Several officials within the Biden administration, including those with Muslim backgrounds, are reportedly concerned about potential repercussions for criticizing Israel’s actions in Gaza, according to a report by HuffPost. The outlet interviewed multiple staff members who work on national security issues, but they chose to remain anonymous. These officials expressed fear of being labeled as anti-American or anti-Semitic for questioning Israel’s conduct, describing a “culture of silence” that has emerged within the administration.
One official compared the current situation to the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, stating that they felt their thoughts were being policed and that they were afraid of speaking out. Another official, identified as a career civil servant, expressed worry about the consequences of criticizing the president on social media, noting that they felt alienated and on thin ice because of their heritage and concern for the Palestinian lives lost.
Despite these concerns, President Biden and other US leaders, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, have consistently expressed support for Israel during its ongoing conflict with Hamas. Biden has affirmed that the US stands with Israel and will provide the necessary support for its defense and response to attacks.
However, one individual within the administration highlighted the lack of diversity in the inner circle responsible for shaping US policy, arguing that this undermines the purpose of having a variety of perspectives within the decision-making process.
The report also pointed out a perceived disregard for innocent Palestinian lives within the administration. While noting that it does not justify this disregard, an anonymous individual suggested that there may be a connection between the treatment of staff and the dehumanization of Palestinians. They noted that certain lives appeared to be valued more than others, both overseas and within the staff itself.
Another official mentioned the chilling effect observed among the staff, noting that it took them a considerable amount of time to gather the courage to argue against being seen as responsible for the deaths of Palestinian children, which could potentially lead to further conflict in the Middle East. The fear of repercussions was evident, as one individual likened it to the possibility of being reported to the House Un-American Activities Committee.
A career bureaucrat with extensive experience in foreign policy described a culture of self-censorship among younger staff members, particularly highlighting their shock at the disparity between the response to the conflict in Gaza and the administration’s rhetoric about human rights.
In response to these concerns, Gautam Raghavan, the White House personnel director, held a call with current and former high-level Muslim appointees. The main topics of discussion reportedly centered around the increased risk of Islamophobia nationwide and the perceived endangerment of Muslim staff within the administration.
Raghavan denied claims that he referred to the Israel-Palestine policy process as “broken,” instead emphasizing that he focused on supporting and affirming team members.
Robyn Patterson, a White House spokesperson, defended the administration’s commitment to diversity, stating that President Biden had assembled the most diverse presidential administration in history. She highlighted the open and collaborative role that Muslim and Arab American team members play in policy and strategy advising.
In conclusion, the reported concerns among officials within the Biden administration regarding the potential consequences of criticizing Israel’s actions in Gaza highlight a perceived culture of silence and fears of backlash. While the administration has expressed unwavering support for Israel, the lack of diversity in decision-making circles and the perceived disregard for innocent Palestinian lives have provoked criticism from within the staff. The administration has responded to these concerns through discussions and emphasized the value placed on diversity and the involvement of Muslim and Arab American team members.