The Biden administration is under mounting pressure for its unwavering support of Israel’s war on Gaza.
A total 139 staff from the United States Department of Homeland Security signed a letter accusing leadership of “turning a blind eye” to the war on Gaza, Al Jazeera reported on Wednesday, citing a copy of the letter that it exclusively obtained.
Dated November 22, the open letter, not seen by Doha News, addressed to DHS Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, denounced the “palpable, glaring absence in the Department’s messaging” in the “recognition, support, and mourning” for the Palestinians killed in Gaza since October 7.
“The grave humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the conditions in the West Bank are circumstances that the Department would generally respond to in various ways,” the letter said, as quoted by Al Jazeera.
“Yet DHS leadership has seemingly turned a blind eye to the bombing of refugee camps, hospitals, ambulances, and civilians,” the letter added.
Those who reportedly signed the letter were affiliated with agencies under DHS, including Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Some of the signatories chose to remain anonymous, despite the letter calling for allowing “for respectful expression without the fear of professional repercussions.”
The letter also called on DHS to place Palestinian residents of occupied territories on the list of those eligible for the Temporary Protected Status, a move that would grant Palestinians already in the U.S. the right to remain and work in the country.
The letter echoed last month’s calls of 106 Congress members for U.S. President Joe Biden to provide Palestinian territories the TPS designation.
Anonymous DHS officials told Al Jazeera that the designation is unlikely due to “serious systemic and programmatic obstacles driven purely by politics”.
One such obstacle is the U.S. not recognising Palestine as a state, but rather recognises the Palestine Liberation Organization as the representative entity.
Separately, on October 19, DHS opened up visa-free travel for Israeli citizens.
On December 5, the State Department introduced a visa restriction policy for anyone involved in “undermining peace, security, or stability in the West Bank, including through committing acts of violence or taking other actions that unduly restrict civilians’ access to essential services and basic necessities,” according to a statement issued by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
Biden administration under pressure
The Biden administration has been under mounting pressure for the U.S. unwavering support of Israel’s war on Gaza.
Last month, a group of Palestinian and human rights groups sued President Biden at the federal court in northern California over the U.S. support for the genocide in Gaza. Other plaintiffs included Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, and Secretary of State, Antony Blinken.
On Sunday, the Middle East Eye reported that the Biden administration filed a motion on December 8 in an attempt to dismiss the lawsuit.
“The US government’s filing is no less disappointing for being predictable,” the Center for Constitutional Rights , which is a plaintiff in the suit, said in a statement to Middle East Eye. “Their lawyers focus on jurisdictional issues rather than the substance of the lawsuit,” CCR added.
Miller responded by saying Washington is “monitoring everything that happens in this conflict.”
“I will say that our expectation of every country to whom we provide military assistance – weapons and other assistance – is that they use that assistance in full compliance with international humanitarian law and the laws of war, and Israel is no exception,” Miller said.
Under CAT, the State Department must ensure U.S. arms are not being used in genocide, crimes against humanity, and “attacks intentionally directed against civilian objects or civilians protected as such.”
Amnesty International confirmed in a report on December 5 that the U.S. military provided Israel with arms used to kill civilians in Gaza after reviewing fragments of the munition found under the rubble of two houses.
The rights watchdog called for an investigation into the attacks as war crimes, echoing other calls by governments and NGOs on the International Criminal Court to probe Israel’s atrocities in Gaza.
“The fact that US-made munitions are being used by the Israeli military in unlawful attacks with deadly consequences for civilians should be an urgent wake-up call to the Biden administration. The US-made weapons facilitated the mass killings of extended families,” Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said in the report.
Callamard had called on Washington, DC to “immediately stop transferring arms to Israel that more likely than not will be used to commit or heighten risks of violations of international law.”
Despite the backing of Israel’s genocide in Gaza, Biden also criticised Israel’s conduct on Tuesday, saying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must change his approach because Israel is starting to lose international support.
“I think he has to change, and with this government, this government in Israel is making it very difficult for him to move,” Biden told Democratic donors in Washington, adding that the Israeli government “doesn’t want a two-state solution.”
Since October 7, Israel has killed at least 18,608 Palestinians in Gaza, 70% of whom are women and children, according to the latest figures by the health ministry in Gaza.
Euro-Med reported a much higher figure on Monday of 24,142, including 9,420 children and those who are presumed dead under the rubble. The European rights organisation has not updated the figure since December 11.