The Steering Committee of Historians for Peace and Democracy (H-PAD) has compiled some of the most important statements, interviews, and articles on Palestine and Israel that have appeared since October 7. The following is a sampling of some of the best English-language analysis from progressive and anti-imperialist voices. We know that no amount of analysis or contextualization can soothe the pain that many people on every side are feeling. But we believe these voices can help inform our efforts to demand an immediate ceasefire to prevent the further escalation of the U.S.-backed Israeli war in Gaza, while also addressing the root causes of the violence, supporting non-terrorist means of resistance to the occupation, and forging a future in which Palestinians and Jews can both live with dignity and security.
As these sources make clear, there are many people on the Left – Jews, Palestinians, and others – who are working toward those goals and who are also horrified by Hamas’s deliberate attacks on civilians. We realize that not all H-PAD members will endorse every word from every author, and may have disagreements over the framing or emphasis in some of the pieces. We hope you’ll at least agree that the sources are worth your time.
The H-PAD Steering Committee, October 17, 2023
Adalah, which means “Justice” in Arabic, is a legal rights organization run by Palestinians in Israel.
“While the Palestinian people are entitled to resist the Israeli brutal and prolonged occupation under international law, the killing of civilians, the holding of civilian hostages, and the holding [of] bodies for any political purposes are completely prohibited means and constitute war crimes…We call on the Israeli and Gaza authorities to cease all violations of international humanitarian law and to release all civilian hostages and bodies. We call on the international community to protect the Palestinian people in Gaza from Israel’s brutal and illegal actions, to stop the inhumane blockade on Gaza, and to put an end to the Israeli prolonged occupation, in order to uphold Palestinians’ right to self-determination.”
Jewish Voice for Peace is the world’s largest anti-Zionist Jewish peace organization. See also JVP’s calls to action.
“Jewish Voice for Peace mourns deeply for the over 1,200 Israelis killed, the families destroyed, including many of our own, and fears for the lives of Israelis taken hostage. Many are still counting the dead, looking for missing loved ones, devastated by the losses. We wholeheartedly agree with leading Palestinian rights groups: the massacres committed by Hamas against Israeli civilians are horrific war crimes. There is no justification in international law for the indiscriminate killing of civilians or the holding of civilian hostages. And now, horrifyingly, the Israeli and American governments are weaponizing these deaths to fuel a genocidal war against Palestinians in Gaza, pledging to ‘open the gates of hell.’ This war is a continuation of the Nakba, when in 1948, tens of thousands of Palestinians fleeing violence sought refuge in Gaza. It’s a continuation of 75 years of Israeli occupation and apartheid.”
Omar Ghraieb, “As Darkness Descends on Gaza, I Yearn for the World to See Us, Too,” CNN.com, 10/12/23.
Omar Ghraieb is a storyteller, humanitarian worker, and journalist based in Gaza.
“Outside, a sense of uneasy anticipation and anxiety permeates the atmosphere as people in Gaza ponder our uncertain future. We try to predict how much further this all will unravel. We compare the contents of our emergency kits, diligently prepared to ensure our readiness for evacuations from the massive violence Israel is unleashing upon us, on top of its directive to cut off food and water…Neighbors discuss essential items they need and trade whatever they can spare. One family found themselves with extra diapers, another discovered an abundance of bread. In a silent exchange that spoke volumes, they assisted each other, orchestrating a trade that seemed as significant as any business deal, all through the unspoken language of empathy. They strategize about the most effective evacuation plans and areas to flee to, despite being acutely aware that we have nowhere, really, to run or escape to. The Gaza Strip has no shelters or bunkers for us to seek refuge from Israel’s bombs.”
Mohammed R. Mhawish, “Gaza Shatters the Facade of ‘Calm,’” +972 Magazine, 10/8/23.
Mohammed R. Mhawish is a Palestinian journalist and writer based in Gaza.
“Many of those currently condemning Hamas’ attacks on civilians have been awfully quiet while Israel has committed unspeakable crimes against the Palestinian people, including imposing collective punishment against the residents of Gaza. Any analysis or commentary that fails to acknowledge this reality is not only hollow but also immoral and dehumanizing…. Now, as I write these words, my family and I are hastily gathering our emergency bags to leave the house after being told that our neighborhood is about to be bombed. I have lived through five wars on Gaza, but I have never felt this much horror or seen this amount of destruction.”
Rashid Khalidi is a Palestinian historian who teaches at Columbia University.
