The US government staffers putting principle over paycheck amid Israel’s Gaza assault

Special The US government staffers putting principle over paycheck amid Israel’s Gaza assault
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Displaced Palestinian children scavenge for recyclables at a garbage dump in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas movement. (AFP)
Special The US government staffers putting principle over paycheck amid Israel’s Gaza assault
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Updated 29 May 2024
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The US government staffers putting principle over paycheck amid Israel’s Gaza assault

The US government staffers putting principle over paycheck amid Israel’s Gaza assault
  • Appalled by the death of Palestinians, former staffer says she “could not in good conscience remain in government”
  • Concerned about America’s standing in the Middle East, many want the US to suspend arms sales to Israel

LONDON: Lily Greenberg-Call recently became the latest Biden administration official to step down in protest over the White House’s handling of the war in Gaza, amid a string of resignations from the US Department of State.

Greenberg-Call, who left her position at the Department of the Interior in mid-May, slammed the Biden administration for having “enabled and legitimized” Israel’s onslaught on the Gaza Strip.

In her resignation letter, she said she “can no longer in good conscience continue to represent this administration amidst President Biden’s disastrous, continued support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza.”

 

 

Biden’s policy in the Middle East has repeatedly come under fire since the onset of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, particularly over the supply of weapons to the Israel Defense Forces, which rights groups say have been used to harm civilians.

The Israeli military’s bombing campaign in Gaza in retaliation for the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel has killed at least 35,000 Palestinians, razed entire neighborhoods, destroyed the enclave’s infrastructure, and displaced 90 percent of the population.

Israel and senior figures in the Biden administration have said Hamas shares in the blame for the high civilian death toll in Gaza.

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Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, has previously said that Hamas’ tactics have placed “an incredible burden on the IDF, a burden that is unusual for a military in today’s day and age,” by hiding behind civilians as it conducts its war with Israeli forces.  

The day Greenberg-Call resigned, the Biden administration told Congress it planned to send $1 billion in new military aid to Israel, despite the president’s opposition to a full-scale invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza, the Associated Press reported. It will be the US’ first arms shipment to Israel since Biden paused the transfer of 3,500 bombs earlier in the month.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in April that Israeli troops would expand operations into Rafah — Gaza’s southernmost city. On May 6, Israel mounted a limited operation in Rafah, seizing control of its border crossing with Egypt.




Israeli military vehicles operate in the Gazan side of the Rafah Crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, in this handout image released on May 7, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces/Handout via REUTERS)

The US government said it had halted the bomb shipment to prevent Israel from using the munitions in its attack on Rafah, an area densely populated with civilians, most of whom have been displaced multiple times.

However, a lower chamber bill on May 16 condemned Biden for the suspension and voted to override it, with Republicans saying the president should not dictate how Israel uses American weapons in its war against Hamas.

But the US Arms Export Control Act of 1961 gives the President the authority to halt — or even terminate — American arms transfers if he finds that the recipient country “has used such articles for unauthorized purposes,” according to a 2020 report by the Congressional Research Service.

The vote prompted some 30 Congressional staffers to march to the base of the steps of the House of Representatives at the US Capitol, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and protesting the vote.




Thirty congressional staffers marched on the House of Representatives in Washington D.C. on May 16, 2024, to demand a ceasefire in Gaza. (AFP)

After announcing the halt on the bomb shipment, Biden told CNN that US-manufactured weapons had been used to kill civilians in Gaza.

“Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs and other ways in which they go after population centers,” he said on May 8.

“I made it clear that if they go into Rafah — they haven’t gone in Rafah yet — if they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities — that deal with that problem.”

According to the Washington Post, the US has made more than 100 weapons sales to Israel since the start of the war in Gaza. The sales reportedly included precision-guided munitions, small-diameter bombs, bunker busters, small arms, and more.

In late April, human-rights monitor Amnesty International submitted a 19-page report to US authorities claiming that US weapons provided to Israel had been “used in serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, and in a manner that is inconsistent with US law and policy.”

 

 

The newly revised US Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, released in February last year, stipulates “preventing arms transfers that risk facilitating or otherwise contributing to violations of human rights or international humanitarian law.”

Hala Rharrit, who stepped down as the Arabic-language spokesperson of the US Department of State in April after 18 years of service over the Biden administration’s policy on Gaza, stressed that the government should “abide by our own laws.”

She told Arab News: “We have systems in place within the State Department to ensure that our weaponry is not used to kill civilians, with requirements put in place requiring recipient countries to limit harm to civilians — to include both civilian populations and civilian infrastructure.

“There are multiple laws on the books that we are ignoring as a State Department — willfully ignoring,” she continued. “There’s the Arms Export Control Act, there’s the Foreign Assistance Act, the Leahy Law — there are multiple regulations that would ensure what’s happening now would never happen.”




Hala Rharrit, former Arabic-language spokesperson of the US Department of State. (Supplied)

Urging the government to follow those laws, Rharrit said: “We would automatically have to condition our aid and, most specifically, cut our offensive military assistance to Israel.”

