Over 500 political appointees and staff members from various government agencies have signed a letter to President Joe Biden expressing their dissatisfaction with his support of Israel during the conflict in the Gaza Strip. The letter, a result of growing internal dissent within the administration, calls for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and urges Israel to allow humanitarian aid into the region.
This letter follows previous protests, including internal memos to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and an open letter from employees of the U.S. Agency for International Development. The signatories of the letter and the circulating USAID letter have chosen to remain anonymous due to concerns for personal safety and job security. The dissent is evidence that the administration’s recent expressions of concern for Palestinian civilian casualties have not satisfied many within the U.S. government.
The letter, which was reviewed by a reputable source, condemns the attacks by Hamas on October 7th and urges President Biden to end the bloodshed caused by Israel’s retaliatory military campaign. The letter specifically calls for a cease-fire, de-escalation of the conflict, release of hostages and detained Palestinians, restoration of basic services, and provision of adequate humanitarian aid to Gaza. The organizers of the letter have continued to collect signatures even after its submission to President Biden, and the number of signatories has surpassed the original 402 names. The organizers plan to update the White House on a daily basis regarding the number of signatures.
According to two political appointees involved in organizing the letter, the majority of signatories are politically appointed individuals from various faith backgrounds working in different government agencies, including the National Security Council, the FBI, and the Justice Department. Some of these signatories supported President Biden’s election campaign in 2020 and are concerned that the administration’s support for Israel’s actions in Gaza contradicts the stance of Democratic voters.
The letter cites a poll from October, indicating that 66% of Americans, including 80% of Democrats, believe the United States should pressure Israel for a cease-fire. It also emphasizes that Americans do not want the country to be pulled into another costly and unnecessary war in the Middle East.
Israel initiated a ground invasion of Gaza last month following attacks by Hamas on October 7th, resulting in approximately 1,200 fatalities according to the Israeli government. Gaza’s Health Ministry reports that over 11,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s military offensive. President Biden and Secretary Blinken, along with Israeli leadership, oppose a long-term cease-fire, as they believe it would allow Hamas to recover and plan future attacks. Instead, they have called for intermittent pauses in the fighting to facilitate humanitarian missions and the release of Israeli hostages. U.S. officials claim to have made considerable efforts to ensure aid enters Gaza.
The two individuals who helped organize the letter to President Biden explain that they joined the administration because the president sought a government that better represented American voters. However, they feel that their concerns and those of other political appointees have largely been disregarded. Some U.S. officials argue that while dissent is welcomed at senior levels, government workers must accept that they will not always agree with U.S. policy. The dissent over Gaza appears to stem mostly from employees in their 20s and 30s, although older individuals have also signed the protest letters.
These letters of protest follow a tense meeting on October 23rd at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. During the meeting, 70 Muslim and Arab political appointees voiced their experiences of pressure from family and friends to resign due to the administration’s support for Israel. Attendees made emotional pleas for a cease-fire, restrictions on weapons shipments to Israel’s military, and greater consideration for Palestinian civilian casualties in Gaza.
The dissenting messages within the State Department were transmitted via internal cables, known as the dissent channel, which was established during the Vietnam War to encourage employees to express disagreements with official policy. Dissenters are protected from retaliation under State Department rules. In response to the internal dissent, Secretary Blinken sent a message to department employees acknowledging the toll the crisis was taking and recognizing that some may disagree with the administration’s approach. He emphasized that the input from employees is shaping policy and messaging.