Muslim and Jewish congressional staffers signed a letter Thursday urging Congress to back a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in light of “anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian sentiment on the rise nationwide.”
The letter, which HuffPost has learned has been signed by 411 staffers, comes as a small handful of members speak out against the Biden administration’s approach to the conflict.
Outside of Washington, Arab and Muslim groups are afraid for their safety after the murder of a 6-year-old in an anti-Muslim hate crime in Illinois. On college campuses across the country, both Jewish and Muslim groups said they felt unsupported and unsafe.
“Nationwide and in Congress, the voices calling for de-escalation and peace have been drowned out by those beating the drums of war,” they wrote in the letter. “As Muslims and Jews, we are tired of reliving generational fears of genocide and ethnic cleansing.”
The staffers spoke to HuffPost anonymously out of concern for their safety and job security.
“I grew up in a Jewish family carrying the story of my grandparents, Holocaust survivors who escaped genocide only because of the solidarity of complete strangers in foreign lands,” said one staffer. “The horrifying genocide in Palestine helped me say yes to my courageous Muslim colleague who felt a profound call to speak out when too many of our bosses have yet to call for peace.”
“As the child of the Palestinian diaspora, I sign this letter because it places peace first and doesn’t enable and encourage genocide and human rights violations,” wrote another staffer. “If we are not seeking peace then what are we seeking?”
Many of them recounted their family stories while others voiced concerns about the internal splits and divisions among staffers. Those divisions are far-reaching. Earlier this week, veteran State Department official Josh Paul resigned from the agency over President Biden’s approach to Israel-Palestine. He told HuffPost he felt he had to do so because he knew he could not push for a more humane policy.
“It often feels like the conversations on Capitol Hill are completely divorced from the conversations people are having amongst their friends, family and coworkers,” said another staffer.
Other staffers mentioned their apprehensions about speaking out. Those concerns are not unfounded. Several staffers across multiple agencies, most of whom work on national security issues, previously told HuffPost they feared retaliation for speaking out against Biden’s policies towards the most recent conflict.
“I understood all the potential dangers, both in terms of my personal safety and career, when I embarked on this endeavor with my colleagues,” said another staffer. “We were scared. We had witnessed how unforgiving the world has been to those who shared our beliefs, but we thought that someone has to have courage, and while the stakes were high, our shared belief that we are on the right side of history was higher.”
“Despite the profound solidarity we’ve discovered among ourselves through this letter, our voices and the grief and pain we feel remain repressed and silent till this moment,” a staffer added. “For my colleagues, who have felt helpless, lost and alone, we grieve and mourn with you, and hope this letter gave you the safe place you have been looking for.”
— This article has been edited for style.