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Federal employees will stage ‘day of fasting’ to protest Biden’s Gaza policy

A group of federal employees who oppose President Joe Biden’s support for Israel’s siege of Gaza are planning a “day of fasting” to draw attention to the growing humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian enclave.

Feds United for Peace, representing US government workers across two dozen agencies, intend to stage a one-day strike on Thursday, following a series of actions from federal government workers protesting the Biden administration’s resolute support for Israel as Gaza’s death toll climbs to nearly 30,000.

The group also mounted a “Day of Mourning” on 16 January, with staffers from across the US taking leave to mark 100 days of Israel’s ongoing military campaign. The action drew swift condemnation from congressional lawmakers, with Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson saying they “deserve to be fired”.

The Day of Fasting calls attention to the use of “starvation as a weapon of war by intentionally withholding food from entering Gaza”, citing a report from the United Nations warning that 2 million Palestinians are at risk of famine, according to a statement shared with The Guardian, which first reported the action.

“Israel’s siege has brought Gaza’s families to the brink of starvation,” the group shared in a statement with The Independent. “By the time this fast is over, 26,000 Gazans will have been killed in Israel’s war since October 7. The vast majority of northern Gaza, and now increasingly the rest, has been rendered unlivable. Crammed into the southern area of the strip, the people of Gaza are bombed, starved, and desperate.”

The actions follow internal dissent memos within the White House, Mr Biden’s presidential campaign and among political appointees and congressional offices demanding the president’s support for a ceasefire after more than 25,000 Palestinians, including more than 10,000 children, have been killed, with tens of thousands injured and more than 2 million displaced.

Last week, a group of administration staffers organised as Staffers for Ceasefire blasted White House chief of staff Jeff Zients following news of a “morale” boosting party for White House staff.

“We are disgusted by this display of complete apathy towards the lives that have been taken in the region over the last three months,” Staffers for Ceasefire said in a statement shared with The Independent on 25 January. “There is no justification for this level of destruction, this level of terror. We unequivocally call on you to demand a ceasefire. We call on you to end our complicity in this brutality.”

Protesters rally outside the White House in solidarity with Palestinians on 14 January to demand government support for a ceasefire in Gaza. (EPA)
Protesters rally outside the White House in solidarity with Palestinians on 14 January to demand government support for a ceasefire in Gaza. (EPA)

Earlier this month, an appointed official at the US Department of Education announced his resignation from the administration for its support of Israel’s “continuous assault and ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians in Gaza.

“It should go without saying that all violence against innocent people is horrific. I mourn each and every loss, Israeli and Palestinian. But I cannot represent an administration that does not value all human life equally,” Tariq Habash wrote in a resignation letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona shared with The Independent.

He is the second Biden administration official to resign over US support for Israel’s retaliatory campaign and ongoing siege in the wake of Hamas attacks on 7 October. Josh Paul, a now-former senior official at the US State Department who managed arms deals on behalf of the US government, resigned later that month with a warning that the administration’s position “will only lead to more and deeper suffering for both the Israeli and the Palestinian people.”

A letter from 17 current aides for the president’s campaign warns that the administration’s support for Israel’s military actions “has been fundamentally antithetical” to the values of “justice, empathy, and our belief in the dignity of human life” that they say serve as the “backbone” for his campaign and the Democratic Party.

“And we believe it could cost you the 2024 election,” they wrote.

During a vigil outside the White House last month, a group representing more than 800 federal employees and independent agency staffers also renewed their calls for the president’s support for a ceasefire, the release of all hostages, and the immediate de-escalation of violence in Gaza.

An open letter from more than 500 people from across the US who worked on Mr Biden’s 2020 campaign, including Democratic National Committee staff members, told the president that he wields “significant influence in this perilous moment” to pressure world leaders to support a ceasefire.

Last month, the United Nations Security Council approved a resolution pressing for the safe passage of humanitarian aid into Gaza after several days of US-led negotiations over language in the final draft. The measure called for “conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities” but excluded language pressing for a ceasefire, after the US repeatedly shot down UN efforts.

Mr Biden also is the target of a lawsuit from a group of Palestinian families and aid groups accusing his administration of complicity in genocide, a charge at the center of a complaint at the International Court of Justice against Israel at The Hague. A preliminary ruling from the World Court urged Israel to prevent acts of genocide and to allow aid into the beleaguered strip.

Dissent from within Mr Biden’s own campaign and administration follows a series of polls showing most Americans disapprove of Mr Biden’s handling of the crisis. Sixty-one per cent of Americans, including 76 per cent of Democratic voters, support calls for a permanent ceasefire and a de-escalation of violence in Gaza, according to polling from Data for Progress.

A recent CBS News/YouGov poll similarly found 61 per cent of Americans disapprove of the Biden administration’s response, including 68 per cent of people between ages 30 and 44 and 63 per cent among Americans ages 45 to 64.