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Jewish staffer resigns from Biden administration over US 'support for Israel's genocide'

Lily Greenberg Call, a staffer in the Department of Interior, said Biden 'has the blood of innocent people on his hands'
An image of President Joe Biden is projected on to a building during a Pro-Palestinian protest near the White House on 7 March 2024 in Washington DC.
An image of President Joe Biden is projected on to a building during a Pro-Palestinian protest near the White House on 7 March 2024 in Washington DC (Nathan Howard/AFP)
By Umar A Farooq in Washington

A Jewish-American political official resigned from her post at the Interior Department on Wednesday, saying she could no longer work for the Biden administration due to its continued support of Israel's war on Gaza.

In her letter, which was shared with Middle East Eye, Lily Greenberg Call, who was serving as special assistant to the chief of staff at the interior ministry, said: "I can no longer in good conscience continue to represent this administration amidst President Biden’s disastrous, continued support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza".

"What I have learned from my Jewish tradition is that every life is precious. That we are obligated to stand up for those facing violence and oppression, and to question authority in the face of injustice," she said.

Greenberg Call previously worked on the presidential campaign for Vice President Kamala Harris before moving on to work on the Joe Biden presidential campaign in 2020.

She then landed a position as a political appointee in the Department of Interior, a job she was excited to fill.

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"I was thrilled to join the Department of Interior because I was inspired by your principled track record of championing progressive causes, in addition to your role as an Indigenous woman leading a Department that historically harmed Indigenous communities, and the potential that it has for reparations, reconciliation, and healing," she detailed in her letter.

However, the Gaza war and Washington's support for it changed her career outlook.

On 7 October, Palestinian fighters led by Hamas broke out of Gaza and launched an attack on southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people and taking more than 200 people hostage.

'I can no longer in good conscience continue to represent this administration amidst President Biden’ for Israel’s genocide in Gaza'

- Lily Greenberg Call

Israel responded with a declaration of war on the besieged Palestinian enclave, launching first an indiscriminate aerial bombardment campaign followed by a ground invasion of Gaza.

Israeli forces have killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, the majority of whom are women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Israel's military has also devastated civilian infrastructure including hospitals, and targeted medical workers, journalists, and aid workers.

Greenberg Call said that people in her own community had lost loved ones in the 7 October attacks, but went further to say that "the answer to this is not to collectively punish millions of innocent Palestinians through displacement, famine, and ethnic cleansing".

"Any system that requires the subjugation of one group over another is not only unjust, but unsafe. Jewish safety cannot - and will not - come at the expense of Palestinian freedom."

Eight months into the war, with the Biden administration reportedly sending another billion dollars in arms to Israel, plus the current military offensive on Rafah in southern Gaza, Greenberg Call said the time was right to quit.

"This is a really challenging personal decision for me, but there's been many moments in the last eight months that I have thought about it, and I think everything that has happened in the last few weeks in particular, made me feel like the time is right," she said in a phone call with Middle East Eye.

'Nakba and Shoah'

Greenberg Call's resignation coincides with the 76th anniversary of the Nakba, or catastrophe, a day that commemorates the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians at the hands of Zionist paramilitaries in 1948, which ultimately paved the way for the creation of the modern state of Israel.

"Nakba and Shoah, the Hebrew word for Holocaust, mean the same thing: catastrophe. I reject the premise that one people’s salvation must come at another’s destruction," she stated in her letter.

"I am committed to creating a world where this does not happen - and this cannot be done from within the Biden Administration."

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The resignation on Wednesday is the culmination of a years-long journey for Greenberg Call, who from 2017 to 2019 served as the president of Bears for Israel, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s affiliate group at the University of California-Berkeley.

In an article published in Teen Vogue in 2022, she details how growing up she was taught "unconditional support for Israel was considered part and parcel of being Jewish".

She later cut ties with Aipac after learning about the conditions of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation - conditions leading Israeli and international rights groups have labelled as apartheid.

"I learned that there can’t be safety for some at the expense of another and that our Jewish community must reject the idea that our freedom is synonymous with retaining power over others," she wrote in 2022.

A string of resignations

Greenberg Call becomes the second person to resign from the US government just this past week, after Major Harrison Mann tendered his resignation from the Department of Defence Intelligence Agency on Monday, similarly citing Washington's support for the war on Gaza.

Mann also cited his European Jewish ancestry in his resignation, saying he was “haunted” by what he believed was his failure to live up to the“unforgiving moral environment when it came to the topic of bearing responsibility for ethnic cleansing”.

And in March, Annelle Sheline, a foreign affairs officer in the State Department, resigned from her position. Sheline said she tried raising concerns about US support for Israel through dissent cables and speaking up at staff meetings, but noted it was pointless “as long as the US continues to send a steady stream of weapons to Israel”.

Sheline's resignation was the most high-profile at the State Department since Josh Paul, a former director overseeing US arms transfers, quit in October during the early days of the Gaza war, saying that Washington was fast-tracking weapons to Israel without proper oversight and concerns about how those arms would be used.

'I do hope that this inspires other appointees to take a public stance, even if that means resigning'

- Lily Greenberg Call

Just one month later, on 26 April, State Department Arabic language spokesperson Hala Rharrit announced her resignation over Washington's Gaza war policy, ending her 18 years of service in the government.

Outside of the State Department and US military, another Biden political appointee resigned earlier this year. Tariq Habash, a senior political appointee at the Department of Education, resigned in January.

Habash, a Palestinian American, stated in his resignation letter, shared with MEE, that he lamented "the dehumanization and erasure of my identity by my peers, by the media, and by my own government".

All of the resignees have been dismayed at the fact that Washington has yet to use any real leverage to rein in Israel's conduct in the war. Legal experts have stated that Israel has committed numerous human rights violations in its war, which could trigger some US laws to halt arms sales to the country.

However, Washington fell short of making a declaration that Israel has violated international law throughout its war on Gaza, and has not made any major moves to halt the transfer of American weapons to the Israeli military.

"The United States has used nearly no leverage throughout the last eight months to hold Israel accountable; quite the opposite, we have enabled and legitimized Israel’s actions with vetoes of UN resolutions designed to hold Israel accountable," Greenberg Call wrote in her letter.

"President Biden has the blood of innocent people on his hands."

Greenberg Call said she hopes her resignation and the resignation of others like Habash will help motivate others within the administration to publicly leave their positions in protest againt the Biden administration's unwavering support for the war.

"There's a lot of people within the administration who don't agree with the president's choices and with the policies that the administration is perpetuating - a lot of the president's own staff. I do hope that this inspires other appointees to take a public stance, even if that means resigning," she told MEE.

"I also hope that this motivates people to defer to Palestinians for moral guidance here."

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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