WASHINGTON, D.C. — Federal government workers from the State Department to NASA are circulating open letters demanding that President Biden pursue a ceasefire in Israel’s war on Gaza. Congressional staffers are picking up microphones in front of the Capitol, speaking out to condemn the silence of lawmakers about the toll on Palestinian civilians.
As the civilian deaths soar in Gaza, Biden and Congress are facing unusually public challenges from the inside over their support for Israel’s offensive. Hundreds of staffers in the administration and on Capitol Hill are signing on to open letters, speaking to reporters and holding vigils, all in an effort to shift U.S. policy toward more urgent action to stem Palestinian casualties.
“Most of our bosses on Capitol Hill are not listening to the people they represent,” one of the congressional staffers told the crowd at a protest this month. Wearing medical masks that obscured their faces, the roughly 100 congressional aides heaped flowers in front of Congress to honor the civilians killed in the conflict.
The objections coming from federal employees over the United States’ military and other backing for Israel’s assault on Gaza is partly an outgrowth of the changes happening more broadly across American society. As the United States becomes more diverse, so does the federal workforce, including more appointees of Muslim and Arab American backgrounds. Also, surveys show public opinion shifting regarding U.S. support of Israel, with more Americans expressing disapproval of the hard-right government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
After weeks of seeing images of bloodied children and fleeing families in Gaza, a significant number of Americans, including from Biden’s Democratic Party, disagree with his support of Israel’s brutal military campaign against Palestinian civilians. A poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in early November found 40 percent of the U.S. public believed Israel’s response in Gaza had gone too far. The war has roiled college campuses and set off large nationwide protests.