For more than a week now, Israel has been waging what is more and more seeming like a war of extermination against Palestinians. Already over 3,500 Palestinians — over a third of them children — have been killed in Israeli air strikes on Gaza. Israel has dropped thousands of bombs while telling over a million Palestinians to evacuate. Gaza’s water and food supply is quickly running out under the Israel-imposed total blockade.
Since Israel declared war, progressives and leftists have mobilized for a cease-fire, to end Israel’s illegal bombing campaign against Gaza, and to stop more U.S. money and weapons from fueling genocide. A cease-fire is an essential demand for those struggling for peace and would allow Gazans a reprieve from Israel’s state terror campaign.
However, this past Friday in an interview with New York 1 Spectrum News, Najla Khass, a Staten Island-based Palestinian American asked about the call for a cease-fire: “Then what?” She’s right. While it is critical to demand a cease-fire now, Israel’s war on Palestinians stretches far past Gaza to the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and within Israel’s 1948 borders. In the West Bank, attacks on Palestinians by settler mobs and the IDF have accelerated, and within Israel, the police are cracking down on all dissent.
A strategy involves steps, and a cease-fire is unfortunately an extremely radical demand right now, and is the first thing we fight for now — alongside demanding no further aid to Israel. But our movement clearly cannot stop at demanding the end to the current bombing campaign and any imminent ground invasion. A cease-fire is only the first step toward an end to all fronts of the war on Palestinians.
In addition to a cease-fire, we must demand the cessation of all hostilities in order to provide a real path to peace and reconstruction. This means demanding an end to the Israeli military occupation, which is the source of this multi-decade conflict and building toward one democratic state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean sea for all Palestinians and Jewish inhabitants.
The War on Gaza
Over the past week, horrific videos have emerged from Gaza’s imprisoned Palestinian population. Kids dead, residential blocks destroyed, Gaza on fire. Multiple journalists have been killed while thousands of foreigners are trapped in the bombarded Strip. Israeli officials have openly stated their intent to turn Gaza to rubble, have declared that there are no civilians in Gaza, and made clear that their goal is mass destruction. Israel is ordering Palestinians to evacuate hospitals in order to bomb them, which the World Health Organization has designated a death sentence for their patients.
The Israeli propaganda machine has gone into overdrive, attempting to justify its military’s horrific war crimes. Media outlets publish articles about Hamas strongholds and tunnels under hospitals as justifications for bombing them. After they’re bombed, Israel first claims credit but then quickly denies responsibility. Their stalwart supporters in the U.S. political class quickly follow suit, calling into question the source of the bombing despite ample evidence that the Israeli government is lying. And debating the source of the strike fundamentally serves the function of distracting from the multiple hospitals and medical centers, schools, and even a church, that Israel has bombed.
In response to these mass killings and the ongoing destruction of Gaza, individuals and groups across the world are mobilizing for a cease-fire. Brazil proposed this at the UN Security Council, which was vetoed by the United States, the only country to vote against. Some Palestinian groups in Gaza and the United States Campaign for Palestinian Rights, as well as the Palestinian-led Adalah Project, have made the demand a priority in responding to the Israeli onslaught, as have anti-Zionist Jewish organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow. Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has also mobilized for a cease-fire and against the sale and shipment of weapons to Israel. Trade union federations in Palestine are calling on their union brothers and sisters around the world to stop the transfer of weapons to Israel.
Representatives Rashida Tlaib, Andre Carson, Summer Lee, and Delia Ramirez introduced a resolution demanding that Biden call for a cease-fire and work to de-escalate the conflict, rather than support Israel in its indiscriminate bombing of Gaza. Protests and actions throughout the country are making this essential demand, from the week of action in D.C., which has included mass civil disobedience and the arrest of pro-Palestinian Jews in the Capitol building, to local marches and rallies, to mass phonebanking efforts to pressure elected officials to sign on. The left wing of the labor movement has joined in calling for a cease-fire, and high schoolers in the Bay Area have organized impressive walkouts demanding freedom for Palestine.
The horrific reports coming out of Gaza combined with activism on the ground has placed the U.S. ruling class on the defensive for its support for the Israeli onslaught. Many more politicians have signed onto the cease-fire resolution due to incessant pressure from activists. And politicians like Elizabeth Warren have been forced to condemn the bombings of hospitals and the blockade on humanitarian aid. But these words are hollow when attached to uncritical support for Israel’s rain of fire and lead over Gaza. Only a cease-fire, an end to the bombing, can allow Israelis and Palestinians along with the international community to work toward a real peace. ‘
A cease-fire is an essential demand because it would mean an end to the bombing campaign and allow desperately needed humanitarian aid to get through to Gaza’s starving and suffering population. Already the U.S. State Department has forbidden its diplomatic staff from using the words “cease-fire,” “de-escalation,” “end to violence,” or “restoring calm.” Israel’s National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, a Jewish supremacist, has stated that “the only thing that should be sent into Gaza is hundreds of tons of explosives from the Air Force, not a single gram of humanitarian aid.” But a cease-fire is only part of the story. Unfortunately, Gaza isn’t the only front in this war.
