Americans Must Demand an End to US Support for Israeli Brutality

Israel is mounting an indiscriminate assault on Gaza. To stop more deaths of Israelis and Palestinians alike, we must demand an end to the US government’s support for Israeli apartheid and occupation.

A pro-Palestine demonstration in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on October 14, 2023. (Maranie R. Staab / Anadolu via Getty Images)

The Israeli military is bombing Gaza at a never-before-seen scale and is preparing for a ground invasion. Hospitals, medical centers and ambulances, schools, residential and office buildings, a mosque, and a refugee camp have been turned to rubble. Israel has already killed nearly two thousand people, including at least 500 children. The death toll is only rising.

Alongside the bombings, Israel has shut off Gaza’s access to electricity, food, and fuel in an act of collective punishment. Hospitals will lose energy and transform into, in the words of Dr Muhammad Abu Salima, the director of the Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza, “mass graves.” Over 350,000 Palestinians have been displaced, and entire towns in the Gaza Strip have been razed to the ground.

Ending the seemingly endless cycle of violence that has taken the lives of so many Palestinian and Israeli civilians requires opposing the system of Israeli apartheid — the root cause of this violence — not “standing with Israel” in its efforts to level Gaza and massacre Palestinians. We must demand that the United States stop propping up the Israeli state and funding its crimes.

An Ongoing Occupation

In the wake of Israel’s establishment, Gaza was effectively turned into a mass refugee camp, as over 700,000 Palestinians were pushed out in a process of ethnic cleansing by Zionist militias. Subjected to repeated military invasions, the narrow strip of land was subsequently occupied for decades after the 1967 Six-Day War and transformed into what is essentially an open-air prison. While Israel technically pulled out of the territory in the mid-2000s, it exercises extraordinary control over Gaza, including a brutal blockade that restricts its population’s movement and access to food, water, medicine, electricity, and other necessities.

The siege of Gaza is part of Israel’s broader system of what even mainstream international observers now liken to apartheid. Through its military occupation of the West Bank, the Israeli government and military supports establishing illegal, Jewish-only settlements, evicting Palestinians, bulldozing homes, and carrying out pogroms. Israel pushes Palestinians into ghettos and builds infrastructure for exclusive use by Jewish people.

Within Israel, the Netanyahu government has removed the judiciary’s ability to check its murderous tendencies. Government ministers and other members of the governing coalition talk about wiping out whole towns and securing all of historic Palestine for Jewish people by expelling or massacring Palestinians, or by crushing them into submission to dictatorial authority. Bezalel Smotrich, the finance minister placed in charge of colonizing the West Bank, is a leader of the settler movement, a self-identified fascist, and has said he wants Palestinians to fight back so that Israel will be justified in murdering them en masse.

Though the long arc of history may bend toward justice, the short-term twists and turns of Israel have detoured toward injustice. Despite decades of organizing within Palestine and abroad for an end to Israel’s apartheid system and military occupation, life for Palestinians has only deteriorated. Palestinians in Gaza are shot and bombed like fish in a barrel while their occupiers openly speak of future extermination. But according to the Israeli government as well as mainstream US politicians and media, there are no “good ways” for Palestinians to fight for their freedom. In the United States, pro-Palestine organizers are accused of antisemitism, and when Palestinians in Gaza protest peacefully, they’re met with Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) bullets that kill hundreds of civilians and injure thousands more.

For those interested in saving the lives of innocents, there is only one answer: fight to end Israel’s subjugation of Palestinians and oppose all efforts to fund the bombing of civilians in Gaza. In fact, many Israeli newspapers and politicians have said as much.

Haaretz, Israel’s third-largest newspaper, released an editorial placing the blame for Hamas’s horrific October 7 attack on Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, its efforts to annex the West Bank, and its elevation of far-right leaders to the highest offices in the Israeli state. Ofer Caffif, a left-wing member of the Israeli Knesset, argued that he and others “have been warning time and time again . . . everything is going to erupt and everybody is going to pay a price — mainly innocent civilians on both sides. And unfortunately, that is exactly what happened.” He’s right: the cost of maintaining the brutal status quo is the blood of innocent Palestinians and Israelis.

Ending the Violence

Those in the United States have a key role to play in advancing the cause of peace.

Israel relies on the support of the US state, and unfortunately there’s no reason to think the United States will withdraw that backing anytime soon: Israel serves as an effective outpost for US military efforts in the region, and a powerful lobby — of which evangelical Christians make up a huge part — helps tie the interests of US politicians to Israel.

The United States routinely stands alone at the United Nations Security Council in vetoing condemnations of Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights. Washington gives a blank check to the Israeli military to the tune of nearly $4 billion a year; Palestinians are killed by US bombs and US guns. The United States funds the Iron Dome rocket defense system, which — while ostensibly a defensive weapon — fuels the asymmetrical warfare that allows the Israeli government to routinely and indiscriminately bomb Gaza without the repercussions such campaigns would traditionally incur.

State governments in the United States have passed laws criminalizing the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel. US police forces train with the IDF and Israeli police, and learn from the tactics they use to infiltrate Arab and Muslim communities. And US-based nonprofits violate the Geneva Convention by providing the majority of funding for illegal settlements throughout East Jerusalem and the West Bank — over $60 billion of untaxed money every year.

Over the coming days and weeks, leading politicians and media figures in the United States will rattle their sabers for war. Already a bill has been proposed in Congress to increase funding for Israel’s Iron Dome by $2 billion, while another proposed resolution would commit the United States to supporting Israel in its war against Palestinians. Republican congressman Jack Bergman has put forward a third resolution to censure Representative Rashida Tlaib for her support for Palestine.

There have been reports of Israel using white phosphorus on Palestinian civilians, Israel’s defense minister has described Palestinians as human animals, and Netanyahu has told Gaza’s citizen’s to “leave now.” It’s unclear where they’re supposed to leave to, given the restriction on movement Israel has imposed on Gazans. US president Joe Biden has talked about opening up humanitarian corridors for refugees, which implies that the limited options facing all two million Palestinians living in Gaza are to be expelled to Egypt or to die. Israel has also pledged to bombard aid shipments to Gaza. Already, innocent Palestinians have been bombed on the same roads Israel instructed them to use for “safe passage” to southern Gaza.

These atrocities are what the proposed legislation in Congress will support. Those who care about preventing further civilian deaths must oppose these bills and support those in government brave enough to buck the rising jingoism and denounce Israeli war crimes. Left-wing members of Congress like Tlaib, Cori Bush, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are sure to face cynical accusations of antisemitism, and it’s essential to have their backs.

But opposition to mass slaughter is not enough. We must organize for proposals like those advanced by Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Jamaal Bowman to condition aid to Israel on its respect for Palestinian human rights. Similarly, in New York, state assemblymember Zohran Mamdani and other members of the democratic socialist bloc in state government have put forward the Not on Our Dime Act that would end the tax-exempt status of nonprofits funding illegal settlements in the West Bank. By undermining US support for Israeli apartheid, initiatives like these are crucial first steps in winning a lasting peace and in opening space for Palestinians to secure their freedom.

“Standing with Israel” as it massacres Palestinians is unconscionable. We should instead stand with humanity, Israeli and Palestinian alike, in seeking to stop the violence.