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Scathing Internal State Dept. Dissent Memo Slams US Aid of Israeli “War Crimes”

The letter calls on senior U.S. officials to demand a ceasefire in Gaza.

A view of debris of destroyed buildings after Israeli airstrikes at al-Zahra neighborhood in Gaza Strip on October 19, 2023.

A new report has uncovered a scathing internal State Department dissent memo signed by 100 U.S. federal foreign affairs employees objecting strongly to the U.S.’s approach to Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza and condemning President Joe Biden for “spreading misinformation” about the siege.

The five-page memo, dated November 3, says that Israel is committing “war crimes” in Gaza, echoing what international aid organizations and political analysts have said about the genocide, and urges senior U.S. officials to change their approach toward aid to Israel and demand a ceasefire. They also call for a transfer of all those detained by Israeli forces and Hamas.

The dissent memo was first reported by Axios, which reports that the letter was organized by a junior State Department employee who is also criticizing the administration’s policy on Israel on social media. It was signed by employees for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Actions like Israel’s deadly blockade of food, electricity, water, and other basic needs, as well as the mass, forced displacement of 1.5 million people — which Israeli officials themselves are labeling as the second Nakba — “all constitute war crimes and/or crimes against humanity under international law,” the memo says.

Despite this, the U.S. has increased the volume of weapons and other aid it is sending to Israel, the memo points out. “Yet we have failed to reassess our posture towards Israel,” it says. “We doubled down on our unwavering military assistance to the (Israeli government) without clear or actionable redlines.”

The memo continues by sharply criticizing Biden, White House employees and other top officials for their approach to Gaza.

“Members of the White House and (the National Security Council) displayed a clear disregard for the lives of Palestinians, a documented unwillingness to de-escalate, and, even prior to October 7, a reckless lack of strategic foresight,” the memo says.

The letter writers slam Biden for saying in an October speech that he has “no confidence” in the Palestinian death toll reported by the Palestinian health ministry, despite other officials and aid groups saying that the ministry’s data is generally reliable and that Israeli sources have said that the death toll is perhaps even higher than what the Palestinian ministry has reported.

The memo appears to be separate from another dissent memo reported last week by Politico, which also objected to Israel’s genocide in Gaza; Axios noted that some of the language that appears in one memo doesn’t appear in the other. Dissent memos are relatively common, but it is extremely rare for them to be reported on publicly.

The existence of the dissent memos is further evidence of seemingly widespread discontent within the State Department and the Biden administration amid the U.S.’s support of Israel without red lines. Work within the State Department shining a light on the horrifying conditions in Gaza caused by Israeli forces has been stifled, workers say, even as senior officials have privately acknowledged that Israel is committing war crimes but decline to say so publicly. One senior State Department official resigned shortly after the siege began in early October over the increase in weapons transfers to Israel.

Hundreds of former and current staffers for Biden and members of Congress have been calling for a ceasefire even as their bosses fail to do so and congressional staffers report a massive volume of calls from constituents calling for a ceasefire. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has requested for the White House to be able to conduct arms deals with Israel in complete secrecy, without oversight from Congress or the public.

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