US Education Official Steps Down in Protest of Biden Administration's Handling of Israel-Gaza Relations

US Education Official Steps Down in Protest of Biden Administration's Handling of Israel-Gaza Relations

Washington - A high-ranking official at the U.S. Department of Education resigned on Wednesday, attributing their departure to President Joe Biden's handling of the Gaza conflict. This development reflects a growing discord within the administration amid an escalating death toll in the war.

On the same day, 17 staff members from Biden's re-election campaign issued an anonymous letter expressing concerns that the President could lose support over the Gaza issue.

Tariq Habash, a special assistant in the Education Department, conveyed his resignation in a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, stating, "I cannot stay silent as this administration turns a blind eye to the atrocities committed against innocent Palestinian lives, in what leading human rights experts have called a genocidal campaign by the Israeli government." Habash, a Palestinian-American with expertise in student debt, was appointed early in Biden's presidency as part of an expansion of the Education Department's focus on student loan matters.

The anonymous Biden campaign staffers, in their letter published on Medium, urged Biden to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, citing concerns about losing support from traditional Democratic voters.

In response to South Africa's proceedings at the International Court of Justice regarding Israel's military operations in Gaza, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller stated earlier that the U.S. has not observed acts in Gaza that constitute genocide. Israel has also denied claims of genocide in Gaza.

Josh Paul, a former State Department official, resigned in October, criticizing the administration's "blind support" for Israel. In November, over 1,000 officials in the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) signed an open letter urging the Biden administration to call for an immediate ceasefire. Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged disagreements in a November letter, responding to at least three cables criticizing the administration's policy filed through the State Department's internal "dissent channel."

In December, some Biden administration staff held a vigil near the White House demanding a ceasefire in Gaza.

The conflict's toll includes a Palestinian Islamist group Hamas' October 7 attack on Israel, resulting in 1,200 deaths according to Israeli counts, with around 240 hostages taken back to Gaza. The recorded Palestinian death toll from Israel's retaliatory offensive reached 22,313 by Wednesday, almost 1% of Gaza's 2.3 million population, as reported by the Gaza health ministry.

Israeli bombardments have devastated much of the densely populated enclave, leaving a significant portion of Gazans homeless, while food shortages pose a threat of famine. The U.S. has publicly criticized the rhetoric of some Israeli ministers and urged Israel to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza. Critics argue that the U.S., as a major supplier of arms and aid to Israel, is not effectively leveraging its influence to shape Israeli policy.

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