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A Dozen Former Government Officials Pressure Biden To Change Gaza Policy

Group Claims Aid For Israel Violates The Leahy Law Against Aiding Human Rights Abuses
A Palestinian protestor holds a sign outside the Lincoln Memorial at a demonstration during the summer of 2022.

A dozen government resignees are speaking out about the Biden administration’s “failed” policy in Gaza.

In a joint public statement, the twelve former officials from a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs implore the Biden administration to reconsider what they see as a failure in foreign policy. They want the US use its influence and position to toughen up on human rights abuses and the aggressive resettlement of Palestinian territory, especially in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

“This failed policy has not achieved its stated objectives – it has not made Israelis any safer, it has emboldened extremists while it has been devastating for the Palestinian people, ensuring a vicious cycle of poverty and hopelessness, with all the implications of that cycle for generations to come,” the group wrote.

The written statement’s authors include four individuals from the State Department, four more from President Biden’s political staff, three members of the military and one member of the US Agency for International Development, according to a report from the Huffington Post. Among them is Maryam Hassanein, a Muslim American and now former special assistant at the Department of Interior. She attributed her resignation to the president’s support for Israel as it wages war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, claiming the administration was “dehumanizing” to Arabs and Muslims.

She joins Lily Greenberg Call, a Jewish-American appointee at the Department of the Interior who resigned from her position in May, as well as Palestinian-American Tariq Habash, who left the Department of Education in January. Anna Del Castillo, former deputy director at the Office of Management and Budget, is also among the writers after she abandoned her position in April. Her reason for resigning was previously unknown.

The first government official to resign their post over the Gaza conflict also contributed to the effort.

Foreign service officer Josh Paul, who left his job last October, accused the Biden administration at the time of “intellectual bankruptcy” after it continued sending weapons and ammunition to Israel after the conflict had claimed 3,700 Palestinian lives. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, nearly 38,000 Palestinians have now died since that conflict began with surprise attack by 3,000 Hamas guerrillas on Israeli military positions and civilian communities.

But that number is not without dispute.

Late last month the House passed an amendment to the State-Foreign Operations bill that bars statistics from the Gaza Health Ministry from being cited by the US State Department. It’s a measure that some have criticized will impede debate and criticism about the war’s continuing casualties. Supporters say that the Gaza Health Ministry’s data isn’t reliable because it doesn’t differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths and accuses it of inflating deaths to manipulate public opinion.

President Biden weighed in on the issue not long after the October attacks.

“I have no notion that Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed,” Biden said.

Within a day of those comments, the Gaza Health Ministry released a list with the names, gender, age and ID number of the 6,747 killed, including more than 2,665 children. That list excluded any missing or those whose death had not been recorded by a hospital. An additional 281 victims couldn’t be identified.

Recent reports indicate that only three of Gaza’s eight reporting hospitals are still submitting data, either due to staff and resource shortages or being destroyed.

Besides the Gaza Health Ministry, no other organization tracks Palestinian dead. Since 2007, its numbers have traditionally been trusted by the US State Department, World Health Organization, Amnesty International and the International Criminal Court. The Gaza Health Ministry is also frequently cited by Israeli publications like Harretz and The Times of Israel, as well as and Jewish human rights organizations like B’Tselem. 

Both of Fredericksburg’s representatives voted in favor of the amendment blocking the Ministry’s statistics, with Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger joining 61 other Democratic representatives to cross the aisle with 207 Republican votes (among them Congressman Rob Wittman), passing the bill 269-144.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to visit Washington, DC in late July and will meet with President Biden to discuss progress on the conflict.

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