"Every member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who refuses to call for a ceasefire to save lives should expect more disruptions," said one activist.
As the death toll from Israeli bombing in Gaza mounts and the threat of a broader regional war intensifies, Rep. Ro Khanna of California and other lawmakers are facing sustained pressure to join the small but growing group of House Democrats calling for a cease-fire in the besieged Palestinian territory.
Late last week, a Palestinian-led, multifaith, multiracial coalition of activists occupied Khanna's Capitol Hill office for four hours urging him to support the cease-fire resolution introduced by Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and other House Democrats. Thus far, at least 18 Democratic lawmakers have backed the resolution.
The organizers of the protest—which included the Adalah Justice Project, Jewish Voice for Peace, Dream Defenders, and Dissenters—said in a statement Monday that they arrived in Washington, D.C. last week for a scheduled meeting with Khanna aimed at convincing him to sign onto the cease-fire resolution.
"These good-faith efforts were unsuccessful," the organizers said. "Despite activists' demands that the Congressman meet the urgent need with immediate action before hundreds more Palestinians are killed, Rep. Khanna abruptly ended the meeting, sneaking out of the office during the sit-in through a secondary exit to meet his family—a privilege denied to more than one million Palestinians in Gaza who have been displaced from their neighborhoods and homes and denied access to food and water as Israel relentlessly bombs the strip."
The sit-in came days after Khanna's political director resigned over the California Democrat's refusal to support a cease-fire in Gaza, where Israel's military has killed more than 5,000 people in just over two weeks of bombing.
Khanna wrote on social media late Monday that the Biden administration, which has thus far opposed calls for a cease-fire, "must demand that humanitarian aid be allowed in for civilians in Gaza" in compliance with international law.
But advocates argue that calls for Israel to respect international law and permit the free flow of humanitarian aid mean little in the face of the country's relentless bombing campaign, which has wiped out large swaths of the Gaza Strip and decimated the enclave's civilian infrastructure—damaging and destroying schools, hospitals, residential buildings, and more.
Sandra Tamari, executive director of the Adalah Justice Project, said in a statement Monday that "organizers will keep disrupting and occupying offices" to put pressure on lawmakers to support a cease-fire as the Biden administration asks Congress to approve an additional $14 billion in military aid for Israel.
"Every member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who refuses to call for a cease-fire to save lives should expect more disruptions," said Tamari.
"You can't be a champion of forgotten communities if you cheerlead this war and the consequent destruction of Palestinian communities at home and abroad."
Last week, more than 400 congressional staffers anonymously signed an open letter urging their bosses to support a cease-fire to halt the carnage in Gaza—a step that would have the support of two-thirds of U.S. voters, according to recent polling.
Individual lawmakers are also facing calls from their former campaign staffers to back a cease-fire, which analysts say is needed to both protect Gazans and prevent the conflict from spilling over into a catastrophic regional conflict.
More than 260 staffers from Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) 2020 presidential campaign have signed an open letter urging the senator to "demand an immediate ceasefire in Palestine and the return of Israeli hostages."
Additionally, as The Interceptreported last week, 16 former staffers from Sen. John Fetterman's (D-Pa.) campaign implored the senator to drop his vocal opposition to a cease-fire, writing in an open letter than his stance "has felt like a gutting betrayal."
"On the trail, your overarching promise was to 'Forgotten Communities'—people and places that get overlooked, written off, and left behind," the former staffers wrote. "You can't be a champion of forgotten communities if you cheerlead this war and the consequent destruction of Palestinian communities at home and abroad."