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The U.S. must use its power to end the genocide in Gaza

Six months ago, I wrote an article for The Maine Campus calling for the Netanyahu administration in Israel to exercise restraint in its response to the Oct. 7 attack by the Hamas organization that rules the Gaza Strip. In my piece, I declare that “It is the responsibility of President Biden and Congress, who have unceasingly supported Israel for decades both financially and politically, to intervene and prevent Israel from imposing a reign of terror upon Gaza.” Unfortunately, they have failed to meet the moment. 

According to numbers published by Qatari news agency Al Jazeera, Israel’s offensive has now resulted in the deaths of over 33,000 Palestinians, with that figure likely being thousands too few given the difficulty of reporting accurate health data from an active warzone. With Israel chiefly targeting civilian infrastructure, most of those killed are women and children. Only weeks ago, the World Health Organization traveled to Gaza and found that one of the last major hospital complexes in Gaza, Al-Shifa, was destroyed by Israeli shelling. Most of Gaza’s universities, including its oldest, the Islamic University of Gaza, have been permanently reduced to rubble by artillery and even planned demolition. Almost all of Gaza’s roughly 2.4 million residents now face imminent starvation. 

It’s time we identify Israel’s war for what it is: genocide. This is not a war with Hamas; this is a war on Palestine itself. Israel’s campaign has long ago forgotten its purported mission of freeing its nationals held hostage by Hamas and neutralizing their rivals’ military capabilities. Its only purpose is to subvert the sovereignty of the Palestinian people and prevent them from enjoying the rights they deserve as an independent nation. The government of Netanyahu has made it clear to the world that they have no compassion and no remorse for the lives that they have ended. The catastrophe will only get worse from here. 

Israel has been arduously planning its coup de grace: a ground invasion of Rafah. With most of Gaza already under Israeli occupation, and with other major cities such as Khan Yunis and Gaza City having seen most of their facilities demolished by half a year of warfare, the majority of the Gazan population has sheltered in the city of Rafah along the closed Egyptian border. A ground invasion into Rafah would bring most of Gaza’s population directly into the conflict zone, where Israeli and Hamas soldiers would be fighting in close quarters through dense civilian infrastructure housing millions of starving, often wounded refugees. The potential for unmitigated disaster is huge, yet our leaders in the United States have done little to prevent it from transpiring. 

We must hold the Biden administration accountable for its complicity in the wanton slaughter until they choose to do their part to stop it. President Biden has had countless opportunities to slow or stop the violence but has refused to do so. Be it his well-documented ideological commitment to Zionism or what the New Republic called his “unique indifference to Palestinian suffering,” Biden has not used his capabilities as the world’s most powerful person to stop this actively worsening genocide. 

It is unlikely that the U.S. alone would be able to prevent Israel from continuing to fight its war on Palestine. Netanyahu’s cabinet is stacked with extremists, including Itamar Ben-Gvir, the icon of vehement anti-Arab racism in Israel who demanded a “crushing attack” on Iran after the drone strike exchange of this prior week. These elements and others in the Israeli Defense Forces are undeterred by the claims by international aid groups that the attack on Rafah could cause tens of thousands of more deaths, which comes as no surprise given their apathy towards the endless civilian carnage caused by the Gaza campaign.

But the U.S. has plenty of tools it could use to help sway Israeli decision-makers: for one, it could choose to withhold the billions of dollars in military aid it has appropriated for use to Israel, which typically manifests in the form of fighter jets and large munitions. These weapons are being used for one sole purpose: to kill and maim Gazan civilians. With Hamas using civilian infrastructure to house its operations, this often results in more collateral damage than it does in the deaths of the targeted militants. Without these weapons, it will be difficult for Israel to continue shelling Gaza at its current pace. Further, Biden could threaten to strip Israel of its entire decade’s worth of appropriations granted to it by the U.S. Congress, totaling $33 billion over the next ten years. So far, the administration has refused to use any of its boundless leverage over Israel, and until they do so, the United States is responsible by association for every crime committed by the Netanyahu regime. 

How many more civilians must die before something changes? How many more doctors, teachers and aid workers must die? How many more children must be orphaned? How much more must Gaza suffer?

The United States must use its unrivaled might and power to force an immediate end to the active genocide of the Palestinian people. Until then, it will be remembered as a willing actor in the crime of the century.

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