President Joe Biden On Tuesday evening, departed for Israel to make a high-stakes diplomacy visit amid the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian violence that has claimed more than 4,000 lives so far. As Biden grapples with the crisis, several U.S. officials told The Sunday Review it has become difficult to have a full debate within his administration about what’s happening in Israel-Palestine ― and in particular that people who want to talk about Israeli restraint or humanitarian protections for Palestinians feel stifled.
Staffers in multiple agencies are involved with national security issues. told The Sunday Review they and their colleagues worry about retaliation at work for questioning Israel’s conduct amid the U.S.-backed Israeli campaign to avenge an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, that killed More than 1,400 Israelis.
Staffers from a Muslim background are particularly fearful. Gautam Raghavan, head of the presidential staff office, held a phone call on Sunday to address concerns from a group of approximately a dozen former and current high-level Muslim officials. Some A person on the call said that staffers did not feel safe voicing their opinion around other colleagues. This was previously unreported.
And officials tracking the escalating fighting are quietly sharing dark predictions about the ultimate toll of Israel’s operation in Gaza, Hamas’s base, along with pessimism about their ability to influence the situation and Biden’s commitment to reducing tensions.
The time since the Hamas attacks represents “the first time in the administration that there was a real culture of silence,” “One official said,” “It feels like post-9/11 where you feel like your thoughts are being policed, and you’re really afraid of being seen as anti-American or an anti-Semite.”
An experienced civil servant describes the tension that exists between his commitment to fighting for human rights and his job.
“I’m trying to educate people about Palestine through social media, but I’m worried I’ll lose my security clearance for criticizing the president or blaming the U.S. for civilian massacre,” The Sunday Review reported that they spoke to them. “I feel like there’s no place for me in America anymore, and I’m on thin ice with my clearance because of my heritage and because I care about my people dying.”
The internal debate seems to have been stifled. Biden’s narrative that his administration is historically diverse and open to perspectives from traditionally marginalized groups, including on questions of global affairs.
“It feels like post-9/11 where you feel like your thoughts are being policed, and you’re really afraid of being seen as anti-American or an anti-Semite.”
The official of the administration
In a region where America’s traditional foreign policy-making processes have so far yielded dubious results, some officials say the administration is now falling back into bad old habits rather than taking advantage of the personnel it recruited.
“One reason to want a diverse staff is to have a variety of inputs into your decision-making, not just to check a box on a little quota sheet — you want to benefit from the more informed decision-making that happens from a broader set of experiences having a seat at the table,” A person from the administration spoke to The Sunday Review. “The inner, inner circle on these issues is not at all diverse. Does that completely explain the monstrous disregard for innocent Palestinian lives? No, but it’s hard to think these things are entirely disconnected.”
White House officials have said that Biden Administration is making a concerted efforts to elicit from officials a wide range of views about Israel-Palestine. In Jeff Zients, chief of staff at the White House, plans to host a series of events in the near future. “listening session with Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian staff to hear from them directly,” A White House official told The Sunday Review by email that they could also ask Cabinet Secretaries to do the same at their agencies.
Zients is also responsible for overseeing a “thorough internal and external outreach strategy to Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian American communities,” Official added
“President Biden and Vice President Harris have been unequivocal: there is no place for hate in America ― not against Muslims, not against Arab Americans, not against Jews ― not against anyone,” Robyn Patton, a White House spokeswoman, informed The Sunday Review by email. “He’s assembled the most diverse presidential administration in history and is proud of the open, collaborative role his appointees play in advising on policy and strategy ― including Muslim and Arab American team members. He will continue to use all available tools to combat hate against Muslim and Arab Americans.”
There are many ways to get the same result. Biden staffers already deeply demoralized, that outreach could be perceived as window dressing if there’s little proof it creates a more inclusive decision-making process.
Description “a chilling effect,” One official said that their primary concern was the safety of the public “as a policy person is that America is not going to get the good policy idea.”
“I don’t want us dragged back into another Middle East war,” They added.
A Distorted Debate
The first days of the current crisis were described by one official as “extremely hard.” It is important to note that the word “you” means “you”. Biden administration launched a strategy focused on showing solidarity for Israel ― while the country Residential neighborhoods are being pounded You can also find out more about the following: Gaza Cut off the electricity and water supply to the area.
Officials from the U.S. government said that when they are tackling an international crisis, they develop a detailed plan to assist their American partners. “We built Ukraine aid with, ‘What does Ukraine need?’”
They knew that the White House was eager to show Israel its support as quickly as possible. The official felt initially unable to bring up concerns about the implications for Palestinians during policy discussions.
“It took me till Wednesday or Thursday to have the courage to say, ‘I don’t think it would be good for America if we are seen as responsible for killing Palestinian children,’” They said. “There was awkward silence like a pin could drop, and I’m like, ‘Are they going to report me to the House Un-American Activities Committee?’”
Some officials said they felt there was little interest in perspectives that were not primarily about Israel’s losses. One pointed to an internal White House message from Zients after the Hamas attack that expressed solidarity with Jewish staff and those with Israeli ties but did not mention how Israel’s response was affecting Gazans. Another cited the State Department’s internal counseling program for employees affected by the situation, which referenced Israel but not the occupied Palestinian territories.
The Sunday Review reported on Friday that State Department officials Encourage your colleagues to refrain from using phrases Mentioning Israeli restraint when making public statements.
Calling the period “disillusioning,” The person working in administration said: “There is a sense that the administration’s policy decisions show stunning disregard for innocent Palestinians ― and that same dehumanization is also reflected in how staff are being treated.”
