Over 1,100,000 people facing the threat of annihilation in Gaza are being forcibly displaced with no safe haven. At least 70 of them were killed by the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF, in airstrikes that targeted the very routes they were using to evacuate. No water, food, gas or electricity can enter Gaza as part of a massive siege ordered by the Israeli government. The Israeli occupation of the over 2.3 million people in Gaza is internationally recognized as an apartheid system, including by Israel’s largest human rights group. Indiscriminate targeting of hospitals, residential buildings and schools in Gaza by the IDF — with weapons bought and paid for by the United States government — has erased all living generations of nearly 50 Palestinian families, involved United Nations-banned white phosphorus and amounted to the equivalent of a quarter of a nuclear bomb. The Israeli government is using the horrific attacks by Hamas against Israeli civilians to justify its collective punishment of Gaza’s entire population. We must be clear: the unfolding destruction of Gaza is genocide.

As Yale alumni, we are deeply upset by our alma mater whose only public statement continues the dehumanization of Palestinian men, women and children. It employs language that shields the U.S.-backed Israeli war apparatus from any accountability and obfuscates one of the largest humanitarian catastrophes worsening before our eyes.

Words build narratives. Narratives shape policies. Policies impact lives. Double standards are rampant in the dominant coverage of the crisis, which either drastically downplays or shockingly ignores the suffering of Palestinians.

Unfortunately, University President Peter Salovey contributed to the undermining of Palestinian lives in his Oct. 10 statement titled “War in the Middle East.” In the statement, those killed by Hamas in Israel are described as “civilians” while those killed by the IDF in Gaza are described as “non-militant Palestinians.” Why aren’t the deaths of non-combatants on both sides simply labeled as civilians? The linguistic contrast unfairly implies that Palestinians, but not Israelis, must prove “non-militancy” for their deaths to be condemned. Even though hundreds of Palestinian civilians were killed by the IDF days before the statement was released, President Salovey neglects to name the perpetrator of the Palestinian deaths. Can we interpret this omission as anything but discriminatory?

Atrocities happen when certain lives are deemed less worthy than others. The way we talk and write about people impacts how we see and treat them.

We call on all Yale alumni and community members to demand that University officials, in pursuit of Light and Truth, stand with civilians in Gaza as they face utter destruction. President Salovey says in his statement that “At Yale, we stand for peace — and support steadfastly those working toward it in the region.” If the University stands for peace, it must stand against genocide. There are three actions the University can take to this end: 

  1. Recognize that Palestinians, too, are Yalies, and affirm their dignity by releasing a statement that condemns both the othering of Palestinians and the humanitarian crisis that Palestine faces due to unjust policies enacted by the Israeli government. Additionally, Palestinian students and allies must be reassured that Yale remains a safe environment free of hate and doxxing. We expect President Salovey to condemn anti-Palestinian bigotry and intimidation such as the threats written outside a dorm in Grace Hopper College.
  2. Divest the endowment — or prove its divestment — of the war industry, including defense contractors like Elbit Systems, to ensure that the University neither supports nor profits from the material sources of the destruction of Gaza and many other communities. Yale has an obligation not to spend tuition dollars on direct harms to the families of its students and alumni, and it has the opportunity to demonstrate moral leadership against armed conflict.
  3. Use Yale’s stature and network to advocate for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and deescalation by the IDF as well as for the provision of relief to Gaza. The University can surely at least urge Connecticut’s congressional delegation to take urgent action to stop genocide.

As Maram, a young girl in Gaza, recently told CNN, “They’ve bombed our schools. Many people have been killed. It’s not fair for children like us. Why is this happening to us?” 

Our silence as a university helps answer her question.

YOUSOF OMEISH is a Yale College graduate of the class of 2022 from Branford College. He can be reached at yomeish@gmail.com

DAUD SHAD is a Yale College graduate of the class of 2021 from Berkeley College. He can be reached at dshad@aya.yale.edu

Correction, Oct. 23: This piece has been updated to correct a typo in the population of Gaza.