Khalidi notes that policies of the type carried out by the U.S. and Israel since 1948 “inevitably” lead to reactions from the victims. However, the right to resist does not include the right to attack civilians. “War crimes” by Hamas “don’t justify other war crimes. And we are about to see horrific war crimes” in Gaza, perhaps “unparalleled” since 1948. (For a longer presentation by Khalidi, see his October 12 lecture “The Latest Phase of the Hundred Years’ War on Palestine”)
Phyllis Bennis, “Israeli Apartheid Is at the Heart of the Brutality in Gaza and Israel,” In These Times, 10/12/23.
Phyllis Bennis is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.
“Both sides have committed heinous violations of international law, and all attacks on civilians must be condemned. But if we’re serious about preventing such horrors in the future, we have to go beyond condemnation. A lesson we ignore at our peril is that oppression undermines not only the rights, dignity, and lives of the oppressed, but eventually the security of the oppressors as well. The apartheid system that’s been suffocating Palestinians for so long is now also undermining the safety of ordinary Israeli civilians. They’ve become victims of the same system. We can’t understand how we got here – or how to end the crisis – until we grapple with the immensity of Palestinian suffering. And for us in the United States, a big part of the equation means confronting the role our government and tax dollars play in enabling that oppression to continue.”
“Seattle Rabbi David Basior Eulogizes Former Congregant Killed by Hamas, Says Occupation Must End,” Democracy Now, 10/13/23.
David Basior is the rabbi at Kadima Reconstructionist Community.
Rabbi Basior speaks about his former congregant Hayim Katsman, a civilian who was killed in the Hamas attacks. The segment also includes an interview clip with Katsman’s brother, Noy, who says “I don’t want anything to happen to people in Gaza like it happened to my brother. And I’m sure he wouldn’t have either. So, that’s my call to my government: Stop killing innocent people. And that’s not the way that brings us peace and security to people in Israel.”
Orly Noy, “Israel’s Government Has Nothing to Offer but Revenge,” +972 Magazine, 10/10/23.
Orly Noy is the chair of the executive board of B’Tselem, the leading Israeli human rights organization.
“It is important not to minimize or condone the heinous crimes committed by Hamas. But it is also important to remind ourselves that everything it is inflicting on us now, we have been inflicting on the Palestinians for years. Indiscriminate firing, including at children and older people; intrusion into their homes; burning down their houses; taking hostages – not just fighters but civilians, children and older people. I keep reminding myself that ignoring this context is giving up a piece of my own humanity. Because violence devoid of any context leads to only one possible response: revenge. And I don’t want revenge from anyone. Because revenge is the opposite of security, it is the opposite of peace, it is also the opposite of justice. It is nothing but more violence.”
David Finkel, “Death Spiral Delusions: Behind the New Israel/Palestine Disaster,” Solidarity-US.org, 10/10/23.
David Finkel is a member of the organization Solidarity and an editor of Against the Current magazine.
“For activists in the United States, our immediate concentration must be on demanding no Israeli siege of Gaza and ending U.S. aid to the racist Israeli state; building the BDS movement; and resisting the drive, which will certainly escalate, to criminalize BDS and pro-Palestinian advocacy. As regards the struggle for Palestinian freedom, it is necessary both to recognize the right of oppressed people to choose their own means of struggle, and to understand at the same time that the ideology and strategy of Hamas, with its deliberately murderous method and the colossal destruction it brings on its own population, leads absolutely nowhere.”
Jon Schwarz, “Yes, This Is Israel’s 9/11,” The Intercept, 10/9/23.
Jon Schwarz is a reporter at The Intercept and was in Manhattan on September 11, 2001.
Amid ubiquitous comparisons to September 11, 2001, Schwarz highlights some of the parallels that are being ignored by corporate media and politicians: “First of all, something like Hamas’s attack on Israel, as with something like 9/11, was going to happen eventually. Israel and the U.S. constantly deal out ultraviolence on a smaller scale (Israel) and a huge scale (the U.S.). Anyone in either country who believed this would never come home was living in a vain fantasy. Likewise, the establishments of both Israel and the U.S. were well aware of this: that their policies would inevitably lead to the deaths of their own citizens…Then, as now, anyone pointing out these obvious facts was smeared as ‘supporting’ or ‘justifying’ the vicious blowback. It’s frustrating and suggests that it’s impossible for human beings to be rational about this subject. If you tell someone that pouring gas on a pile of shredded newspaper and then throwing a match on it will probably make the newspaper catch on fire, you are not ‘supporting fire’ or ‘justifying fire.’ On the contrary, you’re trying to reduce the amount of fire in the world by describing reality. Finally, the revenge that Israel will now exact will be hideous, as was that taken by the U.S.”
