(CTN News) – This week, US government employees will hold a “day of fasting for Gaza” to raise awareness of the humanitarian catastrophe in the region and to condemn Joe Biden’s policies towards Israel.
Representatives from Feds United for Peace, a group of several dozen government employees who organised an office walkout earlier this month to protest the Gaza conflict, informed the Guardian that their members will go on a one-day hunger strike on Thursday.
Participating federal employees are asked to arrive at work dressed in black or wearing keffiyeh scarves or other Palestinian solidarity symbols.
A government employee speaking on behalf of the group stated that the Day of Fasting is in response to Israel’s use of “starvation as a weapon of war by intentionally withholding food from entering Gaza,” citing UN reports that up to 2 million people in the region are at risk of hunger.
The group claims that its members come from more than two dozen agencies, including the Departments of Defence, Homeland Security, and State, and comprise both career public servants and political appointees. They expect hundreds of government personnel to attend.
The group’s walkout earlier this month sparked strong reactions in Washington, with national security leaders from both parties condemning the protests as insubordination.
“They deserve to be fired,” House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana, declared.
Feds United for Peace representatives say their goal is to spark a conversation in their offices, where many federal employees may support a ceasefire but are afraid of retaliation for speaking out or are afraid to even casually discuss politics because it may jeopardise their own efforts to effectively work on policy.
Government employees have also organised against the war under several umbrellas. Staffers from Ceasefire, for example, held a Gaza vigil outside the White House in December.
Criticism of White House’s Morale-Booster Amid Gaza Crisis
Staffers for Ceasefire issued a blistering letter last week condemning senior White House officials’ efforts to raise morale, which has plummeted as a result of resistance to the US’s backing for Israel.
“While White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients throws a morale-booster party for staff tonight, a child in Gaza is killed every 8 minutes,” a statement from Staffers for Ceasefire said. “We are disgusted by this display of complete apathy towards the lives that have been taken in the region over the last three months.”
Van Jackson, a political scientist who worked in the Pentagon under the Obama administration, described the recent protests by US public employees as extraordinary.
“We are in uncharted territory, and no presidential administration the past 40 years has been denounced by its own staff like this – not collectively, not so publicly, and not with this regularity,” Jackson wrote in the August issue of Un-Diplomatic.
However, it is unclear whether the demonstrations are having any effect. According to insiders, Biden made the final decision on the administration’s Israel policy and did not appear to be affected by critics.
According to internal department emails obtained by the Guardian, the state department has been hosting “open forum” sessions for its staff that have grown “very frank” and “quite heated”.
Thursday’s action followed a series of public displays of discontent from within the cabinet. In early January, Tariq Habash, a top political appointee in the education department, resigned in protest.
Employees at the State Department have used the department’s “dissent channel” to communicate policy disputes directly to the Secretary of State. Over a thousand officials from the development agency USAID have signed a statement in support of a ceasefire. Campaigners for Biden’s re-election in 2024 have also signed petitions anonymously.
Government employees claim that, while their substantive complaints of the administration’s policy do not appear to influence policy, a flood of dissident activities has reached the Oval Office.
“The president is aware, as is the entire senior team. “I just think they’re in a bubble,” said a Biden official associated with Staffers for Ceasefire. Dissent against Israel policy is “something that goes extremely high up, no matter how much people try to ignore it.”