More than 300 former staffers from Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns released an open letter Tuesday urging the Vermont Independent to sponsor a cease-fire resolution in the U.S. Senate as Israel’s bombing campaign in the besieged Gaza Strip continues unabated.
Sanders said last week that “the bombs and missiles from both sides must end” and has accused Israel of violating international law with its blockade on Gaza, but he has yet to express support for the cease-fire resolution led by progressive Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) in the House.
The senator’s former campaign staffers want him to spearhead a similar cease-fire effort in the Senate, where the Democratic leadership has thus far been in lockstep with the Biden administration’s unwavering support for Israel’s attack on Gaza.
“Your voice is needed now more than ever, because cooler heads must prevail and prevent further suffering and bloodshed,” wrote the Sanders campaign alumni. “You are the strongest voice in the U.S. Senate on progressive foreign policy. We need you to stand up forcefully, as you always have, against war and bombs, and for peace, freedom, and justice.”
The letter specifically calls on Sanders to:
- Introduce a Senate companion to the Bush-Tlaib “Ceasefire Now” resolution;
- Support an end to U.S. military funding for war crimes against the Palestinian people, the expansion of settlements, and the occupation of Palestinian lands; and
- Support an end to the blockade of Gaza.
“We’re asking you to use your power, the respect you have across the United States and globe, to clearly and boldly stand up against war, against occupation, and for the dignity of human life,” wrote the former Sanders staffers, who joined a growing wave of campaign alumni and current congressional staffers demanding support for a cease-fire in Gaza.
The letter came on the heels of what was described as the deadliest 24-hour period for Gazans since the Israeli military’s latest bombing campaign began on October 7, following a massive Hamas attack on Israel. Between Monday and Tuesday, Israeli airstrikes killed an estimated 700 people in Gaza, bringing the total death toll since October 7 to roughly 5,700—including around 2,300 children.
Asked about the rising death toll in Gaza, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said during a press briefing Tuesday that “we have and will continue to talk to our Israeli counterparts about the importance of avoiding and minimizing civilian casualties and respecting innocent life and trying to prevent collateral damage as they go after legitimate Hamas targets.”
“This is war. It is combat. It is bloody. It is ugly, and it’s going to be messy. And innocent civilians are going to be hurt going forward,” Kirby added. “And that doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t make it dismissible. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to still express concerns about that and—and do everything we can to help the Israelis do everything they can to minimize it. But that’s—that’s, unfortunately, the nature of conflict.”
Waleed Shahid, a Democratic strategist and one of the former Sanders staffers who signed the new open letter, accused the White House of “shrugging at thousands of Palestinian civilian casualties at the hands of the U.S.-funded far-right Israeli government.”
Late last week, the Biden administration requested that Congress approve $14 billion in additional military aid for Israel, which already receives roughly $4 billion a year in assistance from the U.S. The request came days after a group of attorneys warned that President Joe Biden and other U.S. officials could be complicit in genocide if they continue unconditionally supporting Israel’s assault on Gaza.
In their letter on Tuesday, the former Sanders staffers wrote that “many of us… share your Jewish heritage” and had “entire sections” of their families “erased from existence by Nazi barbarism in the Holocaust.”
“It is our duty,” they wrote, “to stand up and say that our pain and sorrow at the losses on October 7 will not be weaponized to justify the ethnic cleansing or genocide of Palestinian civilians.”
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