Late Monday, more than 140 congressional interns and fellows released an open letter to Congress calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.
“There is no justification for the wanton killing of innocent civilians,” the letter reads. “There is no justification for intentionally bombing hospitals, shelters, water supplies, religious sites, or schools. This is no longer an act of defense. It is genocide. While we refrain from telling our bosses how to do their jobs, as congressional interns and fellows, we owe it to the American people to expose the patent malpractice of Congress.” Interns say they signed the letter anonymously due to fear of professional consequences and online harassment.
The letter also accuses members of Congress of ignoring the will of their constituents in refusing to support a ceasefire. As of December 4, only 55 members of the House and four Senators have called for a ceasefire. However, a Data for Progress poll released last Tuesday showed 61 percent of voters nationwide supported a permanent ceasefire. Interns, who are tasked with answering constituent calls, know firsthand the extent of this support. The letter claims that in 71 Congressional offices, constituents made nearly 700,000 calls demanding a permanent end to fighting in the war.
The letter cites these numbers as evidence that constituents’ voices are being “suppressed” within congressional offices. “In some cases, Members of Congress are not being adequately briefed about the volume or contents of these messages; in several instances, senior staff have deliberately provided inaccurate information about these data to Members,” the letter reads. The interns did not provide specific evidence for the claim that senior staff were conveying inaccurate information to members of Congress.
The interns join an increasing number of congressional staff at all levels who have been publicly criticizing their bosses’ stances on the war. And last week, NBC News reported that a group of more than 40 White House interns had sent a letter to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris demanding a ceasefire. Hill interns are often in a particularly difficult position, one intern interviewed for this story pointed out, since they must correspond with constituents all day.
“[On the phone] I’m limited to a very specifically curated response…I can only communicate public statements [the member] has made,” the intern said. “It’s really challenging because I understand the frustration on the other line. I’ve been told a number of times I personally have blood on my hands and I’m complicit in genocide, for working in the office of a representative who refuses to do anything.” In their office, the intern said, the volume of calls asking for a ceasefire has eclipsed calls about other popular issues like gun control and immigration.
In an interview several weeks ago, one junior Hill staffer, who helped organize the recent Congressional staff walkout for a ceasefire (but was not involved in the interns’ letter), noted that the war has been “especially detrimental” to morale among young staffers. “It does not feel that these members of Congress who alleged to represent their constituents actually know what the constituents want,” the staff member said. “I think it is disheartening to see that many of these staffers are taking on that burden of feeling that they’re the only voices for constituents in the room, because no one else in the senior staff level or in the members office seems to be hearing what the American people want.”
Read the full letter here: