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US political aides rail against bosses’ lack of humanity for Palestinians and demand ceasefire 

November 14, 2023 at 2:42 pm

United States Representative Rashida Tlaib, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (seen), United States Representative Ilhan Omar, Representative Cori Bush, Representative Jonathan Jackson, Representative Nydia M. Velazquez, United States Representative Jamaal Bowman, and Representative Summer Lee hold a press conference with Rabbis in front of the US Capitol to call for a ceasefire and end to the Israeli attacks on Gaza in Washington DC, United States on November 13, 2023 [Celal Gunes/Anadolu via Getty Images]

A wave of current and former staffers are speaking out against their bosses and urging a ceasefire in Gaza, highlighting a stark generational divide on Capitol Hill.

In an unprecedented dramatic walkout at the Capitol, young staffers declared that they could no longer stay silent while their bosses ignore constituents who are pleading for a de-escalation of Israel’s attack on Gaza. Although most lawmakers firmly back Israel’s military campaign and reject ceasefire calls, their younger staff are agitating for peace, struggling to reconcile personal convictions with professional duties.

More than 100 congressional staff members, all wearing masks to obscure their identities, organised a walkout in protest against their bosses. “We are congressional staffers on Capitol Hill, and we are no longer comfortable staying silent,” declared three of the aides, all of whom declined to give their names. “Our constituents are pleading for a ceasefire, and we are the staffers answering their calls. Most of our bosses on Capitol Hill are not listening to the people they represent. We demand our leaders speak up: Call for a ceasefire, the release of all hostages and an immediate de-escalation now.”

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Staffers have shown dissent in several ways. Over 550 signed an open letter this month urging Congress to support a ceasefire, and accusing lawmakers of disregarding Palestinian civilian deaths while expressing solidarity with Israelis. Dozens have protested outside Congress demanding action, despite little tolerance for criticism of Israel on the Hill.

“As the children of survivors of slavery, the Holocaust, colonialism, war and oppression, we feel compelled to raise our voices in this moment” the letter said. “We have appreciated seeing nearly every Member of Congress express quick and unequivocal solidarity with the Israeli people, but we are profoundly disturbed that such shows of humanity have barely been extended to the Palestinian people.”

According to the New York Times, around the same time, 500 former staff members on President Biden’s 2020 campaign calling themselves Biden Alumni for Peace and Justice, wrote an open letter calling for a ceasefire. “If you fail to act swiftly,” they warned, “your legacy will be complicity in the face of genocide.”

More than 400 former staff members from Senator Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 campaign signed a similar letter to the Massachusetts Democrat, as did 400 former aides to Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 and 2020 campaigns.

The very public revolt reflects the chasm between established Democrats’ unwaveringly supportive of Israel and a new generation which doesn’t believe that such support is always the right thing to do. Staffers typically influence policy behind the scenes, but current and former aides are now openly dissenting.

“I can’t think of a similar or comparable effort by staff,” former Senate aide Em Slevin is reported as saying by the New York Times. “It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen.”

With their bosses largely aligned with Biden’s stance, young staffers feel compelled to voice their dissent. This extraordinary defiance of workplace norms reveals a party at odds with itself on Israel, as progressive values clash with institutional rigidity.

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