By pausing military assistance to Israel, not only “would we ensure, hopefully, that the IDF does not go into Rafah,” but also “regain credibility amongst Arab states as well — that we’re actually conditioning our aid, we’re standing by our laws, we’re standing by international law.

“And that could provide leverage as well, both on the Israeli side and with Arab states to put pressure on Hamas to reach a ceasefire. We have the ability to use our leverage as the US, but we’re not using it at the moment.”

Asked about her resignation, Rharrit said: “I never anticipated resigning, and I certainly never anticipated resigning in protest of any policy.”

But the human tragedy in Gaza “completely changed that,” she told Arab News. “I could not in good conscience remain in government. After 18 years with the State Department, I decided to finally submit my resignation.”

She added: “I spoke up internally. I made my voice and my concerns heard, not based on my personal opinions, but based on what I was monitoring — and I was monitoring pan-Arab traditional and social media.

“And I was seeing and documenting, and reporting back to Washington, all of the growing anti-Americanism… Nothing was convincing anyone, and we had lost credibility.”




Palestinian children seek refuge at a damaged building in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 16, 2024, after fleeing their homes amid relentless Israeli bombardment. (AFP)

Rharrit, who previously served as a human-rights officer, continued: “It’s one of the things that we (the US) are known for and that we stand for, but every day I would see human-rights violation after human-rights violation. And it was clear that we had a double standard, and I could no longer support the policy or the administration.”

Despite their expertise, Rharrit said she and her colleagues were not being heard. “Our concerns, our feedback, our documentation of everything that was happening in the region was being ignored — and that was intensely frustrating.”

She said that US policy in Gaza “is a failed militaristic policy that has achieved nothing — over 35,000 Palestinians killed, over 15,000 of whom are children, the hostages remain in Gaza with their families in Israel protesting against Netanyahu and demanding a ceasefire.”

She added: “Despite all this unimaginable suffering and countless attempts by many on the inside to shift policy, it became clear to me that the status quo was resolute.

“Knowing that this policy continued to dehumanize and devastate the Palestinians, generating a vicious cycle of violence, hurting all sides involved, while undermining the US for generations left me no choice but to speak out against the policy from outside government.”

Preceding Rharrit in late March was Annelle Sheline, a foreign affairs officer in the department’s human rights bureau, who left after trying to “raise opposition on the inside,” she told ABC News on April 11.

 

 

“Many of my colleagues, people inside the State Department, are devastated by what US policy is enabling Israel to do to Palestinians inside Gaza,” she said. 

“They (the Biden administration) continue to send weapons. We’ve seen announcements of new weapons. It’s really shocking that this has been allowed to go on.”

In January, former Biden appointee Tariq Habash, a Palestinian-American, resigned from the Department of Education, saying the US administration “turns a blind eye to the atrocities committed against innocent Palestinian lives.”

In his resignation letter, which he shared on the social media platform X, Habash said his government “has aided the indiscriminate violence against Palestinians in Gaza.”

 

 

He added: “Despite claims that Israel’s focus is on Hamas, its military actions simultaneously persist across the West Bank, where there is no Hamas governing presence.”

Since Oct. 7, Israeli troops and Jewish settlers have killed at least 502 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Israeli authorities have also arrested more than 7,000 people in the territory, according to prisoners’ affairs groups.

Ten days after Israel began its Gaza offensive, Josh Paul, a former director overseeing US arms transfers, quit the Department of State, citing “a policy disagreement concerning our continued lethal assistance to Israel.”




Josh Paul, a former director overseeing US arms transfers, quit the Department of State, citing “a policy disagreement concerning our continued lethal assistance to Israel.” (Supplied)
 

In a letter he posted on LinkedIn, Paul said his government’s “rushing” to provide arms to Israel was “shortsighted, destructive, unjust, and contradictory to the very values that we publicly espouse.”

He described the Hamas attack on southern Israel as “a monstrosity of monstrosities,” but said he also believed “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.”

Protests by US administration staffers against its policy in the Middle East have taken various forms besides public resignations. In November, more than 400 of Biden’s employees signed an open letter calling on him to urgently pursue a ceasefire in Gaza.

With the approaching US presidential election complicating Biden’s room for maneuver, the Israeli government committed to continuing its offensive, and with negotiations brokered by Qatar and Egypt making scant headway, such a ceasefire seems unlikely anytime soon.


 


Palestinian Authority at risk of collapse, Norway says

Palestinian Authority at risk of collapse, Norway says
Updated 54 min 39 sec ago
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Palestinian Authority at risk of collapse, Norway says

Palestinian Authority at risk of collapse, Norway says
  • Norway chairs the international donor group to the Palestinians and is a backer of the Palestinian Authority

OSLO: The Palestinian Authority could collapse in the coming months, Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said on Monday, citing a lack of funding, continuing violence and the fact that half a million Palestinians are not allowed to work in Israel.
“The Palestinian Authority, with whom we work closely, are warning us that they might be collapsing this summer,” Barth Eide said.
Norway chairs the international donor group to the Palestinians and is a backer of the PA.


