An open letter to Congress from members of the Harvard Uni. graduate school community

Harvard: The drafters of this letter are current students and recent alumni of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, a school that trains the next generation of leaders and policymakers. Harvard Kennedy School students come from diverse backgrounds and bring a wealth of experience in the public sector, consulting, business, law, international development and human rights work to their studies. Graduates move on to posts in US and international governments, become crafters of US policy towards the Middle East and leaders in international agencies. We share a commitment to open discourse and the creation of just policy.

As such, we, drafters of this letter as well as the undersigned members of the broader Harvard community, are compelled by an ethical obligation to express our opposition to the United States government’s complicity in the injustices of Israeli occupation and the most recent Israeli attacks on Gaza. Israelis and Palestinians alike share a right to live in peace and security. We denounce the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and the continuing bombardment and ongoing blockade of Gaza. According to a UN report to the UN Human Rights Council, Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross, these are acts of collective punishment that violate international law.

The current attacks on Gaza are the most recent manifestation of an asymmetry of power and violence. As of the drafting of this letter, over 500 Palestinians have been killed, nearly 80% civilians. Children make up 20% of these victims. Over 120 Palestinians were killed in Shujai’iya on July 20th, a third of them women and children. We are moved by this moment to speak out. In our eyes, continuation of US military aid to Israel will directly finance human rights violations. We beseech policymakers in Washington to have the courage to be critical and to change current US policies before Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza furthers destruction and insecurity for everyone.

The endorsers of this letter carry wide-ranging beliefs regarding Israel’s policies towards the Occupied Territories – and we value the intensity and complexity of continued debates on what form peace and justice should take in the future. But we have consensus around one tenet: Israel must stop violating norms and standards of international law, and the US must stop obstructing accountability.

An unquestioning and silent ally is no ally at all. The United States does no favors for the people of the Occupied Palestinian Territories or the people of Israel in its refusal to hold the Israeli government accountable for blatant violations of international law. Unconditional political support for Israel is unacceptable in the face of the aggressive expansion of illegal settlements, the construction of the wall in the West Bank, globally recognized breaches of international law in the 2008/9 and 2012 attacks on Gaza, violations of numerous UN Resolutions, violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention protecting the civil rights of Palestinians, violations of the 1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights through the restriction of Palestinian movement and violations of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.

In addition, the UN, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have asserted that the current siege likely violates international law banning the targeting of civilians. Among these violations are war crimes and crimes against humanity, as defined by international standards.

We feel a moral responsibility to speak out against policies that are not only furthering gross violations against humanity but are also undermining the US and Israel’s positions in the international community. With this letter, we call upon our Congress to:

1) freeze US military aid as long as the Israeli government continues to violate international law,

2) exert every diplomatic pressure on Israel to halt attacks on Gaza and to lift the blockade, and

3) facilitate a cease-fire with terms that promote justice for the people of Gaza and security for all.

We express our commitment to the people of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories that we, as policymakers in the future, will not repeat the mistakes of this generation of American policymakers. Public discourse regarding the occupation is shifting – Israel’s illegal and immoral actions in the Occupied Territories will be judged by history, as current American complicity will surely also be. We can and must do better.

This letter reflects the views only of the undersigned and does not express the official views of Harvard University or the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government.

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