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Palestinian volunteers and municipal workers clear the rubble of the Hanadi compound, recently destroyed by Israeli strikes, in Gaza City's Rimal district, on May 25, 2021. (Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images)

Palestinian volunteers and municipal workers clear the rubble of the Hanadi compound, recently destroyed by Israeli strikes, in Gaza City's Rimal district, on May 25, 2021. U.S. top diplomat Antony Blinken vowed support to help rebuild the battered Gaza Strip and shore up a truce between Hamas and Israel, but insisted the territory's Islamist militant rulers would not benefit from any aid. (Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images)

'This Took Courage': 500+ Former Biden Campaign Staffers Urge President to Denounce Israeli Violence

Open letter calls on the president to "work to end the underlying conditions of occupation, blockade, and settlement expansion that led to this exceptionally destructive period."

Andrea Germanos

More than 500 former staffers of President Joe Biden's 2020 campaign released an open letter Monday calling on Biden to "hold Israel accountable for its actions" in its latest bombardment of Gaza and "lay the groundwork for justice and lasting peace."

"This took courage," Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) said of the open letter, which was first reported by the Washington Post.

"We commend your efforts to broker a ceasefire," the group wrote. "Yet, we also cannot unsee the horrific violence that unfolded in recent weeks in Israel/Palestine, and we implore you to continue using the power of your office to hold Israel accountable for its actions and lay the groundwork for justice and lasting peace."

The lated "explosive violence" they added, "is inextricable from the ongoing history of occupation, blockade, and settlement expansion."

In addition to Israel's recent 11-day military offensive on Gaza—which devastated electricity and water services, destroyed thousands of housing units, demolished news offices, and killed at least 260 people—the letter references the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem, where protesters have faced off against state forces and settlers attempting to illegally displace families.

"We remain horrified by the images of Palestinian civilians in Gaza killed or made homeless by Israeli airstrikes. We are outraged by Israel's efforts to forcibly and illegally expel Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah. We are shocked by Israel's destruction of a building housing international news organizations. We remain horrified by reports of Hamas rockets killing Israeli civilians," the letter states.

"While Israelis had to spend nights hiding in bomb shelters, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip had nowhere to hide," the group wrote. They also pointed to a "power imbalance" in which "Israel's highly-advanced military occupies the West Bank and East Jerusalem and blockades the Gaza Strip, creating an uninhabitable open-air prison."

What's more, the latest cycle of violence "is bound to repeat itself as long as we allow the status quo to stand," the letter warns.

The group calls on Biden to "unequivocally condemn Israel's killing of Palestinian civilians" and "work to end the underlying conditions of occupation, blockade, and settlement expansion that led to this exceptionally destructive period in a 73-year history of dispossession and ethnic cleansing."

Biden must demand Israel end its settlement expansion in the West Bank and end its blockade of Gaza, the letter says. The U.S. must also terminate any funding of Israel's destruction of Palestinian homes and detention of children, and stop obstructing United Nations efforts to halt Israel's violations of international law.

"Returning to the status quo," the group wrote, "is untenable."

The letter was welcomed by Jewish-led anti-occupation group IfNotNow, which said it was "great to see people coming together to hold Biden accountable to the values he campaigned on."

In a Monday tweet sharing an excerpt of the letter, Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, urged Biden to "listen to voices that made" him president. 

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