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State Department staffer resigns over Biden's handling of Gaza

Annelle Sheline is the second State Department official to publicly resign since Oct. 7, citing the erosion of US credibility on human rights in the Middle East as a result of the war.
A picture taken from Rafah shows smoke billowing after Israeli bombardment on Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on March 21, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

WASHINGTON — A State Department employee working on human rights issues is the latest Biden administration official to publicly resign over US military and diplomatic support for Israel's war in the Gaza Strip. 

Before stepping down on Wednesday, Annelle Sheline was a foreign affairs officer in the department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. She was awarded a fellowship that required she serve at least a year in government, according to the Washington Post, which first reported on Sheline’s resignation. 

In a CNN op-ed, Sheline said she was stepping down in part because it became impossible to advocate for human rights when the administration was enabling Israel's war in Gaza. 

“Whatever credibility the United States had as an advocate for human rights has almost entirely vanished since the war began,” Sheline wrote. 

Sheline previously worked at the Quincy Institute, a Washington-based think tank that advocates for military restraint in US foreign policy. She wrote that she did not initially plan a public resignation but was encouraged to speak out by her former colleagues. 

“Because my time at State had been so short — I was hired on a two-year contract — I did not think I mattered enough to announce my resignation publicly,” Sheline said. “However, when I started to tell colleagues of my decision to resign, the response I heard repeatedly was, 'Please speak for us.'”

Other acts of dissent

Sheline is the latest Biden administration official to quit in protest over its handling of the Israel-Gaza war. 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. 

Tariq Habash, a Palestinian-American policy adviser in the Department of Education’s Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, quit in January for similar reasons. 

The resignations came 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 Health Ministry says more than 32,000 people have died in the war.  

The soaring death toll prompted a group calling itself Feds United for Peace to organize a walkout of workers from across two dozen federal agencies in January, as Al-Monitor first reported. 

The following month, a 25-year-old US Air Force serviceman died after setting himself on fire outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington to protest the Gaza war. 

For months, Biden administration officials have sought to address the dissent. As first reported by Al-Monitor, Secretary of State Antony Blinken participated in “listening sessions” with Arab American, Muslim and Jewish staffers shortly after the war broke out.

Other senior State Department and White House officials have since held similar meetings with staff members, and Blinken has sent two department-wide emails to update concerned staffers after his trips to the Middle East. 

Asked about Sheline’s resignation, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Wednesday that “there is a broad diversity of views inside the State Department about our policy with respect to Gaza” and that Blinken takes them into account when making decisions.