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State Department official resigns after Biden administration says Israel not blocking Gaza aid

Stacy Gilbert resigned in protest against State Department report that says Israel isn't blocking aid to Gaza
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken talks to reporters in press briefing room at State Department's Harry S Truman building in Washington, DC, on 17 July 2023 (Chip Somodevilla/AFP)

A career State Department official resigned from her post on Tuesday, saying she could no longer work for the Biden administration after it released a report concluding that Israel was not preventing the flow of aid to Gaza.

Stacy Gilbert, who served as a senior civilian-military advisor to the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), sent an email to staff saying she was resigning because she felt the State Department had made the wrong assessment, The Washington Post reported, citing officials who read the note.

The report was filed in response to President Joe Biden issuing a national security memorandum (NSM-20) in early February on whether the administration finds credible Israel's assurances that its use of US weapons do not violate either American or international law.

The report said there were reasonable grounds to believe Israel on several occasions had used American-supplied weapons "inconsistent" with international humanitarian law, but said it could not make a definitive assessment - enough to prevent the suspension of arms transfers.

Another element of the report was an assessment of whether Israel was impeding the access of aid into Gaza.

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Aid agencies, charities and rights groups have all accused Israel of restricting the amount of aid that is allowed to enter Gaza. Israel denies it is blocking aid to the besieged Palestinian enclave.

While the US said in its report that the amount of aid entering Gaza is not sufficient, it did not conclude that Israel is restricting Washington's efforts to deliver aid.

After the report was issued, the International Court of Justice called on Israel to halt its offensive on Rafah and allow more humanitarian aid to flow into the besieged enclave, which aid workers and the UN says is on the brink of famine.

Gilbert’s move was met with praise by rights groups.

'Absolute failure'

“Kudos to Stacy Gilbert from @StateDept for her courage and principle. @secblinken has been a huge disappointment; none of his staff expected he’d go THIS far to ensure more weapons to Israel,” Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director for Democracy for the Arab World Now (Dawn), wrote on X.

Josh Paul, an official overseeing US arms transfers who was the first State Department official to quit in protest against US support for Israel, welcomed Gilbert’s departure in a LinkedIn post, saying it marked the “absolute failure of the Biden Administration and the Blinken State Department” to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

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“Stacy's resignation is a bold recognition of the harm some parts of the State Department ….are conducting, and the failure of other parts of the State Department, such as PRM, or the Human Rights Bureau…to do anything effective to prevent or mitigate” Israel’s restriction of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

He also said the US government was filled with officials “who could be speaking up, people who have an immense responsibility to do good, and a lifelong commitment to human rights - whose choice is to let the bureaucracy function as though it were business as usual”.

Gilbert’s resignation adds to a small but growing list of US officials who have resigned in protest against the Biden administration’s support for Israel’s war on Gaza.

Earlier this month, Lilly Greenberg Call became the first Jewish-American political official to resign. Call worked in the Department of Interior, but there have been a number of high-profile resignations from officials working on the Middle East and defence.

Major Harrison Mann tendered his resignation from the Department of Defence Intelligence Agency in May, citing Washington's support for the war on Gaza.

Just one month earlier, 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.

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 in the State Department since Josh Paul.

Outside 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.

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