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Over 500 Democratic staffers urge Biden to 'hold Israel accountable'

The open letter, which calls on Biden to take 'concrete' steps to end the Israeli occupation, comes amid a deepening split between progressives and establishment figures
Thousands gather during a rally to support Palestine at Copley Square in Boston, Massachusetts on 15 May 2021.
Thousands gather during a rally to support Palestine at Copley Square in Boston, Massachusetts on 15 May 2021 (AFP)
By in
Washington

More than 500 former Democratic Party staffers signed an open letter on Monday urging President Joe Biden to "hold Israel accountable for its actions" and take "concrete steps" to end Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The letter was signed by staffers and organisers who worked either directly at Biden's national campaign headquarters, at the Democratic National Committee or at state Democratic parties that worked to campaign for Biden.

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"The very same values that motivated us to work countless hours to elect you demand that we speak out in the aftermath of the recent explosive violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, which is inextricable from the ongoing history of occupation, blockade, and settlement expansion," the letter read.

While praising the administration for its efforts to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza, the signatories said the administration must hold Israel accountable for the disproportionate number of Palestinian deaths.

Israeli air strikes killed at least 248 people, including 66 children in Gaza, and wounded 1,948 others, Gaza's health ministry said.

Rockets fired from Gaza claimed 12 lives in Israel, including one child, Israeli authorities said.

"We need to end the illegal occupation once and for all. And to do that requires all of these steps that we included in the letter," Heba Mohammad, a Palestinian American and former Wisconsin Digital organising director for the Biden campaign, told Middle East Eye.

'Power imbalance still exists'

In addition to calling for an end to the occupation, the staffers listed a number of demands to Biden, including calls to stop Israel's settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, allow for a humanitarian corridor in Gaza, and ensure American aid to Israel "no longer funds the imprisonment and torture of Palestinian children" and the "annexation of Palestinian land".

"As an Israeli American, it's my responsibility to speak up when a government acting in my name is violating Palestinian human rights," said Matan Arad-Neeman, an Israeli American former field organiser for the Arizona Democratic Party and Biden's campaign in that state. 

"We're also asking the Biden administration to live up to their own commitments," he told MEE.

'Biden tweeted that no American president should stay silent in the face of human rights violations, and so we're asking him to practice what he preaches'

- Matan Arad-Neeman, former Biden campaign field organiser

"Just last month, President Biden tweeted that no responsible American president should stay silent in the face of human rights violations, and so we're asking him to practice what he preaches."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be visiting the Middle East on Monday where he plans to highlight the US's "ironclad commitment to Israel's security" along with support for the Palestinian people "after years of neglect".

A senior State Department official said during a briefing on Monday that the visit is in order to make sure that the ceasefire in Gaza holds, and also to discuss recovery efforts. 

The two organisers and authors of the letter said that during the visit, the US's top diplomat must ensure the US will speak out and condemn Israel when it commits rights abuses.

"The power imbalance still exists even as a ceasefire exists, and I think that as Blinken visits the Middle East he must acknowledge that and make clear that there can be no more blank cheques to Israel and that the US will speak out when Israel violates human rights," Arad-Neeman told MEE.