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Israel-Palestine war: Interns, fellows on Capitol Hill say US Congress suppressing Gaza ceasefire calls

Congressional interns say they wrote letter 'to expose the patent malpractice of Congress'
Demonstrators sing as they walk out of the Hart Senate Office Building following a prayer gathering for a ceasefire in the war in Gaza on Capitol Hill on 9 November 2023 in Washington.
Demonstrators sing as they walk out of Hart Senate Office Building after a prayer gathering for a ceasefire in the war in Gaza on Capitol Hill, on 9 November in Washington DC (AFP)
By Umar A Farooq in Washington

A group of 140 interns and fellows on Capitol Hill have signed a letter to Congress slamming senior staff and US lawmakers for suppressing demands for a ceasefire in Gaza.

In a letter shared with Middle East Eye on Tuesday, the group of congressional interns said they could no longer stay silent on the growing calls for a ceasefire both within the halls of Congress as well as among the American public.

"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," the letter said.

The interns said that 71 of the 535 congressional offices alone received nearly 700,000 calls, letters, and voice messages demanding a permanent ceasefire in the besieged enclave.

Despite this, less than two dozen lawmakers have become co-sponsors of Congresswoman Cori Bush's "Ceasefire Now" resolution, which was introduced over a month ago.

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'We owe it to the American people to expose the patent malpractice of Congress'

- Congressional interns and fellows

In addition to its criticism against lawmakers, the interns also pointed critiques at senior staff across congressional offices, saying, "in several instances, senior staff have deliberately provided inaccurate information about these data" to members of Congress.

The letter, in which the signatories remained anonymous, is the latest sign in what is a growing discontent over Washington's response to the war in Gaza.

"We may not be the highest ranking in our offices, but we will continue to do everything in our power to ensure a permanent ceasefire is achieved, even when Members of Congress fail to do so."

War broke out in Gaza on 7 October, following an attack by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups on southern Israel - which caught its military off-guard, killed 1,200 people, and led to the capture of 240 people who were taken back to Gaza. While some have been released, more than 100 are being held in Gaza. 

Israel responded by launching an aerial bombardment followed by a ground invasion of Gaza that has so far killed more than 18,000 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Israel's military campaign has also displaced 1.9 million Palestinians, targeted civilian infrastructure, including mosques and hospitals, and has led hundreds of scholars to warn that Israel may be committing genocide against Palestinians.

The Biden administration and many members of Congress responded to the war by putting their full support behind Israel. Biden has also provided military aid and sent military reinforcements to the region to prevent the conflict from widening.

In recent days, Biden has slightly changed tone and issued some concern regarding Israel's actions, including the reported use of US-supplied white phosphorus on civilians. On Tuesday, Biden said Israel was losing support in the international community and called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to change its far-right government.

At the same time, the administration is working to fast-track weapons to the country, including a Saturday announcement in which it said it was bypassing Congress to send 14,000 tank shells to Israel.

'Disconnect' with American public

Meanwhile, American support for an end to the war has grown.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll in mid-November found that a majority of American respondents back a ceasefire. A more recent poll found that 61 percent of respondents support a US call for a permanent ceasefire.

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"The most disheartening thing that I, and many constituents, noticed was the disconnect between what they were asking for and the actions of the representative," one signatory, who remained anonymous, said in a statement shared with MEE.

"I was even disgusted by the language some staffers used when talking about the issue or a ceasefire. To diminish the intelligence of people who support a ceasefire, to blatantly spread misinformation within the office about the conflict, and to actively make other staff feel uncomfortable is appalling."

All across the US government, dissent over Washington's fervent support for the war is growing.

Israel-Palestine war: White House interns pen letter demanding ceasefire in Gaza
Read More »

Middle East Eye reported in October that officials in the State Department were preparing a draft dissent cable that called for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Israel, Gaza, and the occupied West Bank, and demanding the US government promote truthful and balanced public messaging towards resolving the crisis.

Then on 9 November, more than 500 alumni of the Biden election campaign penned a letter demanding a ceasefire.

Last week, a group of 40 interns at the White House shared a similar letter with MEE, demanding that US President Joe Biden call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

"We are not the decision makers of today, but we aspire to be the leaders of tomorrow, and we will never forget how the pleas of the American people have been heard and thus far, ignored," the letter said.

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