How ‘Dear White Staffers’ turned into an anti-Israel, antisemitic account

Jewish Insider has linked the popular ‘Dear White Staffers’ account to a staffer for hard-left Rep. Summer Lee

“Dear White Staffers,” the popular and closely watched Instagram page that captivated Washington by publicly sharing allegations of abusive behavior by and gossip about lawmakers and their staffers, has taken on a new tenor in the five months since Oct. 7, morphing into a prominent and vocal anti-Israel platform that some fellow Hill staffers describe as borderline or openly antisemitic.

The Instagram page’s transformation from a platform supporting Hill workers across parties, with fans even on the center-right, into a mostly single-issue anti-Israel advocacy page is reflective of broader trends in many progressive organizing spaces since October — leaning into anti-Israel stances or facing internal and external dissent over their refusal to do so.

Jewish Insider has been able to link the Dear White Staffers account to a staffer working for Rep. Summer Lee (D-PA), an early opponent of Israel’s war against Hamas, who faced backlash last week for plans to appear at a gala alongside speakers who have made antisemitic and homophobic comments. Lee later pulled out of the Council on American Islamic Relations event after receiving criticism from other Pennsylvania Democrats, including Gov. Josh Shapiro.

Multiple sources told JI that concurrent posts on the Dear White Staffers account and a personal social media account of the Lee staffer placed the two accounts in the same place in Los Angeles at the same time. JI has seen screenshots of the posts in question. Several Democratic staffers described Dear White Staffers’ identity as an open secret among a growing number of Hill staff.

The Lee staffer appears, masked but identifiable, in a photo from a cease-fire protest on Capitol Hill, which had been promoted by the Dear White Staffers account. Dear White Staffers’ posts about the length of their tenure on Capitol Hill are consistent with that of the Lee staffer. The Dear White Staffers account has verified publicly that it’s operated by only one person. The Lee staffer is also a leader of a congressional unionization effort that was launched in part by Dear White Staffers’ sharing of allegations of mistreatment and abuse.

Neither Lee nor an email account for Dear White Staffers responded to a request for comment.

The Lee staffer previously worked for Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) — another prominent anti-Israel lawmaker who has faced accusations of antisemitism, Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Julia Brownley (D-CA).

The Lee staffer, who has publicly identified as Jewish, spoke out repeatedly, under their own name on their Facebook page, about their criticisms of Israel during the 2021 conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in Gaza, JI found. The staffer at one point objected to efforts to connect anti-Zionism and antisemitism. The Facebook page is no longer publicly accessible.

On Oct. 7, following Hamas’ attack on Israel, the staffer shared a post on their Instagram story featuring a vintage poster from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a U.S.-designated terror group. The poster was captioned “A resistance poster by the PFLP circa 1973. The resistance continues….”

Dear White Staffers began as an account focused on the experience of staffers of color on the Hill, rising in prominence in 2022 for posting anonymous, unvetted testimonials from congressional staffers about lawmakers and staff for whom they worked. The account, whose owner had been highly secretive, has grown to nearly 120,000 followers and has been closely watched by D.C. politicos, on and off Capitol Hill.

Since Oct. 7, the account has evolved primarily into a stream of anti-Israel commentary, accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza and condemning the administration and Congress for continuing aid to Israel.

It has, at times, leaned into antisemitic tropes, accusing one Jewish member of seeking the deaths of children, and blaming Israeli training for the Capitol Police’s response to a cease-fire protest at the Democratic National Committee headquarters that turned violent.

After months of such posts, a Dear White Staffers post valorizing the death by suicide of Aaron Bushnell, who burned himself alive in front of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., caught the attention of a sitting member of Congress.

Dear White Staffers shared a poster describing Bushnell’s death as an “act of compassion, of moral defiance,” accusing the U.S. military of murdering 30,000 people, calling for a vigil to “honor” Bushnell outside “the Zionist embassy.” The account also reposted a tweet about Bushnell asserting that “a lot of people are very frightened by extreme moral clarity because they dont have any,” and other messages valorizing Bushnell.

Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) responded, questioning “who hired this crackpot?” saying that the account was “falsely accusing the US of murdering 30k people” and “commemorating the self-proclaimed martyrdom of a man who sets himself on fire to protest an imagined genocide.”

Dear White Staffers has served as an organizer and spokesperson for anti-Israel protests by staff on Capitol Hill and in the administration and promoted the campaign to vote uncommitted in Michigan’s Democratic presidential primary to protest President Joe Biden’s stance on Israel.

As primary election results trickled in Michigan last Tuesday, Dear White Staffers reposted a seemingly satirical call for Biden to “drop a [bomb] on the knesset and personally chokeslam netanyahu on TV with his bare hands.” That post was since deleted.

The account has also opposed the U.S. campaign against the Houthis in Yemen and attacked AIPAC’s influence on U.S. Israel politics — highlighting donations through AIPAC’s political action committee to pro-Israel politicians, criticized President Joe Biden’s campaign and political strategy more broadly and sought to recruit members to the Democratic Socialists of America.

Jewish Capitol Hill staffers, who have said they face an increasingly hostile workplace among their peers since Oct. 7, have pointed to the Dear White Staffers account, which is particularly influential among younger Capitol Hill staff, as contributing to that dynamic. 

Five staffers who spoke to JI, all of whom asked for anonymity to discuss sensitive workplace topics and speak freely, said that they’d initially admired and appreciated the role that the account had played in helping to expose the challenging work conditions and low pay that Capitol Hill staffers experienced and pushing for change. One said they personally relied on the account when leaving a “toxic” congressional office and looking for a more supportive one.

The staffers lamented the turn the account has taken since Oct. 7 — describing it as having veered away from advocating for the interests of all Hill staffers to advancing the account owner’s own radical views on Israel policy, to the detriment of its prior efforts. 

Several staffers said they felt that the content on the account was often antisemitic, or rode the line between anti-Zionism and overt antisemitism.

“[Dear White Staffers] has turned into a glorified antisemitic propaganda machine masquerading as a voice for the voiceless,” a sixth staffer said.

A staffer pointed to posts celebrating a protest outside a Jewish senator’s home, accusing the senator of genocide and of having blood on their hands, as one example of when the account has “crossed a line.”

Multiple staffers said that, as Jews, they feel personally threatened by the account and the content it is posting. “I know a lot of Jewish staffers feel scared about what [they’re] posting,” one source told JI. “It’s terrifying.”

Another staffer said that knowing that many of their colleagues follow the account and support its commentary has made them feel increasingly uncomfortable among their peers on the Hill.

Three staffers said they’ve also been frustrated by the account’s calls for congressional staff to publicly protest against the lawmakers for whom they work and — a rejection of long-standing Capitol Hill norms that unelected staffers should not publicly express opinons contrary to those of  the elected lawmakers for whom they work. 

Two staffers said that they were particularly concerned by the influence that the account holds among the youngest generation of Hill staffers, including interns. They “are touting antisemitism — some of them that don’t even know it,” one source said. “It’s kind of scary to see what the next few years will look like because of it.”

“It’s creating a toxic narrative to the next generation of Hill staffers, which is just going to set things back even further,” another staffer said.

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