Second top US official resigns in protest of Biden's support for Israeli war on Gaza

AP , Ahram Online , Thursday 4 Jan 2024

A Department of Education policy adviser appointed by the Biden administration quit Wednesday to protest the administration's crucial military support of Israel's war on Gaza and its handling of the conflict's repercussions at home and abroad.

Tariq Habash, special assistant in the Education Department s Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development.


Tariq Habash, a Biden administration appointee who had worked in the education department to help overhaul the student loan system and address inequities in higher education, told The Associated Press he submitted his resignation Wednesday.

That was after he and others had “done everything imaginable” to work within the system to try to register their objections to administration leaders, he said.

"Today, I resigned from the Biden-Harris Administration. I cannot represent an administration that systematically dehumanizes Palestinians and enables their ethnic cleansing. The President must call for a permanent ceasefire," Habash wrote on X.

Habash becomes at least the second official, and the first known official of Palestinian origin, to resign from the administration in protest of President Joe Biden's actions regarding the war. State Department veteran Josh Paul stepped down in October as the administration accelerated arms transfers to Israel.

Habash had been among the administration staffers of Middle East, Muslim and Jewish backgrounds taking part in meetings with senior White House officials and others in the administration in response to staffers' concerns on the U.S. role in the war.

Habash described the sessions as more briefings from higher-ups than opportunities for staffers to be heard.

The White House referred questions about Habash to the Department of Education and a department spokesperson said “We wish him the best in his future endeavours.”

Biden and his top officials have defended Israel's devastating air and ground war on Gaza under the pretext of self-defence.

The fallout from the Israeli war on Gaza has roiled campuses across the U.S. and reignited a debate over free speech. College leaders have struggled to define the line where political speech crosses into harassment and discrimination, with Jewish and Arab students raising concerns that their schools are doing too little to protect them.

The Education Department has warned colleges that they’re required to fight antisemitism and Islamophobia on their campuses or risk a loss of federal money.

The agency has opened civil rights inquiries at dozens of schools and colleges in response to complaints of antisemitism and Islamophobia in the wake of Oct. 7, including at Harvard, Stanford and MIT.

In his resignation letter, Habash wrote, “The Department of Education must play an active role in supporting institutions as they respond to the needs of students, faculty, and staff. This includes protecting all students who choose to exercise their First Amendment right to engage in nonviolent actions, including expressing solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.”

On Wednesday, 17 Joe Biden re-election campaign staffers have issued a warning in an anonymous letter that the US president could lose voters over his stance in the Israel war on Gaza, Reuters is reporting.

In their letter, published on Medium, they urge Biden to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. They write:

"Biden for President staff have seen volunteers quit in droves, and people who have voted blue for decades feel uncertain about doing so for the first time ever, because of this conflict," the staffers wrote in the letter.

Earlier months of the war saw some administration staffers sign petitions and open letters urging Biden to call for a cease-fire.

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