Palestinians are Under Assault Everywhere
While Gaza has rightfully received the most international attention, Israel is in the throes of an assault on all Palestinians living under its control. In the West Bank, the IDF is distributing M16s to right-wing settler militias — state-backed terrorists. Within Israel’s 1948 borders, it is similarly arming ultra-orthodox “emergency volunteers.”
In the West Bank, since October 7th, it has been reported that over 75 Palestinians have already been killed and over 600 have been arrested. IDF soldiers have been documented firing on unarmed Palestinians in their cars; settlers have murdered Palestinians at funerals. Just last week, two towns in the West Bank were depopulated by Israeli settler attacks as part of Israel’s ongoing policy of annexing the occupied territory. Palestinians have been pushed into hundreds of ghettos amongst a growing sea of Israeli settlers.
Within Israel’s 1948 borders, life for Palestinians hasn’t been much better. According to Herak Haifa, a Palestinian group in the Israeli city of Haifa, “this year, about 200 Palestinian Arabs were killed within the “sovereign borders of Israel” (Palestine 48) by bullets from criminal gangs, which enjoy the protection, and even the participation, of the occupation police and army.” Since the war began, Israelis have dropped banners calling for the genocide of all Palestinians in Gaza. Videos of an IDF reservist has circulated calling on Israelis to murder their Palestinian neighbors. The Israeli police have already arrested over 100 Israelis for social media posts supporting Palestinians in Gaza. The only Jewish Communist Party member of Israel’s Knesset, Ofer Cassif, was just suspended for comparing Israel’s assault on Gaza to a final solution. Everywhere throughout Israel’s official borders pro-Palestinian organizing has been effectively banned.
In a recently deleted tweet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that its war is “a struggle between the children of light and the children of darkness, between humanity and the law of the jungle.” This openly racist call for genocide is not just confined to Gaza, but all throughout Palestine. If our movement stops at ending the bombing of Gaza it would not be a real peace movement, as the war would simply continue in the West Bank and within Israel’s ‘48 borders.
The Road to Peace and Freedom
Even if a cease-fire included rolling back the intensified assaults on Palestinians and brought back the status quo of a few weeks ago, it wouldn’t be a true cease-fire. The status quo was still a war — a one-sided war led by the Israeli police, military, and its settler militias.
Before this new round of the conflict broke out, last year was already the deadliest on record for Palestinians outside of official wartime. This year has already been the deadliest for Palestinian children in the West Bank: on average, one Palestinian child is killed in the West Bank every week. Currently thousands of Palestinians are sitting in Israeli prisons and regularly tortured, over 500 of whom have received no charge or trial and over 150 of whom are children.
Israeli settlements are an international war crime, as is the blockade on Gaza. Backed by the Israeli state, settlers have engaged in the systematic colonization of the West Bank through violent evictions, demolishing towns, and building Jewish-only infrastructure. Earlier this year, settlers carried out massive state-backed pogroms in the West Bank, massacring Palestinians and burning down their villages in attacks Israeli papers likened to Nazi Germany’s infamous Kristallnacht. And just last year, an IDF sniper assassinated the Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu-Akleh while wearing a press vest. Still no one has been prosecuted for this crime.
The Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a self-identified fascist, has given Palestinians three options: leave, submit to dictatorial Jewish authority, or — his preferred option — fight back and face extermination. Smotrich is the same official in charge of the West Bank. The brutal Hamas attack two weeks ago was Smotrich’s desired outcome; now he has the opportunity to carry out his final solution. The Israeli minister of Foreign Affairs made this incredibly clear this week with a public statement indicating that the Israeli government intends to annex parts of Gaza.
Clearly socialists cannot stop at demanding an end to the relentless bombing of Gaza. A real cease-fire must include disarming the militias in the West Bank and within the 1948 borders, demobilizing the IDF and ending their massacres of Palestinians, and pausing evictions, home demolitions, and any further colonization.
Were these steps to occur, they’d represent real movement toward peace, and closely reflect the demands of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS calls for:
- Ending [Israeli] occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall [that separates the West Bank from Israel proper].
- Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.
- Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
In addition to these goals, the international community must demand an investigation into Israeli war crimes, prosecute the culprits, and oversee a real truth and reconciliation process. Already the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention has called on the International Criminal Court to indict Netanyahu on charges of genocide, following a letter from over 800 scholars of genocide and international law that similarly charged Israel with carrying out a genocide, calling for UN intervention.
Fulfilling these demands would set the groundwork for replacing Israel’s apartheid state with one democratic state for Palestinians and Israelis to live in peaceful coexistence, with equal rights for all. It would mean an end to the bloody persecution that Palestinians have faced for nearly a hundred years, and the violent retribution this injustice incurs. Yes, let’s demand an immediate cease-fire, and fight like hell to stop this genocide. But let’s not lose sight of what will actually deliver true peace and freedom to Palestinians and Jewish people: an end to the Israeli military occupation and system of apartheid and a free Palestine from the river to the sea.