Jordan braces for scorching heatwave as temperatures soar

Jordan braces for scorching heatwave as temperatures soar
Updated 17 June 2024
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Jordan braces for scorching heatwave as temperatures soar

Jordan braces for scorching heatwave as temperatures soar
  • The Gulf of Aqaba reached highs of 45 celsius
  • Temperatures in Jordan are set to rise slightly, with the heatwave persisting

AMMAN: The Jordan Meteorological Department forecast extreme heat for Monday, with most regions of the country — particularly the desert areas, Jordan Valley, Dead Sea and Aqaba — experiencing intense temperatures.

The Gulf of Aqaba reached highs of 45 celsius, the Southern Jordan Valley 44 celsius, Dead Sea 43 celsius, while the Desert Regions and the Northern Jordan Valley reached highs of 41 celsius. 

Cloud cover at medium and high altitudes is expected in the south and east of the Kingdom, state news agency Petra reported, with moderate northwesterly winds occasionally becoming brisk.

The JMD cautioned people against prolonged sun exposure, which could lead to dehydration, especially for vulnerable groups such as the elderly and those with health conditions. It also highlighted the risk of forest fires and the dangers of leaving children or flammable items, like perfumes and sanitizers, inside vehicles.

Looking ahead to Tuesday, temperatures in Jordan are set to rise slightly, with the heatwave persisting. Most areas will remain hot, the JMD said, and desert regions will face sweltering conditions. Northeasterly winds will prevail, shifting to moderate northwesterly by evening.

The heatwave will continue into Wednesday, with another slight increase in temperatures. Conditions will be blistering and dry across the highlands, the JMD warned, with extreme heat persisting elsewhere. Northeasterly winds will turn to moderate northwesterly later in the day.

Thursday will bring a modest reprieve as temperatures dip slightly. However, the weather will remain hot across most areas, with the desert, Jordan Valley, Dead Sea, and Aqaba continuing to sizzle. Moderate northwesterly winds will occasionally become brisk.


Iran calls for joint action by Islamic nations to stop Gaza war

Iran calls for joint action by Islamic nations to stop Gaza war
Updated 17 June 2024
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Iran calls for joint action by Islamic nations to stop Gaza war

Iran calls for joint action by Islamic nations to stop Gaza war
  • Israel’s military offensive on Gaza has killed at least 37,337 people so far

TEHRAN: Iran’s Acting Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani has called for joint action on the part of Islamic countries to pressure Israel into ending its brutal military activities in Gaza, which have devastated most of the enclave and killed thousands of Palestinians there.

Israel’s military offensive on Gaza has killed at least 37,337 people, mostly civilian women and children, since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza.

Humanitarian supplies for millions of Palestinians displaced by the conflict have been squeezed despite the Israeli military declaring it would “pause” fighting daily around a southern route to facilitate aid flows.

The Iranian official also spoke with his Afghan counterpart Amir Khan Muttaqi via telephone on Sunday, with the two discussing bilateral relations as well as the situation in war-ravaged Gaza.

Kani reiterated Iran’s readiness to help Kabul resolve its challenges and achieve growth, Iran’s news agency IRNA reported.


Kuwaiti citizen detained for alleged involvement in extremist group

Kuwaiti citizen detained for alleged involvement in extremist group
Updated 17 June 2024
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Kuwaiti citizen detained for alleged involvement in extremist group

Kuwaiti citizen detained for alleged involvement in extremist group

KUWAIT CITY: The Public Prosecution in Kuwait has ordered the detention of a citizen on charges of joining a group aimed at illegally undermining the country’s basic systems, state news agency KUNA reported on Sunday.

The individual is also accused of receiving training in making explosives and preparing poisons for illicit purposes, as well as planning to leave the country to fight with the group, though he was unable to do so.

The Public Prosecution interrogated the accused and presented him with the charges, according to a statement released on its official account on X. Investigation procedures are ongoing.


Yemen’s Houthis announce new maritime operations in support of Gaza

Yemen’s Houthis announce new maritime operations in support of Gaza
Updated 17 June 2024
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Yemen’s Houthis announce new maritime operations in support of Gaza

Yemen’s Houthis announce new maritime operations in support of Gaza
  • The Houthis declared that attacks on Israel-linked shipping will persist until Israel ends its war on Gaza and lifts the siege on Palestinian territories

SANAA: The Houthi militia’s army spokesman, Yahya Saree, announced on Sunday that an American destroyer and two Israel-linked ships were targeted in recent operations in the Red and Arabian seas.

Saree said that the US destroyer was hit by ballistic missiles in the Red Sea, while the two ships — Captain Paris and Happy Condor — were targeted in the Arabian Sea using naval missiles and drones, respectively.

He stated that these ships were targeted because they were en route to ports in Israeli-occupied territories.

Saree reaffirmed Yemen’s stance, declaring that attacks on Israel-linked shipping will persist until Israel ends its war on Gaza and lifts the siege on Palestinian territories.

He also emphasized that the Yemeni army would continue to defend its territory against US-UK “aggression,” referring to joint airstrikes by the two Western nations, which the latter claim were launched to protect international shipping.

The Houthis have rejected these claims, asserting that their military operations in international waters, ongoing since mid-November, only target Israeli ships or vessels heading to Israeli-occupied ports.