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'Quietly complicit': second US official quits over Biden’s Gaza war handling

Tariq Habash, a Department of Education political appointee, said he could no longer represent an administration that “does not value all human life equally.”
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 27: Actress Cynthia Nixon speaks as she announces a hunger strike calling for a ceasefire in Gaza outside the White House on November 27, 2023 in Washington, DC. Nixon, who was joined by state legislators, community leaders and activist, demands that President Biden call for a permanent ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war and stops military aid to Israel. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — A US official in the Department of Education became the second in the Biden administration to publicly resign over the president’s support for Israel’s war in Gaza. 

Tariq Habash, a Palestinian-American policy adviser in the Department of Education’s Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, said he could no longer represent an administration that “does not value all human life equally.”

“I cannot stay silent as this administration turns a blind eye to the atrocities committed against innocent Palestinian lives,” Habash said in his resignation letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.

“I cannot be quietly complicit as this administration fails to leverage its influence as Israel’s strongest ally to halt the abusive and ongoing collective punishment tactics that have cut off Palestinians in Gaza from food, water, electricity, fuel, and medical supplies, leading to widespread disease and starvation,” Habash wrote.

Habash’s resignation comes after Josh Paul, a career official working in the State Department bureau that oversees arms transfers, stepped down in October. In his resignation letter, Paul cited the administration’s “blind support” for Israel and surge of weapons. 

The resignations come as the Biden administration has faced pressure from many Democrats to call for a permanent cease-fire and restrict how Israel uses US weapons and other military assistance in Gaza, where the Hamas-run Health Ministry says more than 22,000 people have died over the past three months.

Israel began its military campaign in Gaza after Hamas killed 1,200 people, mainly civilians, during its surprise attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7. The militants also abducted some 240 people, more than 100 of whom were released in a week-long truce.

On Thursday, the Palestine Red Crescent and local officials said Israel’s military bombed areas of southern Gaza where evacuating civilians were told to take shelter. Local media outlets reported that an Israeli strike on a family home left more than a dozen dead.

Habash announced his resignation the same day 17 staffers for President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign penned an anonymous letter calling for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza and warning Biden that his full-throated support for Israel could cost him voters. 

“As your staff, we believe it is both a moral and electoral imperative for you to publicly call for a cessation of violence,” the staffers wrote in the letter published on Medium.

Biden administration officials have tried to address the growing internal dissent. As first reported by Al-Monitor, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has held “listening sessions” with Arab American, Muslim and Jewish staffers concerned with the administration’s policies toward the Israel-Hamas war. 

Other senior State Department and White House officials have since held similar meetings with frustrated staff members. US diplomats have also filed multiple cables through the State Department’s dissent channel to privately express their concerns. 

In December, a group of administration officials and political appointees held a candlelit vigil outside the White House to call for a cease-fire in the Palestinian enclave.