State Department Email Consoling Employees After Hamas Attack Omits Mention of 'Israel' and 'Jews'

Email comes as White House under fire for dismissing concerns about anti-Semitism

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October 27, 2023

The State Department sent an internal email consoling its employees in the wake of the mass terrorist attacks in Israel that omitted any mention of "Israel" or "Jews," while warning that the war could provoke "antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Arab prejudice."

The 872-word message, which was sent Wednesday, addressed the "professional and personal effects of a region in crisis," and decried "Hamas’s terrorist attack, the ongoing conflict, and the urgent humanitarian crisis in Gaza." It did not directly mention Israel or the Jewish people.

The email comes as the White House has faced criticism for waving off journalists’ questions about rising anti-Semitism while invoking concerns about the potential for increased Islamophobia. White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre, for example, drew criticism on Wednesday after she appeared to duck a question about Biden’s "level of concern right now about the potential rise of anti-Semitism."

Richard Verma, the State Department deputy secretary for management and resources, wrote that he had "heard from team members here in Washington and at posts around the world with concerns that horrible acts of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Arab prejudice could ripple even further." This could make it "feel more dangerous to be who we are, express who we are, or gather at this most important moment with our communities," he added.

Verma included a list of resources, such as mental health counseling, for "those impacted by antisemitism; American Muslims and Arab-Americans; and anyone seeking healthy coping strategies to address the personal, emotional, and mental health impacts of this crisis."

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Jean-Pierre seemed to dismiss concerns of a rise in anti-Semitism following the Hamas terror attack when questioned by reporters on Wednesday.

The press secretary said the administration has "not seen any credible threats," before adding that "Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim have endured a disproportionate number of hate-fueled attacks."

There have been dozens of high-profile anti-Semitic incidents since the Oct. 7 onslaught, which was the deadliest assault on Jews since the Holocaust. Law enforcement officials have also reported a spike in anti-Jewish attacks in the United States.

The Anti-Defamation League said this week that it has documented 312 anti-Semitic incidents in the three weeks since the war broke out, a 400 percent increase since the same time last year.

Many of the attacks have been well-documented in the media. Last week, a New York City woman said she was punched on the subway by a man who said he assaulted her because she was Jewish. Many pro-Palestinian protests in the United States have veered into anti-Semitism, with demonstrators waving Nazi symbols and celebrating the murders of Jewish civilians.

Muslim advocacy groups say Islamophobic attacks are also on the rise. Earlier this month, a six-year-old Palestinian boy in Chicago was stabbed to death by his family's landlord, who had reportedly been arguing with the child's mother about the war in Israel.

The full email can be read below:


I hope that everyone read the message from Secretary Blinken upon his return from the Middle East last week, highlighting not just the tremendous efforts of teams across the Department to support intensive diplomacy, but also the deeply personal impacts that Hamas’s terrorist attack, the ongoing conflict, and the urgent humanitarian crisis in Gaza can have on our workforce.  The professional and personal effects of a region in crisis have hit every segment of our team—whether serving domestically or overseas, many of us have communal ties, family members, or professional bonds in the Middle East.  Those of us whose roots are permanently in the region—our local staff, the backbone of our overseas presence—are experiencing these events all the more acutely.  But one doesn’t need to have personal ties to the region for the images and stories of human suffering to take a toll.  To all of you, let me express my deepest appreciation and admiration for your service during such difficult times, today and always.

We have also heard from team members here in Washington and at posts around the world with concerns that horrible acts of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Arab prejudice could ripple even further, making it feel more dangerous to be who we are, express who we are, or gather at this most important moment with our communities.  Please know:  nothing is more important to the Secretary, me, and all of the members of the leadership team, than the safety and well-being of our workforce, no matter where you serve, how you worship, or where you call home.  As we grapple with crises, the security and welfare of our teams are always at the top of the agenda.

I want to echo the Secretary’s request that we devote extra care and attention to taking care of each other, demonstrating "the humanity, the empathy, and the grace within our own community that we strive to build in the world."  I urge our supervisors and managers to create spaces for respectful and inclusive dialogue and look out for their team members, some of whom might not feel comfortable raising their hand to identify as a member of an affected group or share how this crisis is impacting them.  Similarly, no one should assume that a colleague who has personal ties to this conflict cannot be an objective participant in ongoing policy development and debates.  Please, extend a hand to those who seem withdrawn—whether by creating opportunities for team members to discuss policy and events in the region, respecting colleagues’ preference not to talk about it, or offering them opportunities to take time off with family.

Everyone—supervisors, colleagues, or bystanders—should report any instance of discrimination or bullying.  Intolerance has no place in the Department, and no one should feel silenced.  Everyone has a role to play in making sure each of us feel physically and professionally safe to express our opinions, even—or especially—if those opinions are the dissenting views that are so critical to our constructing a well-reasoned and well-rounded policy.

I also recognize that this is a moment when some of you are looking to engage in and shape the policy process, and I want to encourage you to do so – whether that means asking thoughtful questions, drawing on your own expertise, expressing alternative viewpoints, and/or offering your ideas and solutions.  If you’re unsure of how best to do this, speak with your supervisor, colleagues, and bureau leadership.  Looking ahead, we will also be inviting colleagues to participate in a series of Open Forum discussions with senior Department leadership on the current crisis and our policy response.

For those of you who wish to engage publicly in your personal capacity on topics of Departmental concern, I encourage you to review guidance on the use of social media and of public communications.  For those who wish to participate in peaceful protest, you are free to do so outside of work hours, or by taking leave if protest activity falls during work hours.  Those serving overseas should also abide by post’s guidance on participating in protest activity as a public official representing the United States abroad.  This guidance is designed to protect you—from malicious actors, counterintelligence operations, or disciplinary action—as you exercise your first amendment right to free expression.

This is a high-stress, emotionally draining moment.  Global Talent Management’s TalentCare office keeps and frequently updates a list of resources for impacted employees.  This list includes a series of important conversations hosted by the Bureau of Medical Services’ Employee Consultation Services for staff and family members in the region and on authorized departure; those impacted by antisemitism; American Muslims and Arab-Americans; and anyone seeking healthy coping strategies to address the personal, emotional, and mental health impacts of this crisis.  Whether through ECS, an external provider, or by engaging with your communities at home or here at work, please seek the support and the mental health care that you need, and remember that getting treatment will not affect your security clearance.  Your well-being is mission critical—please take a moment to identify and access the resources here at State that are available to you.

Thank you all for your work on behalf of the American people and all you do to take care of each other.


Richard R. Verma

Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources