By Cindy Saine
Dissent over the U.S. policy of supporting Israel in its war against Hamas militants went public at the State Department this week when a senior official resigned his position in protest.
Josh Paul worked on global arms transfers and was director of the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at the department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. He announced his resignation Wednesday on LinkedIn, citing his objection to continued U.S. military assistance to Israel during its bombardment and blockade of Gaza.
Paul said Israel’s response to the brutal Hamas attacks against Israeli civilians on October 7 was exacerbating the humanitarian crisis for 2.2 million Palestinians. He told the PBS “NewsHour” program that “the system is broken” regarding U.S. weapons transfers to Israel.
“I wrote to a number of leaders within the department … ‘Can we for once stop and think about if this is actually getting us to where we need to be before we move forward?’ … No response,” he said.
Paul had worked for the State Department for 11 years. In his resignation letter, he condemned the attack by Hamas militants on Israeli civilians.
“Let me be clear, Hamas’ attack on Israel was not just a monstrosity, it was a monstrosity of monstrosities,” he said.
“But I believe to the core of my soul that 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 — and is not in the long-term American interest,” Paul said.
The State Department did not directly comment on Paul’s resignation, saying it was a personnel matter. But in a letter, obtained by VOA, to all State Department staff members, Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed his gratitude for their efforts as he returned from visits to seven countries in the Middle East. Blinken said he knew the conflict was having a personal impact on some diplomats and other staff members.
“Some of our colleagues in the region, especially among our locally employed staff, have been directly affected by the violence, including by losing loved ones and friends,” he wrote.
And Blinken acknowledged some State Department staff members were feeling the effects here in the United States.
“Others have felt the ripples of fear and bigotry fueled by the conflict — including in the United States, where mounting acts of hatred against Arab Americans, Muslims and Jews are making people feel vulnerable in their own communities, simply because of who they are or what they believe,” he wrote.
Blinken stressed that President Joe Biden had made clear from the beginning of the crisis that while the U.S. fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself, how it does so matters.
“That means,” Blinken wrote, “acting in a way that respects the rule of law and international humanitarian standards and taking every possible precaution to protect civilian life.”
Blinken’s letter came after media reports of angry and tearful reactions among State Department staff members to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza over the past week.
Paul’s act of public dissent came just before Biden’s appeal to the American people in a prime-time speech Thursday night, in which he urged Congress to pass more than $100 billion in aid for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan.
Biden said it was a matter of national security for the U.S. to stand up to Hamas terrorists and Russian President Vladimir Putin, each of whom is trying to “annihilate a neighboring democracy.”