In the aftermath of Hamas’ brutal attack on Israeli civilians, I saw many of my Yale peers post on their social media that people are not their governments, that we must recognize our shared humanity before our politics. If we truly believe this, then we cannot stand by as Palestinian children and civilians are killed in the thousands by the Israeli government for the crimes of Hamas. Rather, we must urge leaders from Yale to Congress to step up and call for an immediate cease-fire. We need to act now before it’s too late. The stark reality is that Palestinian civilians in Gaza are facing the threat of genocide. 

The Israeli government has cut off the flow of food, medicine, water and electricity to Gaza, leaving millions of Palestinian civilians at risk of starvation and dehydration. The few places that can help those in need are shutting down: United Nations shelters have run out of water and hospitals are running out of generator fuel. Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have confirmed the Israeli government’s use of white phosphorus in populated areas of Gaza, which, when exposed to atmospheric oxygen, can reach temperatures up to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit and can “cause severe burns, often down to the bone.” The Israeli government also ordered 1.1 million Palestinians, nearly half of the territory’s population, to evacuate to southern Gaza — without any guarantee for their safety or their return — as Israeli military forces prepare for a ground offensive.

The Israeli government’s official narrative is that it is acting in self-defense against Hamas. But the people paying the price, by and large, are not Hamas but ordinary Palestinians. Of the nearly 5,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza, many of them are children. Another grim statistic reflects the scale of violence: in barely over a week, all the living generations of 45 families have already been wiped from the Gaza civil registry. Israeli forces have also bombed a historical church, threatened hospitals and raided a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, which is not part of Gaza nor ruled by Hamas. The scope of the war, clearly, has extended beyond Hamas and threatens Palestine as a whole.

Israel’s actions, according to a group of UN human rights experts, amount to collective punishment. It is a war crime under Article 33 of the Geneva Convention, as well as the forcible transfer of a population, a war crime punishable by the International Criminal Court. Rhetoric coming from top ranks in the Israeli government bolsters their assessment. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant framed the war as a fight against “human animals”, retired general Israel Ziv called for Gaza to be “level[ed to] the ground” and president Isaac Herzog stated “unequivocally, it’s an entire nation out there that is responsible.” Daniel Hagari, a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces, said the military’s focus was on “damage and not on accuracy.” Arnesa Buljušmić-Kustura, a genocide researcher, spoke with six other genocide researchers and all unanimously agreed that rhetoric used by Israeli government and military officials implied genocidal intent. Francesca Albanese, a UN special rapporteur on human rights, warned that Palestinians in Gaza are in “grave danger of mass ethnic cleansing.” We should not downplay these assessments. Rather, they should alarm us all into action.

Just as people are not their governments, Palestinians are not Hamas. Two-thirds of Gaza’s population is under 24, and half of the population is under 18. Although democratically elected in 2007, Hamas has not held an election for 16 years, which means that many, if not a majority, of Palestinians have never voted for Hamas. 

If we believe that people are not their government, then we cannot justify the massacre of thousands of innocent Palestinians for the crimes of Hamas. Neither should we allow leaders from the University to Congress to look on. University President Peter Salovey stated that Yale “stand[s] for peace” but has not made any official comment on a cease-fire. If he means that Yale stands for peace, then Yale must advocate for an immediate cease-fire. A recent opinion column in the Yale Daily News lists more measures Yale can take to make its commitment to peace real. Representative Rosa DeLauro and Senator Chris Murphy have both declared full support for Israel’s right to defend itself, even if it is coming at the cost of the lives of many innocent Palestinians. Recently, their colleagues in Congress introduced the Cease-fire NOW resolution. Urge them to do the right thing — the least they can do — and support the resolution.

We are not helpless. We can do something. The United States government is Israel’s strongest backer, and it can influence the Israeli government to stop before it’s too late. It already successfully pressured the Israeli government into allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza. If we can mobilize members of Congress to start pushing for a cease-fire, this will make it harder for the Biden administration to ignore our voices. 

Currently, they are avoiding the prospect of de-escalation. After Israel ordered the forced evacuation of northern Gaza, U.S. State Department officials circulated internal warnings against three phrases: “de-escalation/cease-fire,” “end to violence/bloodshed” and “restoring calm.” 

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House Press Secretary, labeled calls from members of Congress calling for a cease-fire as “repugnant” and “disgraceful.” 

Ben Rhodes, one of Obama’s key national security advisers, wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter: “The decisions being made now are going to impact millions of lives, reverberate for generations, and risk all kinds of escalation. The U.S. should have learned from 9/11 the profound cost of being guided by anger and fear. I hope that is what we are telling the Israeli government.”

Clearly, that is not what we are telling the Israeli government. The United States government needs to start pushing for an immediate cease-fire. No restrictions on access to basic needs, no transfer of civilian populations and no airstrikes. Hamas must also be brought to justice and the hostages returned immediately. We should never resign ourselves to the idea that genocide can ever be accepted as a just response. It is never a strategic necessity. This cannot be the way. 

We, as Yalies, and the broader international community should always mobilize against threats of genocide. This is not a time to stand by. It is time to rise to the occasion. Implore university leaders to realize their commitment to peace. Call and email your representatives in Congress. Urge them to support the Cease-fire NOW resolution. Reach out to them again and again until their offices know your name. Do not call it a day after one call or one email. Further mobilize by joining organizations, such as Jewish Voice for Peace or IfNotNow, advocating for a cease-fire in the Israel-Gaza war. 

A cease-fire does not mean peace, much less liberation for the people of Palestine. It is merely a stopgap, but it is a fundamentally important one. It might be the only thing right now that can pull the brakes on a situation that threatens to reach levels of genocide.

DYLAN CARLSON SIRVENT LÉON is a senior in Pauli Murray College. Contact him at