Over 800 senior civil servants in the European Union, United States and United Kingdom have signed a letter calling on their governments to stop publicly supporting Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

In the letter, released at the weekend, they call on their governments to: “Stop asserting to the public that there is a strategic and defensible rationale behind the Israeli operation and that supporting it is in our countries’ interests.”

Such a letter is unheard of and shows the depth of feeling among senior civil servants who are usually prepared to keep quiet and do as they are told. On this occasion they feel that they have, “internally expressed our concerns that the policies of our governments/institutions do not serve our interests and called for alternatives that would better serve national and international security, democracy and freedom..”

The reporting of the letter in the Times of Israel shows the general contempt felt for any countervailing position in regard to the war. It points out that the letter is ‘unsigned’ and goes on to describe it as a ‘missive’.

According to the BBC’s report officials with lengthy experience of the Middle East feel that they are being dismissed by their governments when they raise concerns.

One American civil servant told the UK state broadcaster: ”The voices of those who understand the region and the dynamics were not listened to. What’s really different here is we’re not failing to prevent something, we’re actively complicit. That is fundamentally different from any other situation I can recall.”

The New York Times quotes Josh Paul, who worked in the State Department bureau that oversees arms transfers but who resigned in October over the Biden administration’s support of Israel’s military campaign. He says he knows some of the signatories to the letter and that they are concerned that “One-sided support for Israel’s atrocities in Gaza, and a blindness to Palestinian humanity, is both a moral failure and, for the harm it does to Western interests around the globe, a policy failure.”

Meanwhile the EUObserver reports that more than 1,500 EU civil servants have signed a letter warning the bloc’s leaders of their legal obligation to contribute to peace, protect human rights — including the rights of children — and to ensure the application of international law in Gaza.

Last week the International Court of Justice found that there was a “plausible case” that Israel was engaged in genocidal acts and issued an interim ruling that ordered them to “take all measures within its power to prevent .. (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; and (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.”

Since this order Israel has killed around 2,000 further Palestinians. Civil servants are rightly concerned that their governments, against both the wishes of their own populations and against international law, are complicit in genocidal acts. It is almost certain that, should this support end in court cases being brought, politicians will seek to shift the blame on to those who advised them. These letters now circulating are a warning shot to those politicians that such a defence will fail, as we now have clear evidence that they are being advised, and choosing to ignore the advice, that their actions are, potentially, in breach of international law.

The public continue to be appalled at the massacre taking place in Gaza with over 200,000 marching in London at the weekend, and smaller marches taking place in other cities. 


FULL TEXT OF THE LETTER

Transatlantic Civil Servants’ Statement on Gaza:

It Is Our Duty To Speak Out

When Our Governments’ Policies Are Wrong

Released February 2, 2024

Declaration of civil servants regarding Gaza:

Recalling that:

  • We have the duty to respect, protect and uphold our constitutions and international and national legal obligations which our democratically elected executives have committed us to;
  • We are expected as civil servants to respect, serve and uphold the law while implementing policies, regardless of the political parties in power; that we have done so for our entire careers;
  • We have been hired to serve, inform and advise our governments/institutions and we have demonstrated professionalism, expertise, and experience that our governments have relied on over the past decades of our service;
  • We have internally expressed our concerns that the policies of our governments/institutions do not serve our interests and called for alternatives that would better serve national and international security, democracy and freedom; reflect the core principles of western foreign policy; and incorporate lessons learned;
  • Our professional concerns were overruled by political and ideological considerations;
  • We are obliged to do everything in our power on behalf of our countries and ourselves to not be complicit in one of the worst human catastrophes of this century; and
  • We are obliged to warn the publics of our countries, whom we serve, and to act in concert with transnational colleagues.

We publicly reiterate our concerns that:

  • Israel has shown no boundaries in its military operations in Gaza, which has resulted in tens of thousands of preventable civilian deaths; and that the deliberate blocking of aid by Israel has led to a humanitarian catastrophe, putting thousands of civilians at risk of starvation and slow death;
  • Israel’s military operations have not contributed to its goal of releasing all hostages and is putting their well-being, lives and release at risk;
  • Israel’s military operations have disregarded all important counterterrorism expertise gained since 9/11; and that the operation has not contributed to Israel’s goal of defeating Hamas and instead has strengthened the appeal of Hamas, Hezbollah and other negative actors;
  • The ongoing military operation will be detrimental not just for Israel’s own security but also regional stability; the risk of wider wars is also negatively impacting stated security objectives of our governments;
  • Our governments have provided the Israeli military operation with public, diplomatic and military support; that this support has been given without real conditions or accountability; and that when faced with humanitarian catastrophe, our governments have failed to call for an immediate ceasefire and an end to blockages of necessary food/water/medicine in Gaza;
  • Our governments’ current policies weaken their moral standing and undermine their ability to stand up for freedom, justice, and human rights globally and weaken our efforts to rally international support for Ukraine and to counter malign actions by Russia, China and Iran; and
  • There is a plausible risk that our governments’ policies are contributing to grave violations of international humanitarian law, war crimes and even ethnic cleansing or genocide.

We therefore call on our governments/institutions to:

  • Stop asserting to the public that there is a strategic and defensible rationale behind the Israeli operation and that supporting it is in our countries’ interests;
  • Hold Israel, like all actors, accountable to international humanitarian and human rights standards applied elsewhere and to forcefully respond to attacks against civilians, as we are doing in our support to the Ukrainian people; this includes demanding immediate and full implementation of the recent order of the International Court of Justice;
  • Use all leverage available – including a halt to military support –  to secure a lasting ceasefire and full humanitarian access in Gaza and a safe release of all hostages; and
  • Develop a strategy for lasting peace that includes a secure Palestinian state and guarantees for Israel’s security, so that an attack like 7 October and an offensive on Gaza never happen again.

Coordinated by civil servants in:  

  • European Union institutions and bodies
  • The Netherlands
  • United States

Also endorsed by civil servants in:

  • Belgium
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom

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