Arielle Angel, “‘We Cannot Cross Until We Carry Each Other,’” Jewish Currents, 10/12/23.
Arielle Angel is the editor-in-chief of Jewish Currents.
“Part of what has made the experience of this event feel so different from the status quo – and so different to Palestinians and Jews – comes from the fact that Palestinians were undeniably the actors, for once, not the acted upon. The protagonists of the story. I consider it an enormous failure of our movements that we have not been able to build a vehicle for that kind of reversal in any other way thus far. Our Jewish movements for Palestine were not powerful enough to stop other Jews from gunning down Palestinians in peaceful marches at the Gazan border fence, or to keep Palestinians from being fired, harassed, and sued for speaking the truth about their experience or – God forbid – advocating the nonviolent tactic of boycott. And now, we do not have a shared struggle able to credibly respond to these massacres of Israelis and Palestinians. With all of the work that many Jews and Palestinians have done to reach toward each other over the years, I believe at heart it is this failure that is now driving us apart. There is no formidable political formation that I know of that can hold the political subjectivity of both Jews and Palestinians in this moment without simply attempting to assimilate one into the other. No place where Jews and Palestinians who agree on the basics of Palestinian liberation – right of return, equality, and reparations – are poised to turn the synthesis of these two subjectivities into a coherent strategy… On the left, I hope we do not mistake the inevitability of the violence for an inescapable limit on our work or the quality of our thought. Even if our dreams for better have failed, they must accompany us through this moment to the other side. We need to imagine a movement for liberation better even than the Exodus – an exodus where neither people has to leave. Where people stay to pick up the pieces, rearranging themselves not just as Jews or Palestinians but as antifascists and workers and artists.”
Jeff Schuhrke and Sarah Lazare, “The Labor Voices Opposing U.S. Military Support for Gaza Siege,” In These Times, 10/13/23.
Jeff Schuhrke is a labor historian at SUNY Empire State University. Sarah Lazare is a contributing editor at In These Times.
A few voices in the U.S. labor movement have taken a principled stand for peace and justice. One is the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). “‘We certainly don’t support any killing, whether it’s in the form of bombs, guns, starving people through blockades, or through apartheid, from any side,’ says Andrew Dinkelaker, the UE’s general secretary treasurer. ‘U.S. military aid going in is pouring gasoline onto a fire.’”
Amjad Iraqi, “A Psychological Barrier Has Just Been Shattered in Israel-Palestine,” +972 Magazine, 10/11/23.
Amjad Iraqi is a senior editor at +972 Magazine and a Palestinian citizen of Israel.
“Israeli society has tried to insulate itself from the military occupation it has imposed for more than half a century, maintaining a bubble that was only occasionally punctured by rocket barrages or shootings in southern and central cities. Israel’s mass protest movement, which has been agitating since January against the government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary, has consciously kept the Palestinian question off its agenda. Apart from a small bloc of anti-occupation protesters, most still clung to the illusion that the current structures of permanent rule could deliver safety for Israelis and remain compatible with their claim to democracy. That bubble has now irreparably burst. But Israelis, who have been shifting politically rightward for years, are far from questioning or recalculating their commitment to iron rule. For the far-right demagogues in power – foremost among them Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir — this is a historic opportunity to fulfil their wish list: the destruction of large parts of Gaza, the elimination of Hamas’ political and military apparatus, and, if possible, the expulsion of tens to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into the Egyptian Sinai. What does Hamas expect from this? Beyond a bombastic speech by its top military commander, Mohammed Deif, calling on all Palestinians to exact a price for a long list of Israeli crimes, it is hard to say.… Beyond the seismic psychological shift, it is unclear how this assault – against a nuclear-armed, Western-backed, heavily militarized state – can alter a balance of power that has been tipping against the Palestinians for decades. The United States has rushed to provide Israel with material and rhetorical support, and European states have quickly fallen in behind Israel’s defense, sweeping under the rug months of discontent with the far right’s madness.”
Juan Cole, “New Gaza Conflict Shows That ‘Abraham Accords’ Can’t Bring Peace as Long as Israelis Keep Palestinians Occupied and Stateless,” Informed Comment, 10/8/23.
Juan Cole teaches history at the University of Michigan.
“In the midst of the 2012 presidential campaign, Republican standard-bearer Mitt Romney was recorded giving a fundraising speech in which he admitted that it was impractical to give the Palestinians a state and that the only thing you could do with the Israel-Palestine issue was to ‘kick the can down the road.’ Periodic kinetic conflicts are the price of the American elite’s studied inaction and, worse, coddling of the ugliest political forces on the Israeli side, as well as failure to offer ordinary Palestinians a dignified life that could allow them to develop alternatives to the ambitious and bloodthirsty fundamentalists who run Gaza.”
