White House interns demand a Middle East cease-fire in letter to Biden

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WASHINGTON — A group of White House interns joined the growing list of administration officials applying internal pressure to President Joe Biden to call for a permanent cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, sending him a letter late Tuesday that accuses him of having "ignored" the "pleas of the American people."

The letter, first shared with NBC News and addressed to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, is supported by more than 40 interns who work in the White House and other executive branch offices, according to the text.

"We, the undersigned Fall 2023 White House and Executive Office of the President interns, will no longer remain silent on the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people," the interns wrote.

In the aftermath of Hamas' brutal Oct. 7 terrorist assault, and with the group still holding hostages, Israel has mounted a ferocious counterattack that has killed thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and driven many more from their homes. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby recently said that the word "genocide" is being "thrown around in a pretty inappropriate way" and that it is Hamas, not Israel, that is pursuing the eradication of an entire people.

Biden's support for Israel's military campaign has brought sharp criticism from some in the progressive wing of his party, including threats to abandon him in the 2024 election, and calls from inside his administration to lean more heavily on Israel to halt its offensive. The interns' letter amplifies those concerns.

“We heed the voices of the American people and call on the Administration to demand a permanent ceasefire,” the interns wrote. “We are not the decision makers of today, but we aspire to be the leaders of tomorrow, and we will never forget how the pleas of the American people have been heard and thus far, ignored.”

The writers, like those at other agencies who have sent similar missives in recent weeks, declined to sign their names to the letter. Instead, they identified themselves by offices — including the Executive Office of the President, the Office of the Vice President and the Domestic Policy Council — and as "Palestinian, Jewish, Arab, Muslim, Christian, Black, Asian, Latine, White, and Queer."

Last month, more than 500 political appointees sent Biden a similar letter. They also declined to make their names public. In the three weeks since then, Israel paused its offensive to allow for exchanges of prisoners and some of the hostages taken by Hamas and then relaunched its assaults when talks over further releases broke down.

Biden on Tuesday blamed Hamas for the end of the temporary cease-fire, pointing to the group's refusal to release young women it is holding. He accused Hamas, which the U.S. has designated as a foreign terrorist organization, of using "rape to terrorize women and girls."

The set of White House interns who wrote to Biden on Tuesday said they went to work for his administration because of "our shared values and the profound belief that, under your leadership, America has the potential to be a nation that stands for justice and peace."

Yet the clear implication of their words is that they don't see him holding the country to that standard right now.

"While the Administration expressed support for the humanitarian pause, we maintain that anything other than a complete halt of Israel’s mass slaughter of innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip will simply not suffice," they wrote.

"We urge the Biden-Harris Administration to call for a permanent ceasefire now, a release of all hostages including Palestinian political prisoners, and to support a diplomatic solution that will put an end to the illegal occupation and the Israeli apartheid, in accordance with international law and for a free Palestine."

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com