Opinion: The United States Must Act to Protect Human Rights in Palestine

By Vincent DiFonzo

Since Oct. 7, over 30,000 people have died as a consequence of the Hamas attack on Israel and the subsequent Israeli assault on Gaza. No matter how you feel about the long and divisive Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is no question that the world faces a massive humanitarian crisis—civilians on both sides are dead, millions are displaced from their homes and basic human rights have been repeatedly violated by the leadership of both sides. As I write this, Israel is beginning a violent assault on the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, where over a million displaced Palestinians have taken refuge

As the leading global superpower, the United States is capable of responding to this conflict in the interest of human rights. It is

Vincent DiFonzo '25 (Photo Eric Lippe/The Gettysburgian)

Vincent DiFonzo ’25 (Photo Eric Lippe/The Gettysburgian)

important to acknowledge that the United States is far from perfect, and has committed crimes against civilian populations (including its repeated complicity in crimes against Palestinians) throughout history. However, as an American, I know that the U.S. has also done much good for the world in leading the world into the relative peace and stability seen since the end of World War II, as well as the move towards a more democratic world. America can do better. 

We are also by far the most powerful and influential country on the world stage, and we are the best-equipped nation to do something about the crisis in Palestine. Today, our nation has the opportunity to use its influence to protect human rights in a place where millions are suffering on both sides of the conflict. Israeli and Palestinian civilians deserve a peaceful and secure future; free from radical leadership who do not care about their wellbeing. 

First, it is vital to acknowledge that there is culpability for the conflict on essentially all sides, including but not limited to fault among the West, among Israel, among various Palestinian groups and among the neighboring Arab states. Blaming one side entirely is a vast oversimplification of the conflict. No matter who or what in the past is responsible, the U.S. has the opportunity to act now. As an outside power, the United States can take a strong stance on the conflict; one that ends its seemingly endless tolerance of so many illegal actions by Israel, including but not limited to the settlement of the West Bank and Gaza, the mass bombing of civilians in Gaza and in blocking vital food and medicine for Gaza’s population. The U.S. must also continue its support for Israel in protecting its population against Hamas, especially in the funding and maintenance of the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system which has saved countless lives. Israelis deserve peace, but it cannot come at the expense of innocent Palestinian lives.

Palestine has no Iron Dome. At least 90% of rockets fired into Israel by neighboring terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah are thankfully shot down. However, when Israeli rockets rain down on Gaza, they all hit, causing mass civilian deaths. Disproportionately, the death toll for Palestinians, since the beginning of the conflict, has been significantly higher. Today, Israeli civilians enjoy life in a developed, western-backed and wealthy nation, while Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza live in significantly worsened economic conditions. Repeated Israeli military victories have led to further displacement and violence towards Palestinian civilians. Today, over 5.6 million people are Palestinian refugees or direct descendants of refugees displaced since 1948, as reported by the UNRWA. These people were illegally displaced, and have been denied the right of return by Israel. The current Israeli government’s unwillingness to allow for a Palestinian state, in direct contrast to the position of the U.S., is dangerous by creating more instability. Additionally, many Palestinians in Israel continue to face forced evictions and cases of arbitrary detention by Israeli police. 

Even before the escalation on Oct. 7th, Gazans lived in impoverished conditions due to the Israeli blockade and their lack of stable government structure. Gaza has been run by Hamas since 2006, but let’s not forget that Hamas is a terrorist organization incapable of effective governance. It is unrealistic to expect Hamas to act as a government; it is a violent terrorist organization and should be treated as such. Israel, as the much more stable, democratic nation should be responsible for protecting human rights within its own borders and in the West Bank and Gaza, including non-Jewish civilians. However, Israel has instead doubled down on its actions that worsen the lives of Palestinians, weaken its democracy and violate international law. Additionally, Israeli actions in Gaza are fueling radical ideology and increasing support for Hamas, which makes any prospect of peace more unrealistic. 

Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 attack has only further destabilized the region. How can anyone expect that bombing and starving a civilian population will create a sustainable peace? It is clear that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not actually want peace; but instead the destruction of any autonomous Palestinian state. The people of Israel and Palestine deserve a peaceful future in their own state. The United States must take every reasonable action to make this a reality. 

The goal of the United States should be to enforce international law and end the heinous violations by both sides. Both Israeli and Palestinian civilians must be treated with dignity; both have the equal right to live in peace and the equal right to basic necessities. Israeli settlement in the West Bank is illegal under U.N. international law and must be stopped if the region wants to see peace. Israeli settler violence is also a serious issue and threat to peace (one that President Biden responded to, albeit, too little, too late). The Israeli response to the October 7 attack demonstrates the government of Netanyahu and his war cabinet’s total failure in its handling of Hamas. Instead of leading Israel, Netanyahu was more busy fighting his own corruption investigation and undermining Israeli democracy through his attempted judicial reforms. Netanyahu’s Israel even allowed Qatari money to reach Hamas, believing that allowing payments into Gaza would keep the peace. At the same time, journalistic freedoms are dissipating in the country. These are not the actions of a free, democratic state. 

Additionally, Netanyahu has stated his radical opposition to a Palestinian state, in opposition to the position of the U.S. and the international community. Among Israelis, the overwhelming majority want Netanyahu to resign. Netanyahu does not care for human rights nor international law, and when America backs his actions, we are complicit in committing crimes against humanity.

The Biden Administration must step up the pressure on Netanyahu to cease its illegal actions. In a time when high-ranking ministers in their government are calling for the resettlement of Gaza (which would involve the displacement of two million civilians—another crime against humanity), the United States cannot let this behavior go unchecked. Instead, we continue to, without question, give Israel billions. $300 billion has been given to Israel since 1948. This has been in the form of economic and military aid, but in recent years, it has been entirely military. Israel is surrounded by hostile states, so it makes sense that its main ally, the U.S., provides it with significant funding. However, when Israel consistently violates international law with our backing, we are collectively responsible for the atrocities occurring under our watch.

It was then-US Senator from Delaware, Joe Biden, who called Israel “the best three billion dollar investment America makes,” further stating, “were there no Israel, the United States would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests.” 

President Biden, please listen to young voters. Every day Israeli airstrikes threaten the lives of Gazans, while the basic human rights of Palestinians are rapidly dissipating. About two million people live in Gaza, and all of them now face human-caused food, water and medicine shortages. This is not acceptable behavior from a nation that is often lauded as “the only democracy in the Middle East.” Don’t let Israeli democracy backslide into autocracy. End American complicity in these heinous war crimes. Cease the funding of Israel’s illegal war. Work with Israel to secure a future for a Palestinian state while negotiating the release of remaining Israeli hostages kidnapped and held by Hamas.

Millions of lives are at stake. Americans have the opportunity to be on the right side of history, and the notion of Congress acting on the conflict is laughable. Biden, it’s time for your administration to act.

Author: Vincent DiFonzo

Vincent DiFonzo ’25 was the Opinions Editor and Lead Copy Editor for The Gettysburgian. He is an IGS international affairs and double history major with minors in political science and economics. On campus, Vince is an editor for the Gettysburg Social Science Review (GSSR) and Managing Editor of Ike's Anvil. Additionally, Vince loves traveling, geography, and discovering new music. Vince is currently studying abroad in Berlin.

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