Amira Hass, “Israeli Settlers Aren’t Pausing the Expulsion and Dispossession in the West Bank,” Haaretz, 10/12/23.
Amira Hass is an Israeli journalist who has lived in the West Bank and Gaza for almost three decades.
“Israeli security forces neglected the defense of communities near the Gaza Strip because they have been preoccupied with defending the settlers in the West Bank, their land seizures, and their rites of stone and altar worshiping. This is one of the inescapable conclusions to be drawn from the atrocities committed on Saturday. It comes as no surprise, but this neglect is inherently connected to one of the chief goals of the judicial overhaul and its religious Zionist supporters – accelerating the de facto annexation of most of the West Bank and increasing the Jewish settler population. This goal is not just still on the table; it will now be even more straightforward to realize. The Israeli and international media are ignoring the West Bank as the wrenching testimony of the survivors of Saturday’s attacks gradually surfaces, and as the Israeli military conducts deadly revenge bombings of Gaza and cuts it off from water, power, and food supplies. The lack of attention has allowed the settlers and their enforcement bodies…to escalate their attacks against Palestinian herders and farmers with a clear goal: to expel more communities from their land and homes.”
Yuval Abraham, “Settlers Take Advantage of Gaza War to Launch West Bank Pogroms,” +972 Magazine, 10/13/23.
Yuval Abraham is a journalist and activist based in Jerusalem.
“While the world focuses on the Hamas massacre in southern Israel and Israel’s massive bombing of the Gaza Strip, settlers in the occupied West Bank are taking advantage of the chaos to attack and expel Palestinians from a number of small villages. Israeli soldiers and settlers have killed 51 Palestinians in the West Bank since Saturday…Throughout the West Bank, Palestinian residents are witnessing an increased presence of armed settlers around their villages, more military roadblocks, and tightened movement restrictions. ‘At this time we are actually living under siege. Most of the villages in the West Bank are closed in mounds of dirt and it is impossible to get out,’ said a resident of the village of Qaryut. ‘There are settlers everywhere. Every time we approach houses near a settlement, they shoot at us. They are taking advantage of the security situation in Gaza, to take revenge on the West Bank. Because no one is looking at the West Bank now.’”
“Pro-Palestine Protests in Western Countries Met with Repressive Tactics,” Democracy Now, 10/13/23.
U.S., European, and Israeli leaders and right-wing groups have seized upon Hamas’s attacks as an excuse to further persecute Palestinian and pro-Palestinian voices. Rights groups have long warned of the way that critics of Israeli policy have automatically been smeared as anti-Semitic and often criminalized. The past week has brought an intensification of this trend. “In the United States, the names and photos of several Harvard students who signed a pro-Palestinian letter were displayed on a billboard truck on campus Wednesday with a banner that read ‘Harvard’s Leading Antisemites.’ Some of their names and personal information were also posted online. In France, police in Paris used tear gas and water cannons against pro-Palestine protesters who gathered despite a prohibition order…In the United Kingdom, Home Secretary Suella Braverman urged police forces to use the ‘full force of the law’ against protesters waving the Palestinian flag, which she said ‘may not be legitimate’ if it’s found to be a sign in support of ‘terrorism’…”
Maha Nassar, “The Gaza Strip: Why the History of the Densely Populated Enclave Is Key to Understanding the Current Conflict,” The Conversation, 10/10/23.
- A brief primer on Gaza’s history by a scholar of Modern Middle East History and Islamic Studies at the University of Arizona.
A short video showing some of the reality of life in Gaza right now, posted by the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Yousef Hammash on October 10.
Branko Marcetic, “Everyone Should Be Calling for a Cease-Fire in Palestine,” Jacobin, 10/11/23.
- A clear statement of the urgent need for a ceasefire by a staff writer at Jacobin.
Juan Cole, “Tribalism versus International Law in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” Informed Comment, 10/9/23.
- A primer on the basics of international law by a Middle East historian.
Marjorie Cohn, “Israel Is Using Starvation as a Weapon of War Against the Palestinian People,” Truthout, 10/12/23.
- A review of current U.S.-Israeli war crimes by an international legal scholar and former president of the National Lawyers Guild.
Looking for a way to support Gazans?
We recommend donating to the Middle East Children’s Association’s appeal “Emergency Aid for Gaza – October 2023.” We recognize that many Israeli civilians are also suffering enormously, but given the far greater resources available to Israel and the ongoing escalation against Gazan civilians, we recommend prioritizing aid to Gaza.