The horror in the Middle East is growing. Hamas, the Sunni Islamist movement that governs
the Gaza Strip and violently opposes Israel, triggered the current catastrophe when its surprise
attack in Israel killed 1400 Israelis, including many children. In rage and retaliation, Israel has
responded by assaulting Gaza, launching mass bombing raids, cutting off access to water, food,
electricity and fuel, warning over one million Gazans to evacuate to the South, and beginning a
ground operation in the North. As this is written, an estimated 8005 Palestinians have been
killed, including over 3000 children, and UN agencies warn the humanitarian crisis has reached
an” unprecedented point.”

Across the world and across this country, citizens have marched to decry the Hamas terrorist
attacks, to protest the Israeli assault on Gaza, to demand a ceasefire, emergency humanitarian
assistance, and negotiations to end the violence. Antisemitism and anti-Arab passions are rising
here and elsewhere.

We should not forget. It is possible to be pro-Palestinian without being pro-Hamas. Indeed,
most Palestinians do not support Hamas. It is possible to oppose Israel’s policies without being
antisemitic. Indeed, most Israelis oppose the current government of Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Israeli rage, fear and desire to strike back after the terrorist attacks is understandable. That
does not justify mass retaliation against civilians living in Gaza. The anger and desperation of
those living in Gaza – termed an “open air prison” even before the current crisis – is
understandable. That does not justify terrorist attacks on civilians, and children in Israel.
President Biden has supported Israel in this crisis, while calling on the Netanyahu government
to adhere to the laws of war and mobilizing efforts to get humanitarian aid into Gaza. The US
has moved warships into the Eastern Mediterranean, and reinforced its troops in the region,
warning Iran and outside forces not to expand the conflict. The Biden administration’s call for
billions in aid – largely armaments –to Israel has bipartisan support in the Congress.
While the BIden administration reportedly advised against the ground invasion that now seems
to be underway. It has refused to call for a ceasefire and vetoed UN Security Council
resolutions calling for one.

In this, the US is increasingly isolated. A Jordanian resolution calling for a “sustained”
humanitarian truce was passed in the UN General Assembly 120 to 14 (with 45 abstentions)
over US opposition. More American allies abstained or supported the resolution than opposed

The reason is clear. Israel’s mass retaliation against the residents of Gaza is indefensible. In
this age of terrorism, the laws of war are too often ignored. Modernized in treaties and statues
after World War II, they represent the collective effort to put humane restrictions on the use of
military force, to protect civilians from being targeted and slaughtered, to outlaw violence
intended to eradicate national, ethnic, racial or religious groups in whole or in part.

Francis Boyle, international law professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, charges
Israel with violating the laws of war. He cites the Nuremberg Charter, enacted in response to
the Nazi horrors inflicted on Jews and others in World War II, which outlaws, in Article VIB, “the
wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages or devastation not justified by military
necessity,” and Article VIC “inhumane acts committed against any civilian population before or
during war.” A central purpose of the laws of war is to limit mass retaliation against civilian
populations. Israel’s bombing campaign, the cut off of basic necessities and its demand for
mass evacuation are causing massive civilian casualties.

A ceasefire is imperative, so that food, water, fuel and medical supplies can be rushed into Gaza
to avoid an unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe. The hostages held by Hamas should be
released. Rather than adding to the violence and destruction, regional powers should join with
the US and Israel to restart negotiations on the conditions of a durable peace. Israel’s security
would be better served by isolating and targeting those who commit terror rather than treating
all Palestinians as terrorists, isolating itself, and involving more and more of its neighbors in the
violence. The US can’t make decisions for the Israeli government –but it can and should make
its position clear. A ceasefire is a moral

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