More than 400 federal officials sent President Joe Biden a letter today protesting his support for Israel and demanding he call for an immediate ceasefire, according to a report in the New York Times.
The letter, obtained by the Times, was anonymously signed by officials of various faith backgrounds representing 40 government agencies, including the National Security Council, the FBI, and the Justice Department. The document begins by denouncing the Oct. 7 attack on Israelis carried out by Hamas and implores the president to facilitate moving more aid into Gaza, the newspaper reported.
“We call on President 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,” the letter says, according to the Times.
It also notes that Biden’s approach to supporting Israel is unpopular among voters, linking to a poll from the progressive think tank Data for Progress, issued last month, showing that 66 percent of voters—and 80 percent of Democrats—agree that the US should call for a ceasefire in Gaza. As my colleague Noah Lanard has reported, young progressives in particular are disgusted with Biden over the support he has shown for Israel—a reality that Democratic strategists say could cost him the election.
According to the Times, the letter adds that “Americans do not want the U.S. military to be drawn into another costly and senseless war in the Middle East.”
The White House hasn’t yet publicly responded to the letter and didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Mother Jones on Tuesday morning—but Biden said last week that there’s “no possibility” of a ceasefire, noting instead that he had asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to implement daily four-hour pauses to allow civilians to flee, which Israel’s military has agreed to.
The letter comes as the latest example of growing dissent within the Biden administration over its support for Israel: the Times reported yesterday that dozens of State Department employees sent Secretary of State Antony Blinken three internal “dissent” memos urging Biden to call for a ceasefire. Blinken responded in an email to State Department employees, obtained by the Times, saying he’s aware “some people in the department may disagree with approaches we are taking or have views on what we can do better” and that officials are “listening” to these concerns.
State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters Monday that Blinken “encourages people to provide feedback” and “to speak up if they disagree.”
“It doesn’t mean that we’re going to change our policy based on their disagreements,” Miller added. “He is going to take their recommendations and make ultimately what he thinks is the best judgment and make his recommendations to the president about what we ought to do.”
Hundreds of USAID officials also signed a letter calling on the Biden administration to push for a ceasefire, Foreign Policy reported last Friday.
USAID Spokesperson Jessica Jennings said in a statement provided to Mother Jones on Tuesday that the agency “will continue to work with our trusted partner organizations to help meet urgent needs in Gaza for medical commodities, shelter, access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and food.” Jennings added that “agency leadership has held numerous listening sessions with staff to offer appreciation for their work and hear their concerns.”
Instead of a ceasefire, the Biden administration has requested $14 billion in aid for Israel, while bundling an aid request for Palestinians into a $9 billion request for humanitarian aid for Israel, Palestine, and Ukraine as a group—without specifying how much of it would actually go towards Palestinians.
According to the Gaza Health Ministry, more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war.
On Sunday, the World Health Organization said Sunday that 521 people—including 16 healthcare workers—had been killed in “attacks on healthcare” in Gaza, and that hospitals lack adequate food, water, and fuel. Human Rights Watch said today that Israel’s attacks on healthcare facilities and personnel should be investigated as war crimes by the International Criminal Court.
This story has been updated with statements from the State Department and USAID.