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War on Gaza: State Department official resigns over US support for Israel

Annelle Sheline said US support for Israel's war on Gaza made it 'almost impossible' to advance human rights
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken talks to reporters in the press briefing room at the State Department's Harry S Truman building, on 17 July 2023 in Washington, DC (Chip Somodevilla/AFP)

A State Department official resigned on Wednesday in protest against the Biden administration’s support for Israel, saying it had made her job promoting human rights “almost impossible”.

Annelle Sheline, 38, resigned midway through her two-year contract with the US Department of State as a foreign affairs officer in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

Sheline said that given her position, she didn’t believe it mattered enough to announce her resignation publicly but was encouraged by other State Department staff opposed to US support for Israel’s war on Gaza.

“The response I heard repeatedly was, 'please speak for us'.”

“By resigning publicly, I am saddened by the knowledge that I likely foreclose a future at the State Department,” she wrote in an open letter on CNN.

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Sheline, whose job focused on human rights promotion in the Middle East and North Africa, said she had tried to raise her concerns about US support for Israel in State Department dissent cables and at staff meetings, but that it was pointless “as long as the US continues to send a steady stream of weapons to Israel”.

“My colleagues and I watched in horror as this administration delivered thousands of precision-guided munitions, bombs, small arms and other lethal aid to Israel….We are appalled by the administration’s flagrant disregard for American laws.”

Sheline’s resignation is the most high-profile departure from the State Department since Josh Paul, a former director overseeing US arms transfers, resigned from his post just days after Israel’s war on Gaza began.

"So proud of my former colleague Dr. Annelle Sheline for being the third US official to publicly resign over the absolute disaster that is the Biden Administration's continuing support for Israel's war crimes, bombings, and starvation of innocent civilians in Gaza,” Paul said in a post on LinkedIn in response to the news.

Separately, Tariq Habash, a Palestinian American, resigned from his political appointment in January at the US Department of Education.

State Department officials opposed to US support for Israel have penned dissent cables accusing Israel of committing "war crimes" and accusing Biden of "spreading misinformation" on the war.

MEE reported previously that Biden’s position on the war had also sparked a backlash among staffers to Democratic lawmakers in Congress.

In February,  Aaron Bushnell, a 25-year-old US Air Force serviceman, self-immolated outside Israel's embassy in Washington DC as he screamed "Free Palestine," in protest against the Biden administration's Gaza policy. He later died of his injuries. 

However, public criticism within the Biden administration has mainly been confined to young staff members and low-ranking officials. 

Sheline herself said that there are “plenty of people [at the State Department] who wouldn’t agree with my point of view.”

The bigger challenge to Biden’s support for Israel has emerged among key members of his electoral coalition in swing states, such as Arab Americans and progressives in Michigan and Pennsylvania, where Biden and former President Donald Trump are locked in tight races ahead of the November election.

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