Israel’s bombardment and directives pushed those civilians southward — via a purported “humanitarian corridor” (an Orwellian nightmare-phrase) — to areas the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) haven’t stopped bombing. And now the IDF is saying they plan to escalate their operations in southern Gaza despite the immense civilian risk. Israel is outwardly admitting they don’t care about this risk.
“One of the more challenging situations is the simple fact that most of the people of the Gaza Strip are now concentrated in the south,” Giora Eiland, a former head of Israel’s National Security Council, told Reuters Saturday. “There will probably be more civilian casualties … It is not going to deter us or prevent us from moving forward.”
It may be the case that Hamas’ operations are embedded in civilian sites, and they too should face the full brunt of international law for that crime, but, as people have pointed out time and time again, the use of human shields doesn’t permit the slaughter of the human shields. It demands a heightened caution.
Israel’s siege of Gaza has been anything but cautious, and there is plenty of evidence that their “recklessness” may actually be an intentional vindictiveness intended to collectively punish Palestinians for the Oct. 7 attacks. And our monetary support of Israel’s siege means that we are culpable for the IDF’s acts, not Hamas’.
On top of this, Israel has repeatedly targeted UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) shelters and healthcare facilities in flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions. They conducted their siege of Al-Shifa Hospital under the pretense that the hospital complex, Gaza’s largest, housed a Hamas command-and-control center.
Despite Israel having yet to surface definitive evidence of that purported command-and-control center, the siege rendered the hospital inoperable, killed numerous patients, and has left even more at risk of death — including dozens of premature babies.
And that is just one of the several hospitals they’ve targeted. Things have gotten so bad that Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, took to X (the site formerly known as Twitter) to demand a cease-fire himself.
“We continue to call for protection of health and of civilians. The current situation is unbearable and unjustifiable,” he wrote. “Ceasefire. NOW.”
His post joined similar cries from the American Public Health Association, Doctors Without Borders, SEIU’s Committee of Interns and Residents, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United Organizing Committee, and many other healthcare organizations worldwide.
Israel’s war in Gaza has also, to our immense concern, killed 48 journalists. Reporters are public servants who deserve to be protected in combat zones. Israel has admitted to targeting them instead.
These are just aspects of Israel’s acts of warfare that are illegal. It is also the case, it must be pointed out, that the legality of the war itself is murky at best.
This is not a war between two totally independent nations. Israel is occupying Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank, and, under international law, Israel’s professed right of self-defense against these occupied territories is less clear than people often make it seem. Occupation — including Israel’s 16-year blockade of Gaza — is an act of offensive warfare, and belligerent occupying forces don’t have a right to defend themselves against the territories they occupy.
Francesca Albanese, UN special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, most recently advanced this argument during a Nov. 14 address to the National Press Club of Australia.
“Israel cannot claim the right of self-defense against a threat that emanates from a territory it occupies, from a territory that is under belligerent occupation,” the Hindustan Times quoted her as saying.
“What Israel was allowed to do was to act to establish law and order, to repel the attack, neutralize whomever was carrying out the attacks and then proceed with law and order measures … not waging a war,” she also said, as reported by the Hindustan Times.
This argument has been laid out more meticulously elsewhere — particularly in chapter seven of political scientist Dr. Norman Finkelstein’s 2018 book “Gaza: an Inquest into Its Martyrdom” and in a 2017 Al-Jazeera opinion piece written by attorney and political activist Stanley Cohen. Suffice to say, every ounce of international law points to Israel having a relatively narrow latitude for action in Gaza. Despite this, through the course of this war they have acted as though international law doesn’t apply to them whatsoever.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. We could print thousands of words about this, but what we’ve already referenced is enough: For humanity’s sake, we need a cease-fire now. If this war is allowed to continue, we shouldn’t delude ourselves into believing that we have anything resembling an international legal system. We need international legal accountability for the groups and people who have committed and abetted atrocities in the name of this war.
2. The end conditions of this war are uncertain
This war’s objectives are also unclear, and allowing it to continue in this foggy state is extending far too much trust to Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
Israel contends publicly that its two goals are to eliminate Hamas and to free the hostages being held in Gaza.
On freeing the hostages, reporting by The Guardian revealed Netanyahu struck down an early deal that might have freed “dozens” of hostages in favor of escalating the war with a ground invasion. The entire siege, The Guardian reports, has highlighted a schism between Netanyahu’s camp and the Mossad officials tasked with negotiating the hostage release deals. And it appears that Netanyahu’s camp has, at least at that early negotiating juncture, subserviated the aim of hostage releases to the aim of appearing hawkish and unrelenting publicly.
On the issue of “stamping out” Hamas, we question whether anyone knows what this means. Does it mean the elimination of every Hamas commander, including the ones who have fled to Lebanon? Does it mean kicking Hamas back enough to establish control over Gaza? Is it a longer-term objective that will be used to justify perpetual suppressive force as Israel rules over Gaza? This aim hasn’t been clarified whatsoever, and it gives dangerous room for the violence to continue unabated.
