Joint faculty statement calls for end to ‘ethic of collective punishment’ in Israel-Hamas war
At least 70 faculty members from across the University have signed onto a collective statement calling for all parties “to respect the lives and basic human rights of civilians.”
Tim Tai, Senior Photographer
Last week, a Yale faculty statement calling for an end to the “ethic of collective punishment” in the war between Israel and Hamas began circulating on campus.
The joint petition had at least 70 signatures from professors across the University as of early Tuesday morning, It cities ongoing violence on both sides of the war, including the Oct. 7 attack, during which “Hamas fighters murdered hundreds of Israeli civilians,” and Israel’s “retaliatory strikes … [that] do not discriminate between combatants and innocent civilians.”
The statement separately indicts both Hamas and Israel for “war crimes.”
Now, as Israel signals preparation for a significant ground invasion of northern Gaza, Hamas has killed more than 1,400 in Israel, and Israel has killed more than 2,800 in Gaza, as of Monday, Oct. 16.
“Palestinian armed groups and the government of Israel must cease the targeting of civilians and abandon an ethic of collective punishment,” the petition reads. “We the undersigned join all peace-loving people in calling for an end to the siege and indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza; for the release by Hamas of all Israeli hostages; for all parties to the conflict to respect the lives and basic human rights of civilians; and for life-saving aid to be allowed to flow into any area of the zone of conflict where it is needed.”
Naftali Kaminski, an internal medicine professor at the Yale School of Medicine, is among the professors who signed the petition.
Kaminski, who told the News that he is an Israeli and the son of Holocaust survivors, said that he is “horrified and angered” by Hamas’ attack on southern Israel but believes it is important to reduce the suffering of civilians in Gaza.
“The atrocities committed by Hamas in Southern Israel … are crimes against humanity and those that perpetrated and planned them, should be held accountable,” Kaminski wrote to the News. “I am also infuriated by those that minimize, rationalize, or even celebrate these atrocities – even on our campus. I also deeply believe that we should not minimize or ignore the death toll and suffering Israel’s response inflicts on innocent civilians in Gaza.”
He also said that a Palestinian friend of his, who is a physician and peace activist, lost four family members during an Israeli operation in Gaza in 2009.
Another 20 of his friend’s relatives were killed in this week’s attacks, according to Kaminski.
“And there are many more,” he wrote of the civilian deaths. “I have no doubt that Hamas should go, but I also have no doubt that all of us should request our governments and the international community to protect civilians, to hold those committing war crimes accountable and most importantly to finally find ways that all residents in the region, Israeli[s] and Palestinians, will be able to live in peace, freedom, and dignity.”
The petition states that “the right to live in dignity and safety knows no borders.” It condemns Hamas’ deadly attacks against Israeli civilians and characterizes them as “crimes against humanity,” and it adds that signatories “recognize Israel’s right to protect its citizens.”
The statement also condemns Israel’s retaliatory bombardment and siege of Gaza, explaining that the Israeli forces’ warfare tactics amount to “the calculated and intentional precipitation of a humanitarian crisis for the more than two million residents of Gaza” and are in “clear violation” of the Geneva Conventions.
Alessandro Gomez, a mechanical engineering professor at the School of Engineering & Applied Science, said that he signed the petition because of its humanitarian focus.
He said that he thinks the petition is “balanced, with a focus on the human cost on both sides: it strongly condemns the barbaric acts of Hamas and at the same time urges restraint on the part of Israel.” Gomez added that “strong condemnation of Hamas is not equivalent to exoneration of any action that Israel will take.” ”
David Sorkin, a professor of history and Jewish Studies, also stated that he signed the petition because he thinks it gives a “balanced expression” to the complicated situation.
Six other professors wrote to the News explaining their support for the petition.
“I signed the statement as a practicing Jew, a lover of Israel, and a historian of Judaism,” Steven Fraade, professor emeritus of Religious Studies, said. “I believe that we must rise above the ‘blame game’ to recognize, in word as in deed, the humanity and suffering of innocent non-combatants on both sides of this deeply tragic conflict and war.”
Fraade added that his decision to sign the petition was not a judgment of either side’s level of “blame” in the conflict and instead a condemnation of violence against civilians on both sides.
Per the petition, its list of signatories will be updated daily until Tuesday, Oct. 17.