J Street’s Ongoing Response to the Israel-Hamas War and Israeli-Palestinian Crisis
In a moment of crisis and war for Israelis and Palestinians, and with events on the ground and in Washington moving fast, it is extremely important for J Street to be clear about where we stand, what we are advocating for, and what we are encouraging the Biden Administration and Members of Congress to do.
Time for Diplomacy
It is time for a negotiated stop to the fighting to bring freedom to the hostages and relief to the people of Gaza.
Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, J Street laid out a range of policies and legislation to advance our core principles and priorities in this moment:
We condemn Hamas unequivocally and support Israel’s goal of removing the organization from operational control of Gaza, within the bounds of international law. Hamas is a despicable, inhumane terrorist organization. It has committed clear crimes against humanity. The organization’s leadership must be held accountable and cannot remain in operational control of Gaza post-conflict. Israel’s response to Hamas must differentiate between Hamas and the civilian population of Gaza. Defeating Hamas will require a sustained, multilateral effort involving military engagement, as well coordinated diplomatic and political engagement to cut the supply of finance and weapons, degrade social and political support and isolate the group from its international benefactors.
We support making every possible effort to secure the immediate release of the remaining hostages. Following the recent seven-day cessation of hostilities – which included the release of over 100 hostages from captivity – over 130 hostages remain in Gaza. Military efforts thus far have secured the release of one hostage, and tragically resulted in the deaths of at least three hostages. All efforts, including diplomatic negotiations toward a longer-term halt in the fighting, should be pursued to ensure the safety of hostages and their swift release.
We support a massive commitment to humanitarian relief by the United States that matches its commitment to security assistance for Israel.Congress should approve a supplemental assistance package that includes significant, designated assistance for Gaza civilian relief – the Biden Administration must ensure conditions on the ground enable the rapid delivery of this urgent aid, including further breaks in hostilities. US funding of weapons and equipment for Israel brings with it responsibility for the well-being of the civilians in harm’s way.
We support the Biden Administration’s warnings to Israel that it modify the nature of its military campaign. The Netanyahu government’s large-scale bombing and ground invasion have caused an unfathomable level of civilian casualties, as well as a humanitarian crisis that had led to rising levels of disease, hunger and death. More must be done to protect civilian lives and facilitate humanitarian aid. As the US has stated, continuing the operation in this way is both strategically and morally unacceptable.
We support consideration of alternative strategies and tactics for removing Hamas from operational control of Gaza that minimize harm to Palestinian civilians. The relentless air campaign and the invasion underway on the ground have killed tens of thousands of noncombatants. The Israeli government must consider alternative strategies and heed the advice of military veterans of recent urban combat in Iraq among others offering alternatives. As US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has warned, Israel’s current path risks a “strategic defeat.”
We support the Biden Administration’s efforts to prevent regional escalation. Regional actors from Hezbollah to Iran and other loosely affiliated groups continue to try to expand the field of fighting. The Biden Administration is right to send clear diplomatic and military signals that it does not want escalation but will not hesitate to respond appropriately to those who try to take advantage of or expand this crisis. The Biden administration must continue as well to press Israel to end violence and provocations in the West Bank, aimed at driving Palestinians from their villages and land.
We urge the White House and Congress to impose clear guardrails on Israeli policy as it works to secure further security assistance from Congress in a supplemental aid package. These include ensuring that Israel: take all possible measures to minimize civilian casualties and harm; facilitate robust humanitarian aid; enact zero tolerance for settler violence and bring a halt to all provocative policies and actions on the West Bank and East Jerusalem; and acknowledge that post-conflict arrangements will ultimately result in the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
We call on the President to outline a clear vision to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This conflict did not start on October 7th. It has no military resolution. Only courageous diplomacy to achieve a political resolution leading to a Palestinian state can end this conflict and provide the meaningful security both people crave and the freedom Palestinians must have from occupation, settlements and blockade. J Street has outlined thoughts about how to do this, and we believe the President should commit to recognition of a Palestinian state and lay out a clear vision now of the path to statehood that establishes the rationale for removal of Hamas from operational control of Gaza and clarifies the future the United States envisions.
We urge leaders of all communities – Jewish, Arab, Christian, Muslim and more – to condemn antisemitism and Islamophobia and to express empathy for the suffering of all caught up in this conflict. We are deeply concerned by the upswing in antisemitism, and hate generally, around this conflict. 21st century communications are driving people to extremes, and bad actors are stoking the divisions. All Palestinians cannot be held responsible for the actions of Hamas or other Palestinian groups nor can all Jewish people be held responsible for the actions of the state of Israel.
We call on leaders in politics, education, business and other fields to refrain from silencing opinions they do not like. Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of democracy, which must not be a victim of this conflict. Our commitment to fighting antisemitism is ironclad. We believe efforts to silence legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies by labeling critics of Israeli policy antisemitic only undercuts our efforts to counter this scourge. This admonition applies as well to Israel where we oppose efforts by the government to crack down on organizations expressing alternative viewpoints.
The Heinrich-Escobar House letter urging Secretary Blinken to emphasize vital US priorities with Israeli officials to protect innocent lives, regional stability, and American national security interests in the region.
The Blackburn-Rosen Senate resolution condemning antisemitism at institutions of higher education in the United States and encouraging college and university leaders, administrators, and faculty to speak out against antisemitism.
The Pocan-Schakowsky-McGovern-Jayapal House letter to the Biden Administration, condemning Hamas’ attacks and urging the Administration to take action to support, aid and protect all civilians, with a particular focus on Palestinian civilians in Gaza facing a humanitarian crisis and Israeli siege on water, food and electricity.
Since October 7, J Street has held the following public webinars and virtual gatherings:
J Street’s Statehood Proposal: What You Need to Know | February 7
Tackling the Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza | February 7
A Third Narrative: Palestinian Citizens of Israel on a Way Forward | January 31
The Risk of Regional Escalation | January 16
Palestinian Public Opinion with Dr. Khalil Shikaki | January 4
The Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza | November 21
Bring Them Home: The Struggle to Protect & Free Hostages in Gaza | November 9
Challenges and Dilemmas of Israel-Hamas Conflict, with Rep. Jason Crow | October 31
Israel’s Response to Hamas: Strategies and Dilemmas | October 26
Community Gathering with Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi | October 18
Community Gathering: Voices of Survivors, Reflections from our Movement | October 12
Expert Briefing: Terror Onslaught, Israel at War with Hamas | October 10
The Homefront: Challenges to Israeli Society During War | October 6
J Street is supporting organizations working to provide much-needed services to those impacted by the devastating attacks and ongoing crisis:
Click here to contribute to these organizations’ vital work, including medical services for victims and resources for Israelis stranded in the US.
In this difficult, painful and incredibly consequential time, there are no easy or simple answers for US policy, for Israelis and Palestinians, or for the pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy movement. We continue to work with J Street U students on dozens of campuses, with rabbis, and with all of our supporters to help them navigate the incredibly divisive responses to this war in their communities. We are striving to do all we can, as best we can, to represent the core values and commitments of our organization and our supporters across the country.