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State Department Official Resigns Over Biden Gaza Policy

“Trying to advocate for human rights just became impossible,” Foreign Affairs Officer Annelle Sheline said.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the Chavis Community Center on March 26, 2024, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Saying her job at a State Department office that advocates for human rights in the Middle East has become “impossible” as the Biden administration continues to back Israel’s assault on civilians in Gaza, foreign affairs officer Annelle Sheline resigned from her position on Wednesday in protest of President Joe Biden’s policy in the region.

Sheline noted in an interview with The Washington Post that quitting her job in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor was not something she took lightly, with “a daughter and a mortgage” — but said her day-to-day work on human rights had become ineffectual “as long as the U.S. continues to send a steady stream of weapons to Israel.”

Despite the fact that U.S. law prohibits the government from arming countries that violate human rights — as Israel has long been accused by the United Nations of doing in its policy toward the occupied Palestinian territories — the Biden administration has approved the transfer of bombs and other weapons to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) since the military began its relentless bombardment of Gaza and blockade on nearly all humanitarian aid.

Sheline told the Post that as the news out of Gaza has grown more dire since October — with at least 32,490 Palestinians killed, at least 74,889 wounded, and parts of northern Gaza now facing famine conditions due to Israel’s blocking of aid — some of her bureau’s partners in the Middle East have stopped engaging with the State Department.

“If they are willing to engage, they mostly want to talk about Gaza rather than the fact that they are also dealing with extreme repression or threats of imprisonment,” Sheline told the Post of the activists and civil society groups her office routinely worked with to further human rights in the region before Israel’s assault began. “The first point they bring up is: How is this happening?”

“I wasn’t able to really do my job anymore,” Sheline added. “Trying to advocate for human rights just became impossible.”

Sheline is just the latest official to resign in protest of Biden’s approach to Israel and Gaza.

In October Josh Paul resigned from his position as director of congressional and public affairs for the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, where he oversaw weapons transfers to U.S. allies.

Paul told the Post that Sheline’s decision “speaks volumes about the Biden administration’s disregard for the laws, policies and basic humanity of American foreign policy that the bureau exists to advance.”

A policy adviser in the Education Department, Tariq Habash, also stepped down from his role in January, saying he could no longer be “quietly complicit” in the killing of tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians.

The State Department’s internal dissent channel has also been used by numerous officials to voice outrage over the Biden administration’s continued defense of Israel’s actions.

Stephen Walt, professor of international affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School, called Sheline’s resignation “courageous.”

Feds United for Peace, a group of government workers across nearly two dozen federal agencies which organized a daylong fast in January to protest the U.S.-backed slaughter of Palestinians, expressed solidarity with Sheline.

“That decision comes at a personal and real cost to her, and is a loss of a patriotic and deeply qualified employee for the Department of State,” said the group in a statement. “Every arms shipment to Israel by the Biden administration and every one of the three vetoes of U.N. cease-fire resolutions has enabled Israeli impunity in its rampage across Gaza… Thousands of innocent lives are in President Biden’s hands; the time has come to translate gentle requests for the protection of civilians into concrete action to stop the killing.”

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