US, UK and EU civil servants say their governments could risk complicity in ‘genocide’

Letter calls on governments to halt military support for Israel and use whatever leverage they may have to create a 'lasting ceasefire'

About 27,000 Palestinians have been killed amid the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and 65,000 wounded. AFP
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Hundreds of civil servants in the US, UK and EU wrote on Friday to their respective governments to halt unconditional support for Israel, which they say could put them at risk of complicity in “genocide”, and to take the necessary steps to help ensure a ceasefire.

The three-page letter, signed anonymously by about 850 people, states concerns that Israel has “shown no boundaries in its military operations in Gaza” and that there is a “plausible risk” that their governments' policies have contributed to “grave violations of international humanitarian law, war crimes and even ethnic cleansing or genocide” through their policies of support.

The letter, co-ordinated by employees in the US, EU and Netherlands, lays out a series of steps the signatories want their governments to take.

They want their governments to halt military support for Israel, use whatever leverage they may have to create a “lasting ceasefire” and develop a strategy for “lasting peace” which includes the establishment of a Palestinian state and ensuring Israel maintains its security guarantees.

Israel’s nearly four-month military campaign in the Gaza Strip, which followed the Hamas attack on southern Israel, has left the densely populated enclave in ruins. About 27,000 Palestinians have been killed and 65,000 wounded.

In Washington, there has been growing dissent among both domestic voters and civil servants over President Joe Biden administration’s “unwavering” support for Israel.

At the State Department, several dissent cables have been sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken since October 7.

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Mr Blinken has held “listening sessions” with employees, but US policy for the most part has not changed and the Biden administration still refuses to call for a ceasefire.

Josh Paul, who worked in the Bureau of Political Military Affairs at the State Department before resigning in October over US military support of Israel, welcomed the letter.

“This is a remarkable statement from hundreds of individuals who have devoted their lives to building a better world, and, at a time where our politicians seem to have forgotten them, it is a much-needed reminder of the core values that bind the transatlantic relationship, and a proof that they endure,” Mr Paul said in post on LinkedIn.

A poll released on Friday found that half of adults in the US believe the military response from Israel in the Gaza Strip has gone too far.

That is an increase from the 40 per cent that expressed this belief in a November AP-NORC poll. More Republicans think Israel’s response has gone too far compared to November, while a similar majority of Democrats hold this belief, AP reported.

In Europe, calls for a ceasefire have steadily increased and European politicians in January adopted a non-binding resolution calling for a permanent ceasefire that would see Hamas dismantled and all hostages released.

Angelique Eijpe, a former Dutch diplomat, resigned in November over her country's policy towards Israel and Palestine. The veteran diplomat said she helped facilitate the letter along with other former and current diplomats.

“It was, on the one hand, a very easy decision and on the other hand, in a practical sense, it was a difficult decision,” Ms Eijpe said of her decision to leave the Dutch foreign service.

“I'm very proud of the transatlantic co-operation,” she told The National. “Oftentimes, it's kind of complicated to materialise, but here it is from a really cross-groups level.”

Robert Ford, a former US ambassador to Syria and Algeria, said he was impressed by the scope of the letter.

“I don't think I've ever seen a dissent like this that spans the Atlantic Ocean and involves career people from multiple governments all in one single communication,” Mr Ford told The National.

Kelly Petillo, programme manager for the Middle East and North Africa at the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank, said it was not clear how much impact the letter would have.

“I’m not sure if these gestures can prompt these governments to directly appeal against Israel’s conduct,” she told The National.

But, she noted, the letter “speaks to the frustrations felt by civil servants and the wider public across western democracies”.

“Considerations around basic international principles and the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict are not being factored in the calculations of these governments’ leaders, whose moves seem to rather rely on short-term calculations which are driven by historic guilt and domestic political drivers,” Ms Petillo said.

A representative for the Netherlands' Foreign Ministry said it was only “natural” that there be a robust debate about the war and Dutch policy towards it.

“We feel that there should be scope for this debate and we encourage staff to enter into dialogues internally,” the representative said.

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Updated: February 03, 2024, 2:58 AM