Hundreds of political appointees and government staffers representing over 40 U.S. agencies signed a letter to the Biden administration calling for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.
According to The New York Times, which reviewed a copy of the letter, more than 400 individuals anonymously signed on to Tuesday’s missive demanding the president’s administration call more forcefully for de-escalation in the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Israel’s retaliatory siege against Gaza following the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas, which killed 1,400 Israelis, has now killed more than 11,000 Palestinians.
The disproportionate death toll, forced migrations, and ongoing Israeli blockade against humanitarian aid entering the Gaza Strip have fueled accusations of ethnic cleansing by Israel in the Palestinian territory they’ve controlled for decades. It has all come with the backing of the U.S. government.
The letter cites popular American support for a cease-fire, and calls on Biden to “urgently demand a cease-fire; and to call for de-escalation of the current conflict by securing the immediate release of the Israeli hostages and arbitrarily detained Palestinians; the restoration of water, fuel, electricity and other basic services; and the passage of adequate humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.”
Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have both rejected calls for a cease-fire, instead touting their support for periodic humanitarian pauses in the shelling of Gaza. On Monday, Blinken responded to three State Department “dissent” cables raising objections to the administration’s virtually unwavering support for Israel by telling department staff that he and his office were “listening.”
It’s done little to appease critics. Blinken’s testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee in late October was repeatedly interrupted by protesters raising hands stained with red paint to signify the blood of Palestinians. On Monday, Palestinian residents of Gaza, their families, and human rights organizations sued Biden, Blinken, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on grounds that they have failed in “their duty to prevent, and not further, the unfolding genocide of Palestinian people in Gaza.”
The lawsuit, filed in California federal court, accuses American government officials of a “breach of U.S. responsibilities under customary international law, as codified in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (‘Genocide Convention), Dec. 9, 1948.” The suit seeks an order requiring the Biden administration to take all measures within its power to exert its influence over Israel in seeking an end to the bombing of Gaza, the prevention of forced expulsion of Gaza’s residents, and an injunction against continued military aid to Israel.
“For the past 38 days, the world has watched senior Israeli officials use dehumanizing language in connection with their expressed intent to destroy and displace Palestinians in Gaza while imposing an unrelenting siege, and intentionally depriving Palestinians the conditions of life necessary for human survival,” the lawsuit reads. “The United States has been obligated, from the time it learned of the specter of a genocide of the Palestinian people, to exercise its clear and considerable influence on Israel to prevent this grave crime from unfolding.”
Calls for a cease-fire are also brewing on Capitol Hill. Earlier this month, more than 100 congressional staffers staged a walkout protest urging their employers to endorse a cease-fire. In recent polling by Data for Progress, 66 percent of Americans support a cease-fire, compared to only 4 percent of House representatives in Congress.
One of the most prominent voices in government speaking in support of a cease-fire is Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the only Palestinian-American currently serving in Congress. Tlaib was censured by House Republicans earlier this month in a bad-faith rebuke of her support for Palestinian welfare. In a statement responding to her censure, Tlaib made clear that she would not stop speaking out on the matter. “A majority of Americans support a ceasefire,” she wrote, “but this Congress isn’t listening to their voices.”