“It’s jarring for people because there is so much care for some lives, both abroad and in terms of thinking about how certain staff must be feeling,” The person continued.
Officials told The Sunday Review that some staffers did not feel the administration’s stated support for people on both sides was genuine.
A White House official noted that on Sunday, after the Islamophobia-inspired Murder of an infant Zients, a Zients in Illinois, sent an email to all White House staff criticizing the “the horrific act of hate” Addition: “The events of the last week have been challenging for all of us ― and I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge how difficult it has been for our Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim American colleagues ― in addition to our Jewish colleagues.”
U.S. officials include Biden The Secretary of State Antony Blinken also made public mention of humanitarian concerns Gaza It has been said that Israel should follow the laws and regulations of war during its offensive against Hamas.
One national security official said that an incident in recent days was emblematic of the U.S. not doing enough to assist vulnerable people.
Blinken stated that the Rafah Crossing was closed on Sunday. Gaza ― which leads into Egypt and is the only exit point from the strip that does not lead into Israel ― would reopen. The Egyptian government echoed this message and the U.S. Embassy in Israel informed the hundreds of Americans who were trapped in Gaza on Monday. Gaza Head to the crossing. Israel then bombed this crossing four times in one month and it remained shut all day.
“You basically asked a bunch of Americans ― most of whom have very young children ― to risk their lives to go to a border crossing that they then couldn’t cross. That’s an embarrassment to us,” The official said. “As American citizens, they went and they trusted their government, and they’re waiting in the hot sun all day for the border to not open.”
“The events of the last week have been challenging for all of us ― and I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge how difficult it has been for our Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim American colleagues.”
Jeff Zients, chief of staff at the White House
In When drafting its policy, Biden The administration will benefit from “connecting the dots” of Israeli officials’ statements around revenge and how aggressive their campaign has already been, another official argued. On Tuesday, far-right Israeli minister Itamar Ben-Gvir declared The only thing that can be brought into Gaza Hamas, allied militants and their 200 captured hostages on Oct. 7 are not free until they do. “hundreds of tons of explosives… not an ounce of humanitarian aid.”
A few staffers at national agencies of security have been passing around a Jewish Currents essay The U.S. official cited a statement from a scholar that Israel was attempting to commit genocide.
The officials are asking high-level Americans for an acknowledgement of past analyses which estimate that thousands of Americans died in a ground invasion similar to Gaza Israel is getting ready to launch. There will be many more permanent displaced people.
“The inter-agency is now patching band-aids and not thinking in a structural way,” They were arguing.
In Multiple statements Biden Hamas is a distinct group from the Palestinians in general. The militant group did not hold an election in Gaza Since 2006, there is little disagreement.
The official was asked whether or not they felt that this message was strong enough, or even an honest one. “I take [the White House’s] word on it ― but there’s a bit of cognitive dissonance.”
“Collective punishment of 2.3 million people is in no way, shape or form consistent with, ‘We believe Hamas and the Palestinian people are separate,’” They continued. “You need an action to show that you’re separating these two things.”
‘A Reckoning Moment’
The Sunday Review reported that when Raghavan invited former and current Muslim officials to a weekend meeting, attendees talked to him about the two main themes of the conversation: the dangers of Islamophobia increasing nationwide and the fear that Muslim staff were in danger.
Raghavan is the name given by the person who said that Raghavan called policy on Israel-Palestine. “broken.” Raghavan denies saying this in an email sent to The Sunday Review. “That is false. I only talked about how we could support and affirm our team members.”
Republicans and right-wing outlets have been targeting the media for years. Biden Administration officials with links to a Muslim majority world, and implying that they are not loyal to the U.S.
The administration has “a long-term structure in place to fully defend staff” The Sunday Review was told by a White House spokesman that such attacks are common. They pointed out that the administration increased funding to protect religiously affiliated institutions, and will dispatch Small Business Administration deputy chief Dilawar Syed to this week’s vigil for Wadea Al Fayoume, the Palestinian-American child murdered on Saturday, with a letter from Biden.
The Sunday Review has spoken to a former Muslim American official in the White House who recently left their administration. “made clear our voices were respected and wanted.”
“My sense from folks who have been involved in the crisis response is that this remains the case today,” The former employee continued to contrast Biden’s repeated condemnations of Islamophobia with former President Donald Trump calling for a renewed Muslim ban amid the uptick in Israeli-Palestinian fighting.
The combination of feeling vulnerable and implicated by alarming U.S. Policy simply because of identity can drive away talented staff.
One official said that he heard from colleagues that they were considering quitting their jobs.
Another official ― a career bureaucrat who has worked on foreign policy for more than a decade ― said people are more alarmed about the situation in Gaza The official said that the people are less agitated than in past outbreaks of violence. The official described the culture of “self-censorship,” The younger staff members are particularly affected, they say. “shocked” by how the administration’s response to what’s happening in Gaza Differentiate from Biden’s campaign rhetoric about prioritizing human rights and his emphasis on protecting civilians in the Ukraine war.
“It’s fully in [the Biden administration’s] hands to say there’s not going to be mass atrocities,” The official said.
The current conditions are forcing “a reckoning moment,” The person who works in administration said.
“There’s a deep, deep sorrow and pain for people as they’re seeing the death count rapidly mount and a panicked and alarmed sense of, ‘How are we allowing this to happen?’” They continued. “The pride I felt serving in President Biden’s administration has given way to deep shame. May God forgive us.”