Colombo, October 18: US President Joe Biden who on Sunday modified his hard line on the Israel-Hamas war and cautioned Israel against invading Gaza, is now under greater pressure to toe a more reasonable line following the monstrous bombing of a hospital in Gaza.
The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, confirmed he would not be meeting Joe Biden in Amman, adding that any talks about anything else rather than stopping the war is unacceptable.
Abbas said targeting the Al-Ahli Arabi Baptist hospital in Gaza was a “hideous war massacre” that cannot be tolerated, Reuters reported.
“Israel has crossed all red lines … We will not leave nor allow anyone to expel us from there,” Abbas said.
Meanwhile there had been widespread protests in American university campuses against Israel’s brutal response to Hamas’ strike on October 7 and European nations’ calls for the accommodation of the Palestinian case.
Biden told the “60-minutes” program on CBS on Sunday, that while he stood strongly behind Israel, a new occupation of Gaza would “be a big mistake,” New York Times reported.
However, Biden was confident that Israel would observe the laws of war.
“There are standards that democratic institutions and countries go by. And so I’m confident that there’s going to be an ability for the innocents in Gaza to be able to have access to medicine and food and water,” he said.
Asked if he agreed that Hamas must be eliminated entirely, he said: “Yes, I do. But there needs to be a Palestinian Authority. There needs to be a path to a Palestinian State.”
European Union leaders met for a virtual summit on Tuesday to try to forge a common position over the Israel-Hamas war. The theme of the meeting was how to work with countries in the Middle East and Persian Gulf regions in trying to prevent the war from spreading.
According to The Telegraph, some EU countries expressed frustration with Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President on her response to the conflict. She travelled to Israel after the terror attacks, but some EU governments noted that she had not done enough to insist that Israel respects international law in its retaliation.
The EU President only talked of tripling humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza and organising an EU humanitarian air bridge to Gaza through Egypt, it was pointed out.
Josep Borrell, the EU’s chief diplomat, said that while Israel had the right to self-defence, “that has to be developed in compliance with international laws and in particular humanitarian laws – because war also has its laws.”
French President Emmanuel Macron said that while respecting Israel’s right to defend itself, he had passed on “warning messages calling for respect for humanitarian law, international law and civilian populations in Gaza and the West Bank, and for non-escalation of the conflict in Lebanon”.
Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor, who travelled to Israel on a “visit to friends” on Tuesday, after meeting King Abdullah II of Jordan in Berlin, said that Germany “stands firmly by Israel’s side,” but warned of the risk of the wider region tipping into broader conflict.
“It’s about protecting the civilian population in the Gaza Strip and avoiding a conflagration,” Scholz underlined.
Opposition in Middle East
Meanwhile, the US and Israel have come under pressure in the Middle East also. The Saudis have made it clear that neither they or the Egyptians will allow refugees from Gaza to flow into their territories. By saying so, the Saudis have put the onus of containing the refugee and the humanitarian crisis on the Israelis and their ally, the US.
Sameh Shoukry, the Egyptian Foreign Minister, said on Monday that there was no way to achieve peace except by establishing a Palestinian State based on the 1967 borders.
Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has urged Palestinians to resist efforts to force them to leave Gaza. Egypt has refused to open its border with Gaza so as not to enable Israel to conveniently pass the buck to Eqypt and continue its assault on Gaza.
US Campuses on the Boil
The US National Public Radio (NPR) and other US media have been reporting about American university students protesting and clashing over the Israel-Hamas war.
At Harvard, 35 student groups signed onto a letter from the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) on Oct. 7 — the day Hamas launched its surprise attack on Israel. The letter held Israel “entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.”
Saturday’s events “did not occur in a vacuum,” the letter said, according to Newsweek.
“For the last two decades, millions of Palestinians in Gaza have been forced to live in an open-air prison. Israeli officials promise to ‘open the gates of hell, and the massacres in Gaza have already commenced. Palestinians in Gaza have no shelters for refuge and nowhere to escape. In the coming days, Palestinians will be forced to bear the full brunt of Israel’s violence,” the letter said.
The groups that signed the statement include Amnesty International at Harvard, Harvard Jews for Liberation, the African American Resistance Organization and the Society of Arab Students.
The statement condemned the actions of the “apartheid regime” in Israel, adding that Israeli violence had “structured every aspect of Palestinian existence for 75 years.”
“The apartheid regime is the only one to blame,” it said. “From systematized land seizures to routine airstrikes, arbitrary detentions to military checkpoints, and enforced family separations to targeted killings, Palestinians have been forced to live in a state of death, both slow and sudden.”
“Today, the Palestinian ordeal enters into uncharted territory. The coming days will require a firm stand against colonial retaliation. We call on the Harvard community to take action to stop the ongoing annihilation of Palestinians,” it warned.
In New York, the president of NYU’s Student Bar Association wrote that “Israel bears full responsibility for this tremendous loss of life,” in his letter to the group.
According to the Indiana Daily Student newspaper Indiana University students said: “We don’t represent Hamas, and we don’t condone the actions of Hamas. But we also don’t condone the actions of the Israeli military. We do not want to see Palestinian children or Israeli children killed in this siege. It is a tragic event, and we hope things deescalate as soon as they can.”
According to NPR, student groups have also held vigils and protests, which in some cases had led to direct confrontations between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups.
Clashes occurred at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Indiana University. Columbia University closed its campus to the public for one day due to safety concerns over two planned student protests, a day after an Israeli student was allegedly assaulted with a stick outside its library.
Some, like University of Florida President Ben Sasse, issued statements strongly supporting Israel and Jewish students. Others, like Vanderbilt University, Ohio State University, and Stanford University were more neutral.
An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds that, while two-thirds of Americans say the United States should publicly support Israel in the war between Israel and Hamas, but there are wide generational and racial differences.
US Students have been on the cutting edge of social justice movements throughout history, from protesting the Vietnam War to fighting for immigrants’ rights, Radhika Sainath, a staff attorney at U.S.-based advocacy group Palestine Legal, told NPR.
Fired from Jobs
Sainath said pro-Palestinian advocacy on college campuses is not new, nor is the backlash against students who speak out. But this time, her group has seen an “exponential surge” in requests for legal help — as many as 10-20 a day — from people who have been fired from their jobs, questioned or threatened for expressing support for Palestinian rights.
She stressed that the constitutional First Amendment right to free speech is protected at public universities and most private schools, depending on the state. But sometimes, universities violate their own policies, she points out.
“People are just really, really scared right now at universities and across the country, especially students and professors are really worried about what they are able to say.”
Jewish students said that they are scared, with anti-Semitism (anti-Jewism) on the rise in much of America.
A September Ipsos poll found that 57% of Jewish college students reported having witnessed or experienced an anti-Semitic incident, either on their campus or in the general public.
But anti-Semitism takes place because US universities have intentionally abandoned Palestinian and Arab and anti-Zionist causes, Sainath said.
American colleges put out statements that only mentioned the pain and loss of Israeli and Jewish students, “basically erasing Palestinian pain.”