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Two more US officials resign over Biden administration's stance on Gaza war | Biden administration

Two more US officials resign over Biden administration's stance on Gaza war |  Biden administration

 


Two more US officials resigned over the Gaza war, saying the Biden administration was not telling the truth about Israeli obstruction of humanitarian aid to more than two million Palestinians trapped and starving in the small coastal strip .

Alexander Smith, an employee of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), said he was given the choice between resignation and dismissal after preparing a presentation on maternal and infant mortality among Palestinians, which was canceled at the last minute by USAID leaders last week. .

Smith, senior advisor on gender, maternal health, child health and nutrition, chose to resign Monday after four years at USAID. In his resignation letter to the agency's director, Samantha Power, he complained about inconsistencies in USAID's approach to individual countries and humanitarian crises, as well as the general treatment of Palestinians.

I cannot do my job in an environment in which some people cannot be recognized as fully human, or in which gender and human rights principles apply to some but not others, based on their race, he wrote.

In another resignation Tuesday, a State Department official in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, Stacy Gilbert, sent an email to colleagues explaining that she was leaving due to an official conclusion by the department that Israel was not deliberately driving the flow of migrants. food or other aid to Gaza.

According to the Washington Post, Gilbert notably disputed an official State Department report to Congress on May 10, emphasizing that Israel had not fully cooperated during the first months of the Gaza war, but had considerably increased humanitarian access more recently. In fact, after a sharp rise in humanitarian deliveries in late April and early May, they fell to near zero in the weeks that followed.

Asked about Gilbert's resignation, a State Department spokesperson said we have made it clear that we embrace diversity of viewpoints and believe it makes us stronger.

Smith and Gilbert bring to nine the total number of Biden administration officials who have publicly resigned over US policy on Gaza, although Josh Paul, the first official to resign, has said that at least two dozen others had left quietly, without public declaration.

I am aware that more resignations are expected in the near future from officials with similar concerns in their own areas of work, said Paul, now a senior adviser at Dawn, a democracy and rights group. of man in the Middle East and North Africa.

US troops assemble a floating jetty to help deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. Photograph: US Army Center/Reuters

The resignations come as famine spreads in Gaza, with only a trickle of humanitarian aid arriving through Israeli-controlled land crossings, and the collapse of a US-made dock intended for food deliveries, seriously damaged by a Mediterranean storm earlier this week.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet defied Biden by continuing an offensive on Gaza's southernmost town, Rafah, where more than a million Gazans had sought refuge from the Israeli assault. More than 900,000 of them have been forced to flee bombings in recent weeks.

The US president had threatened to cut off arms supplies for any offensive on Rafah, but his administration did not carry out his threat, arguing that the assault on the city did not constitute a major operation because it would not did not involve a large number of people. of troops. However, as USAID Administrator Power pointed out, the human impact was as catastrophic as if it were a major offensive.

Despite currently more limited military operations around Rafah and the Egypt-Gaza border, the catastrophic consequences we have long warned of are becoming a reality, Power told a meeting of donor governments on Wednesday. She added that USAID partners in the region said conditions were worse today than at any time before.

Hundreds of agency employees are working around the clock to expedite aid, advocate for greater protection of civilians and improved deconfliction, and advance diplomatic efforts, a spokesperson said. word from USAID. Additionally, agency leaders continue to engage candidly with staff about USAID's work and perspectives on the conflict through a series of meetings, town halls, and other forums.

Since the start of the Gaza war, the United States has announced some $180 million in aid to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, while U.S. military aid to Israel exceeds $3.3 billion annually .

Power has been more critical of Israel than others in the administration, but Smith has argued that she should go much further and denounce war crimes.

Even if you are responding to an attack, or whatever the circumstances, it is never legal to starve a civilian population, he said. Everyone at the State Department knows it, and Samantha Power knows it. She has written three books on genocide and other development issues. I have read all his books.

Alexander Smith (right), a USAID employee who resigned because of the war between Israel and Gaza. Photography: Alexandre Smith

Smith said the breaking point in his career as a State Department contractor came last week, when he was scheduled to present a paper at an internal USAID conference on maternal and infant mortality in Gaza and in the West Bank.

Conference organizers had authorized its publication, but when it was brought to the attention of USAID's Middle East section on May 20, Smith was asked to make redactions. He said those changes included removing a slide describing applicable international humanitarian law and any language implying recognition of a Palestinian state, including references to agencies that have Palestine in their title, such as the Association of United Nations Family Planning (UNFPA) Palestine.

After 24 hours of discussion about the changes, USAID leaders changed their minds and ordered the complete cancellation of Smith's lecture, removing all mention of it from the conference website.

A USAID official said Smith's lecture was canceled because it was outside his area of ​​expertise.

This individual's job responsibilities did not include supporting USAID's response to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza or the conflict's devastating impacts on women and children, the official said. The proposed submission has not gone through the standard agency review and approval process with their supervisors and subject matter experts working on this topic. These procedures are in place to ensure the accuracy of public information.

Smith argued that her expertise in maternal and child health and nutrition was relevant in all areas of humanitarian crisis.

As for the reasons for his dismissal, the USAID official said they could not discuss specific personnel matters and why this person is no longer employed by their contractor for USAID .

On May 23, two days after his speech was canceled, Smith was called by Highbury, the contractor who was his direct employer, and told his contract would be terminated early, citing personality differences. He was also informed that the client, USAID's Infectious Disease Section, was unhappy with him regardless of the situation. [his] performance. Smith showed the Guardian evidence that his job evaluations had been very positive in the years before the Gaza war and that he had received commensurate pay rises.

Highbury gave Smith the opportunity to resign if he wished, and he chose to take the opportunity to speak out.

USAID has always been proud of its programs supporting democracy, human rights and the rule of law, Smith wrote in his resignation letter. In Ukraine, we call for legal redress when people are victims and name the perpetrators of violence. We boldly talk about Slava Ukraini in spirited promotional videos.

When it comes to the Palestinians, however, we avoid saying anything about their right to statehood, the abuses they currently face, or the powers that have violated their fundamental rights to freedom, self-determination. , livelihoods and clean water, he said.

Sources

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2/ https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/article/2024/may/30/two-more-us-officials-resign-over-biden-administrations-position-on-gaza-war

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