Veteran State Department official resigns over 'blind support' to Israel in its war on Gaza

Ahram Online , Thursday 19 Oct 2023

Josh Paul, a veteran US State Department official, who worked on arms transfers to foreign powers, resigned Wednesday over stepped-up US military aid to Israel, calling the Joe Biden administration’s response to the conflict in Israel and Gaza as 'blind support to one side ' and an impulsive reaction based on intellectual bankruptcy.

Veteran State Department


“I fear we are repeating the same mistakes we have made these past decades, and I decline to be a part of it for longer,” he wrote in a note explaining his decision.

Josh Paul served as director of congressional and public affairs at the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, which handles arms transfers. 

He had spent more than 11 years in his role, which coordinates relations with Congress and public messaging for a key office that deals with military aid.

Paul said that he could not countenance continuing in a job that he said was contributing to the deaths of Palestinian civilians.

In his resignation letter, Paul said the Biden administration’s “blind support for one side” was leading to policy decisions that were “shortsighted, destructive, unjust and contradictory to the very values we publicly espouse.”

“The response Israel is taking, and with it the American support both for that response and for the status quo of the occupation, will only lead to more and deeper suffering for both the Israeli and the Palestinian people,” he wrote.

Paul said the robust US military assistance for Israel was effectively giving the country the green light to do what it wants against Gaza, regardless of the civilian toll. 

Shortly after the start of the Israeli campaign against Gaza on 7 October, President Biden sent the US carrier USS Gerald Ford strike group the US carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower to the Eastern Mediterranean to demonstrate US support to Tel Aviv.

The US also sent a rapid response force, consisting of 2,000 Marines and sailors, to back Israel.

It also sent additional US fighter jets to the region.

US Special Operations forces are now assisting Israel’s military in planning and intelligence.

The US also sent the first shipment of additional munitions to replenish Israel's anti-rocket arsenal.  

In an interview with the New York Times, Paul said that Israel’s cutting off of water, food, medical care, and electricity to Gaza, a territory of two million people, should prompt protections in a number of longstanding federal laws intended to keep American weapons out of the hands of human rights violators but those legal guardrails are failing.

“Let's absolutely note the horror of what Hamas did and the scale of it. And therefore, I fear the scale of the potential Israeli response or ongoing Israeli response,”

“I recognize the Israeli government's right to respond and to defend themselves. I guess I question how many Palestinian children have to die in that process,” he said.

Paul said that he had encountered other dilemmas while working on military assistance inside the State Department, but that he had always felt he could “bend things in the right direction.”

Not so this time, which was the biggest reason he resigned, he said.

“There’s no questioning on this one. There’s no space for substantive dissent within the system on this one. And that’s what led me to my decision,” he said.

Paul added there wasn’t a single precipitating moment that led to his resignation Wednesday, simply the feeling of being party to a slew of decisions that he disagreed with and felt powerless to influence.

Although the State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs also has had a major role in arms transfers to Ukraine after Russia invaded last year, Paul’s academic background and career have long intertwined with Israel and the Palestinian territories, according to the Washington Post.

He wrote his master’s thesis about Israeli counterterrorism and civil rights, he said, and worked in Ramallah, in the West Bank, on security sector governance with the Palestinian Authority. And, in his resignation letter, he said he had “deep personal ties to both sides of the conflict.”

Paul said he spent last week on a preplanned leave, giving him more space to watch what was happening from the outside and to contemplate his decision, according to the Washington Post.

Since he publicly announced his resignation in a two-page declaration posted on LinkedIn, he said he had received many expressions of support from State Department colleagues, according to the Post.

The State Department declined to comment on Paul’s resignation, citing policy on discussing personnel matters, according to the Washington Post.

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