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Open letter on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza


20th October 2023


To the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, United Kingdom,


We, the undersigned, are a group of academics who are scholars of political science, political philosophy, ethics, history, geography, law and the Middle East. We implore you to call for an immediate cessation to Israel’s morally disastrous attack on Gaza, and for Israel to allow the free passage of humanitarian aid into Gaza, in addition to continuing to call on Hamas to release the Israeli hostages. The attack by Hamas on 7th October was a horrific and morally abhorrent act of mass terrorism, one that indiscriminately targeted Israeli civilians, including children. According to international law, Israel has the right to take defensive measures against Hamas. But this right does not extend to or justify Israel’s current onslaught on the civilian population of Gaza. Indeed, to think that the atrocities perpetrated by Hamas justify the humanitarian crisis currently unfolding in Gaza is to indulge a central tenet of terrorism – that all citizens must pay for the misdeeds of their governments – as well as terrorism’s central practice: collective punishment.

In its attack on Gaza, Israel has deliberately deprived innocent Palestinian civilians – a great number of them children – of water, food and electricity, as well as the means of escape. While Israel has recently agreed to allow limited deliveries of food, water and medical supplies through the Egypt-Gaza border, it continues to refuse the passage of fuel into Gaza, imperilling the ability of hospitals to function. The amount of aid Israel has agreed to allow in, the UN’s humanitarian chief recently warned, is grossly insufficient. Israel’s initial order to a population of approximately 1.2 million women, men and children in the north of Gaza to evacuate their homes in just 24 hours, with no guarantee of safety or the right to return, has been described as ‘the war crime of forcible transfer’ by the Norwegian Refugee Council. The United Nations warned of this action’s ‘devastating humanitarian consequences’. As we write, Gaza’s death toll has risen to approximately 3500, with another 12,500 injured. Included in that number are many children, journalists, health workers and aid workers. UNRWA, the UN’s agency supporting Palestinian refugees, has declared the situation an ‘unprecedented human catastrophe’. Israel’s actions are an affront to basic moral dignity.

These facts are by now familiar. The question is how both the British government and its Opposition can, in the face of them, continue to support Israel’s actions. We implore you, as academics who spend our lives thinking about events such as these, to see what, in the fullness of history, will be obvious to all: that Israel is today engaged in a morally disastrous exercise, and that those nations who give Israel cover to do so have innocent Palestinian blood on their hands. In the name of human dignity and moral decency, you must call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.



Yours faithfully,


Amia Srinivasan, Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory, All Souls College, Oxford


Jeff McMahan, Sekyra and White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy, Corpus Christi College, Oxford


Neta C. Crawford, Montague Burton Professor of International Relations, Balliol College, Oxford


Cécile Laborde, Nuffield Professor of Political Theory, Nuffield College, Oxford


Krzysztof Pelc, Lester B. Pearson Professor of International Relations, St Anne’s College, Oxford


Avi Shlaim, Professor Emeritus of International Relations, St Antony’s College, Oxford


John Broome, White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy Emeritus, Oxford


Henry Shue, Professor Emeritus of Politics and International Relations, Merton College, Oxford


Sophie Smith, Associate Professor of Political Theory, University College, Oxford


Daniel Butt, Associate Professor of Political Theory, Balliol College, Oxford


Stuart White, Associate Professor in Political Theory, Jesus College, Oxford


Miles Tendi, Associate Professor of African Politics, St Antony’s College, Oxford


Patricia Owens, Professor of International Relations, Somerville College, Oxford


Meera Sabaratnam, Associate Professor in International Relations, New College, Oxford


Thomas Sinclair, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Wadham College, Oxford


Daniela Dover, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Merton College, Oxford


Jeanne Morefield, Associate Professor of Political Theory, New College, Oxford


James McDougall, Professor of Modern and Contemporary History, Trinity College, Oxford


Robert Gildea, Professor of Modern History, Worcester College, Oxford


Faisal Devji, Professor of Indian History, St Antony’s College, Oxford


Walter Armbrust, Professor of Modern Middle Eastern Studies, St Antony’s College, Oxford


Neil Ketchley, Associate Professor of Politics, St Antony’s College, Oxford


Patricia Clavin, Professor of Modern History, Worcester College, Oxford


Thomas Adams, Associate Professor of Law, St Catherine’s College, Oxford


Adrian W. Moore, Professor of Philosophy, St Hugh's College, Oxford


Patricia M. Thornton, Associate Professor of Politics and International Relations, Merton College, Oxford


Roxana Banu, Associate Professor of Law, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford


Patricia Daley, Professor of the Human Geography of Africa, Jesus College Oxford


Paul Billingham, Associate Professor of Political Theory, Magdalen College, Oxford


Janet Radcliffe Richards, Professor Emerita of Practical Philosophy, Oxford


Rachel Fraser, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Exeter College, Oxford


Hilary Greaves, Professor of Philosophy, Oxford


Dominic Wilkinson, Deputy Director, Oxford Uehiro Centre and Professor of Medical Ethics, Jesus College, Oxford


Alison Light, Honorary Fellow in History and English, Pembroke College, Oxford


Hayden Wilkinson, Research Fellow in Philosophy, Wolfson College, Oxford


Fanny Bessard, Associate Professor in Medieval Eurasian History, Trinity College, Oxford


Katrien Devolder, Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy, Reuben College, Oxford


Thomas Douglas, Professor of Applied Philosophy, Jesus College, Oxford


Alexander Prescott-Couch, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Lincoln College, Oxford


Amber Murrey, Associate Professor in Geography, Mansfield College, Oxford


Raihan Ismail, H.H Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies, St Antony’s College, Oxford


Natalia Waights Hickman, Associate Professor in Philosophy, Worcester College, Oxford


Leila Ullrich, Associate Professor of Criminology, Worcester College, Oxford


Sneha Krishnan, Associate Professor in Human Geography, Brasenose College, Oxford

Alice Crary, Visiting Fellow in Philosophy and Christian Ethics, Regent's Park College, Oxford

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