"We feel compelled to raise our voices in this moment," the staffers wrote. "Millions of lives hang in the balance."
Citing the "catastrophic suffering" inflicted upon the people of Gaza by Israel's relentless bombardment of the Palestinian territory, hundreds of Muslim and Jewish U.S. congressional staffers on Thursday signed an open letter urging lawmakers to demand a cease-fire as the war approaches the two-week mark.
"We feel compelled to raise our voices in this moment," the staffers wrote. "Millions of lives hang in the balance, including the 2.3 million civilians—half of whom are children—in Gaza, civilians in Israel, and Jews and Muslims around the world. This is especially urgent with antisemitism, anti-Muslim, and anti-Palestinian sentiment on the rise nationwide, which instigated the brutal murder of a 6-year-old Palestinian American child, Wadea Al-Fayoume."
"We all are calling on our elected officials to find a new way forward together, through unbreakable solidarity motivated by our humanity."
Israeli officials said more than 1,400 Israeli civilians and soldiers were killed in the Hamas-led surprise attacks of October 7.
The staffers said they "join in mourning the loss of... Israelis murdered by these acts of terrorism and in prayer for those injured and the around 200 hostages in Gaza, including our fellow Americans, whose safe return is a priority for us all."
"We join members of Congress and the international community's denunciation of the horrific war crimes Hamas has committed," the letter states. "At the same time, we mourn for the Palestinian civilians who are enduring catastrophic suffering at the hands of the Israeli government. As of this writing, more than 6,000 bombs have been dropped on the Gaza Strip. More than 4,000 Palestinian civilians, including entire families, have been slain, and about 12,500 are injured."
"Palestinians in Gaza are facing critical shortages of medicine, food, drinking water, fuel, and electricity following the Israeli government's brutal blockade," the staffers noted. "As Muslims, Jews, and allies, we believe that denying these basic resources violates the tenets of our faiths, values, and our humanity."
"We are tired of reliving generational fears of genocide and ethnic cleansing," they added. "We are tired of leaders pushing us to blame each other, exploiting our pain and our histories to rationalize political agendas and justify violence. We all are calling on our elected officials to find a new way forward together, through unbreakable solidarity motivated by our humanity."
The staffers' letter follows the introduction earlier this week of a resolution led by Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and co-sponsored by 13 other House progressives urging the Biden administration to push for an immediate cease-fire.
In the Senate, Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday blocked passage of Republican legislation to prohibit American aid to Gaza until President Joe Biden certifies that the funds won't benefit members of Hamas or any other U.S.-designated terrorist organization.
"We have got to do everything that we can to make sure that not one nickel goes to the murderous Hamas organization," Sanders explained. "But at the same time, we have got to stand with the innocent women and children in Palestine who are suffering today and are facing an almost unprecedented modern humanitarian disaster."
In stark contrast with the progressive lawmakers' call for an immediate cease-fire, the United States on Wednesday vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning violence against civilians in Israel and Gaza and calling for "humanitarian pauses" to allow aid to enter the besieged Palestinian territory. The U.S. was the only Security Council member to oppose the measure.
A U.S.-brokered deal to allow 20 truckloads of humanitarian aid into Gaza from Egypt was announced late Wednesday, although the details were still being hammered out on Thursday.
Also on Wednesday, Josh Paul, who spent 11 years as director of congressional and public affairs for the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, tendered his resignation over U.S. military aid to Israel during what numerous critics have called its "genocide" against Palestinians.
"I made myself a promise that I would stay for as long as I felt the harm I might do could be outweighed by the good I could do," Paul explained in his resignation letter. "I am leaving today because I believe that in our current course with regards to the continued—indeed, expanded and expedited—provision of lethal arms to Israel—I have reached the end of that bargain."
Huffpostreported Thursday that one State Department staffer described tensions in the agency as "basically a mutiny brewing... at all levels."
Throughout the Biden administration, staffers—especially Muslims—are sounding the alarm on a "culture of silence" stifling voices critical of Israel's onslaught or advocating a policy of restraint.
Biden is set to discuss "Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel, the need for humanitarian assistance in Gaza, [and] Russia's ongoing brutal war against Ukraine" during a prime-time televised address Thursday evening.