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War on Gaza: White House staffers spurn 'morale-booster' party and call for ceasefire

Group of Biden staffers say they are 'disgusted by this display of complete apathy' towards the devastation and killings in Gaza
Plush toys for young Palestinian victims in the war on Gaza are placed in front of the White House in Washington on 13 January 2024.
Plush toys for young Palestinian victims in the war on Gaza are placed in front of the White House in Washington, on 13 January 2024 (Daniel Slim/AFP)
By Umar A Farooq in Washington

A group of White House staffers is calling on others to boycott a party being hosted by chief of staff Jeff Zients to send a message to the Biden administration that it needs to call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

The call highlights the internal divisions inside the Biden administration over the US president's approach to Israel's war in Gaza, which has killed nearly 26,000 Palestinians - many of whom are women and children.

"If you are an administration staffer and agree that both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live with equal rights, safety, peace, and human dignity, stay home and do not attend this party," the staffers wrote in an email shared with Middle East Eye.

"If you cannot stay home, we ask you to wear green in solidarity with this movement to call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire. Peace and safety for all across the Middle East is essential."

Earlier this month, Axios reported that a "morale-booster" party was being hosted off campus by Zients for hundreds of Biden staffers "to celebrate their last three years - and steel the team for the final sprint ahead of the election". 

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The group of staffers noted that as the party takes place on Thursday night, "a child in Gaza is killed every 8 minutes".

"While President Biden celebrates what his administration has accomplished in three years, two mothers are killed every hour in Gaza," the staffers wrote.

"While those in seats of power look to move on from this war, we grieve the 250 lives cut short in Gaza today."

Middle East Eye reached out to the White House for comment on this story, but did not receive a response by time of publication.

'We are disgusted'

The war in Gaza began on 7 October when the armed Palestinian group Hamas launched an attack from Gaza on southern Israel. The attack killed 695 Israeli civilians, 373 security forces and 71 foreigners, a total of 1,139 people, according to the Israeli government. Over 200 people were taken captive back to Gaza. Some were released in an exchange deal but over 100 hostages are still being held by Hamas.

Israel responded to the attacks with indiscriminate and unrelenting force, imposing a full siege on Gaza and an aerial bombing campaign, followed by a ground invasion.

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Israel's military campaign has targeted civilian infrastructure including mosques, hospitals, schools and UN shelters. On Thursday, Israeli forces killed 20 Palestinians queueing up to receive humanitarian aid.

Over the past three months, the US has provided Israel with both military and diplomatic support despite the rising death toll in the enclave. 

Since the war began, two officials in the White House have resigned in protest against US support for Israel's military campaign. Meanwhile, others have mobilised to send dissent cables and letters demanding that the US president advocate for a ceasefire.

Staffers in the administration and Congress spoke to Middle East Eye about how the anger inside Washington over US support for the war has reached a boiling point in recent weeks.

"We are disgusted by this display of complete apathy towards the lives that have been taken in the region over the last three months," the staffers' email said.

"Every day for the last 110 days, we wake up to horrific photos and videos of refugee camps, hospitals, schools, and entire neighborhoods decimated by our bombs," they wrote. "Shame on all of us for letting this continue."

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