More than 500 Biden campaign and Democratic staffers urge president to do more to protect Palestinians and hold Israel accountable
- Open letter is the latest sign of Democratic Party divisions over Gaza conflict
- Signatories demand President Biden urge Israel to lift blockade and do more to support Palestinian self-determination
- Letter also asks for investigation into whether U.S. military aid funded foreign military units implicated in abuses
- It follows Friday ceasefire between Hamas and Israel that ended 11-day conflict
- Biden was already under pressure from party members to take a harder line on Israel, including halting arms sales
More than 500 Democratic staffers and Biden campaign alumni have written an open letter demanding the president do more to protect Palestinians and hold Israel accountable for its actions in the occupied territories.
The 11-day conflict in Gaza exposed a growing divide within the historic party, between progressives who identify with the Palestinian struggle and a president who repeatedly reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks.
By the time a ceasefire began on Friday, more than 230 Palestinians had died in Israeli airstrikes and 12 people were killed in Israel by Hamas rockets.
The letter urged Biden to demand Israel lifts its ‘blockade’ of Gaza, support the Palestinian right to self-determination and investigate whether the latest Israeli offensive broke laws banning the use of U.S. military aid in the commission of human rights abuses.
President Joe Biden faces pressure from the left of his party to recognize what critics say is a power imbalance between Israelis and Palestinians. More than 500 campaign alumni and there had been no shift in his position on Israel despite urging the Israeli military to de-escalate strikes on Gaza as he came under pressure from Democrats to do more to protect Palestinians
More than 250 people died and thousands others were injured in the recent conflict. Palestinian health officials said 248 people died in Gaza, including 66 children.
‘We remain horrified by the images of Palestinian civilians in Gaza killed or made homeless by Israeli airstrikes,’ it said
‘We are outraged by Israel’s efforts to forcibly and illegally expel Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah.
‘We are shocked by Israel’s destruction of a building housing international news organizations.
‘We remain horrified by reports of Hamas rockets killing Israeli civilians.’
The letter was signed by staffers who worked at Biden’s national campaign headquarters, in 22 states and at the the Democratic National Committee.
It commends Biden’s efforts to broker a ceasefire but says returning to the status quo is untenable.
‘While Israelis had to spend nights hiding in bomb shelters, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip had nowhere to hide. It is critical to acknowledge this power imbalance — that Israel’s highly-advanced military occupies the West Bank and East Jerusalem and blockades the Gaza Strip, creating an uninhabitable open-air prison,’ it said.
Biden faced multiple challenges to his position on Israel last week from within his own party.
During a trip to Michigan, he was confronted by Rep. Rashida Tlaib who demanded he do more to protect Palestinian human rights.
Gazan children play on rubble of a destroyed building targeted by Israeli attacks, in Gaza City. A ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas was reached following 11 days of the worst fighting between the two sides in recent years.
And lawmakers introduced resolutions in both the Senate and the House to try to block the Biden administration’s sale of $735 million in arms to Israel.
On Friday, the president addressed questions about party divisions and whether his own attitude had shifted during the week.
‘I think that, you know, my party still supports Israel,’ he said. ‘Until the region says unequivocally they acknowledge the right of Israel to exist as an independent Jewish state, there will be no peace.’
Biden has promised to lead efforts to rebuild homes in Gaza while at the same time replenishing Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling to the region to press Palestinians, Israelis and regional powers to build on last week’s ceasefire.