Postwar rule over Gaza is another unsettled issue that has caused a very public chasm between Netanyahu and Joe Biden’s administration. Biden announced in a Washington Post opinion piece that he favors Palestinian Authority control over Gaza, while Netanyahu has said, according to Reuters, “Israel must maintain ‘overall military responsibility’ in Gaza ‘for the foreseeable future.’”
It is unclear how Israeli administration over a rightfully hostile postwar population would make the world safer for either Palestinians or Israelis, and it certainly would decimate the idea of a serious long-term peace process, as that process would necessarily require self-determination for Palestinian people. Israeli administration over Gaza would be a step backwards. This absurd prospect remains a real possibility, but the U.S. is still shoveling money to this war effort without any critical thought.
Allowing this destructive freight train to continue unabated to its uncertain destination has already reached an unthinkable level of irresponsibility. We need a cease-fire now, and we need to settle on a reasonable plan for the postwar administration of Gaza that will not undermine the goal of a lasting peace. This means no occupation, no blockade, and legitimate self-determination for the Palestinian people in exchange for fair security enforcement to protect Israeli civilians.
3. This war is undemocratic
This shouldn’t have to be an aside point, but most Americans don’t support the continuation of this war.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll from Nov. 15 shows nearly 70% of Americans agree that “Israel should call a ceasefire and try to negotiate.” Americans’ belief that the U.S. should be backing Israel dropped from 41% to 32% over the course of the prior month. The most popular view, with 39% support, is now that the U.S. should be a neutral mediator.
Our government should be accountable to the people, especially on matters as sensitive as war, and especially when the public is in such resounding agreement. A cease-fire is morally right, legally sensible, and the will of the American public, so the American government ought to push for an end to the hostilities rather than continue down its current path of backing Israel’s escalation.
Our calls to action
We will end this piece with several calls to action. Some of them are pipe dreams we’re desperately tossing in the vague direction of the federal government (as it is our right to do), and others are more actionable directives aimed at the University’s administration and students. We hope all of them can prompt further conversation and advance the goals of the worldwide cease-fire movement that has courageously opposed these hostilities.
First and foremost, we call on the U.S. government to cease sending military aid to Israel, to apply pressure and demand a cease-fire, and to leverage its power in the United Nations to ensure Palestinians are allowed to rule over the Gaza Strip in the wake of the fighting. And we call on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to exercise its jurisdiction over the occupied Palestinian territories by prosecuting the violations of international law that were committed in the course of this war.
Hopefully Biden and the ICC read the Campus Times.
We now want to address the University administration. We appreciate that our student body has been given wider room to protest, speak freely, and organize in the face of this war than many other student bodies in the country. But the administration has, predictably and defensibly, come out in opposition to disruptive protests.
We believe that — if administrators really want to avoid disruptive protests — they should facilitate actual dialogue about small-scale actions the University can take to support Palestinian students and the people of Gaza at large rather than just sending ominous emails about code of conduct policies.
If you want students to cease disruptions, stop sending waffling statements that refer to “the deaths of Palestinians” in carefully-deployed and dehumanizing uses of the passive voice. We recognize the criss-crossing monetary responsibilities of the administration, but we plead: Have some moral courage, please, and give students a chance to explain the action items you can take to lend support to justice.
Next, we call on the University’s Board of Trustees to engage in a similar act of moral courage. We plead for you all to take your boatloads and trainloads of dollars and divest them from this war. Your wealth and your positions give you an outsized influence in this world and in this country, and we beg you to use that power in the pursuit of justice.
At the very least, we ask that you not pressure the administration into acting hastily and in ways that might undermine our right to speak freely and learn. In short, please recognize your power, and please wield it with humanity.
Finally, we call on everyone, particularly students, to join us in our demands by taking some simple steps.
Call and fax your representatives and senators to demand they come out in support of a cease-fire. It is easy to scoff at the idea of public pressure in the face of a war that seems to have so much inertia, but issuing these demands for action is the least we can do as U.S. residents to defend the lives of those abroad.
Engage in acts of monetary protest. Call out sources of war funding and demand public accountability. Follow the guidelines of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, at least for the course of this war. Store your money in a bank that engages in ethical lending practices, like Amalgamated, for example. Do everything you can to strictly keep your money from funneling towards the war effort: Your taxes are already supporting it enough.
We’ll close with our simplest call. Don’t stop protesting. Don’t let anyone shut you up. Keep advocating for humanity and justice even as the world turns away from it. Remain steadfast in your calls: Demand a cease-fire now.
The Editorial Board is a weekly Opinions article representing the view of the Campus Times. This piece was co-written by Editor-in-Chief Alyssa Koh, Publisher Sarah Woodams, Managing Editor Justin O’Connor, Managing Editor Allie Tay, and Opinions Editor Sunahra Tanvir. This article was published as part of the CT’s Nov. 21, 2023 Special Edition on Israel-Palestine.
Correction: One use of the term “Israel’s war on Gaza” published in the CT’s Nov. 21 print edition was corrected online to “Israel’s war in Gaza” on Nov. 21.