Snow Thwarts Anti-Israel Government Employee 'Walkout'

(Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)
January 16, 2024

Anti-Israel government employees planning a "walkout" to protest the Biden administration's military support for Israel had their plans foiled after a snow day shut down all federal offices in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

Anonymous protest organizers claimed that "hundreds" of employees from the White House and other agencies, including the State Department, the Defense Department, and the National Security Agency, were set to skip work to participate in a "Day of Mourning" for Gaza, Al-Monitor reported last week.

But their protest was thwarted when D.C. was hit with over three inches of snow late Monday, leading the Office of Personnel Management to announce an all-office closure for the following day.

The snow day came after Republican lawmakers vowed to punish any Biden administration employees who joined the anti-Israel walkout and as legal experts warned that staffers should expect to lose their jobs if they participated in it.

Richard Painter, the chief White House ethics counsel under former president George W. Bush, said it would be "wildly inappropriate" for any political appointees—particularly White House staff—to participate in a walkout.

"It would be highly unusual if the president didn't fire you," he told the Washington Free Beacon. "I would expect President Biden would fire White House officials and political appointees for openly participating in demonstrations against the president's Middle East policy."

Painter said such protesters could also put their security clearances at risk.

"If people have the bad judgment to be doing this while a political appointee, and not resign their job, I think there's some concerns," he said.

The White House, State Department, Defense Department, and National Security Agency declined to comment on whether they would punish employees who joined the protest.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R., La.) warned on Monday that any federal employees who participate "deserve to be fired" and promised to work with the House Oversight Committee to "ensure that each federal agency initiates appropriate disciplinary proceedings."

The Biden administration has faced pressure from its progressive base, which has become increasingly anti-Israel, to cut off military support for the Jewish state. In March, a Gallup poll found that more Democrats sympathized with Palestinians over Israelis for the first time in the survey's history.

This opposition to Israel has spilled into the administration, from which multiple staffers have resigned to protest the war against Hamas. In November, over 500 "anonymous" Biden administration employees allegedly signed a letter denouncing U.S. military support for Israel in the Gaza War, according to the New York Times.

"We call on President Biden to urgently demand a cease-fire," said the letter, which described Israel's military response to Hamas's Oct. 7 mass slaughter of civilians as a "costly and senseless war."