J Street reiterates our unequivocal condemnation of the horrific terrorist onslaught unleashed by Hamas against Israel, our solidarity with the Israeli people, our deep concern for Israeli hostages held by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza, our outrage at the ongoing firing of missiles against Israeli population centers, and our support for Israel’s right to defend its citizens and respond to this horror in accordance with international law.
We are also deeply concerned for the safety of Palestinian civilians and the over 100 hostages who are now caught in the massive Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, subject to a siege cutting off supplies of water, food, fuel and electricity, and awaiting an imminent ground invasion. The Israeli government’s call for the over 1 million civilians of northern Gaza to be evacuated within 24 hours is simply untenable – it is impossible to achieve within that timeframe and itself could lead to further catastrophe.
We welcome President Biden’s clear reminder that “Democracies like Israel and the United States are stronger and more secure when we act according to the rule of law.” We agree with the president that “it matters” that the laws of war be upheld, no matter how unspeakable the acts that came before may be. All civilian lives, Israeli and Palestinian alike, deserve to be protected.
We therefore commend the Biden Administration for its continued stress on the critical importance of adherence to international law and urge it to continue to do so in the days ahead.
Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad must immediately release all Israeli hostages to their families and cease their rocket bombardment against Israeli civilians. Israel should take all necessary action to prevent civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure, and restore the supply of food, water and electricity on which Palestinian civilians in Gaza depend. We urge the United States to work with Israel, Egypt and other neighboring countries to facilitate humanitarian access to Gaza without delay – potentially through the creation of a humanitarian corridor. Such a passage would enable the delivery of humanitarian supplies into Gaza and allow civilians to seek a safe haven outside of Gaza – with unequivocal guarantees that they will be able to return when the fighting is over.
Even as we urge this step to allow civilians to leave safely, we recognize that the civilian residents of Northern Gaza simply cannot be expected to flee their homes within 24 hours. As Israel rightly pursues the destruction of Hamas’ military infrastructure, it is morally and legally obligated to take all reasonable precautions to ensure that civilian lives and civilian infrastructure are protected.
Further harm to civilians will only deepen and intensify a devastating conflict in which dehumanization is already reaching unprecedented levels. In addition to the terrible toll it takes on innocent people now, it will make it even more difficult to ultimately achieve an end to this conflict and the peaceful resolution Israelis and Palestinians desperately need and deserve.