Officials accuse the Biden administration of not telling the truth about Israel’s obstruction of aid to Palestinians in Gaza.

Two more US officials have resigned over the war in Gaza, saying the Biden administration is not telling the truth about Israeli obstruction of humanitarian assistance to more than two million Palestinians trapped and starving on the small coastal strip.

Alexander Smith, a contractor for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), said he was given the choice between resignation and dismissal after preparing a presentation on maternal and infant mortality among Palestinians, which was canceled at the last minute by USAID leadership in last week.

Smith, a senior adviser on gender, maternal health, child health and nutrition, chose to resign on Monday after four years at USAID. In his resignation letter to the agency’s head, Samantha Power, he complained about inconsistencies in USAID’s approach to different countries and humanitarian crises, and the general treatment of Palestinians.

“I cannot do my work in an environment where specific people cannot be recognized as fully human, or where principles of gender and human rights apply to some but not others depending on their race,” he wrote.

In another resignation on Tuesday, a State Department official in the bureau of population, refugees and migration, Stacy Gilbert, sent an email to colleagues explaining that she was leaving due to an official department finding that Israel was not deliberately obstructing the flow of food or other aid to Gaza.

According to the Washington Post, Gilbert privately disagreed with a formal State Department report to Congress on May 10, which stated that Israel “did not fully cooperate” in the early months of the war in Gaza but that it “significantly increased humanitarian access.” more recently. In fact, after a surge in humanitarian deliveries in late April and early May, they dropped to almost zero in the following weeks.

Asked about Gilbert’s resignation, a State Department spokesman said “we have made clear that we welcome diverse viewpoints and believe this makes us stronger.”

Smith and Gilbert bring the total number of Biden administration officials who have publicly resigned over US policy toward Gaza to nine, although Josh Paul, the first official to resign, said at least two dozen more had left quietly without a public statement.

“I am aware that there are other resignations pending in the near future from employees with similar concerns in their own areas of work,” said Paul, now a senior adviser at Dawn, a group that advocates for democracy and human rights in the Middle East and North Africa.

US troops set up a floating dock to help deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. Photograph: US Army Central/Reuters

The resignations come as famine spreads in Gaza, with only a small amount of humanitarian assistance arriving through Israeli-controlled land crossings, and the collapse of a US-made pier intended for food deliveries was badly damaged by a Mediterranean storm. earlier this week.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet defied Biden by pursuing an offensive on Gaza’s southernmost city, Rafah, where more than a million Gazans have sought refuge from the Israeli onslaught. More than 900,000 of them have been forced to flee bombings once again in recent weeks.

The US president threatened to cut off the supply of weapons for use in any offensive on Rafah, but his administration did not follow through on this threat, arguing that the attack on the city did not constitute a major operation as it did not involve large numbers of troops. Yet the human impact, as USAID administrator Power pointed out, has been as catastrophic as if it were a major offensive.

“Despite currently more limited military operations around Rafah and the Egypt/Gaza border, the catastrophic consequences we have long warned about are becoming reality,” Power told a meeting of donor governments on Wednesday. She added that USAID partners in the region have said that “conditions are worse now than at any time in the past.”

“Hundreds of employees across the agency are working tirelessly to accelerate aid, advocate for greater protections for civilians and improve de-escalation, and advance diplomatic efforts,” said a USAID spokesperson. “Additionally, agency leadership continues to engage candidly with staff about USAID’s work and perspectives on the conflict through a series of meetings, town halls, and other forums.”

Since the start of the war in Gaza, the US has announced about $180 million in aid to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, while annual US military aid to Israel exceeds $3.3 billion.

Power has been more critical of Israel than other members of the administration, but Smith argued that she should go much further and denounce war crimes.

“Even if you are responding to an attack, or under any circumstances, it is never legal to starve the civilian population,” he said. “Everyone at the State Department knows this, and Samantha Power knows it. She has written three books on genocide and other development issues. I read all of her books.”

Alexander Smith (right), USAID employee who resigned over the Israel-Gaza war. Photography: Alexander Smith

Smith said the breaking point for his career as a State Department contractor came last week, when he was scheduled to present a paper at an internal USAID conference on maternal and infant mortality in Gaza and the West Bank.

The paper had been approved for publication by conference organizers, but when it came to the attention of USAID’s Middle East section on May 20, Smith was asked to make edits. He said these edits included the removal of a slide outlining applicable international humanitarian law and any language that implied recognition of a Palestinian state, including references to agencies that have Palestine in the title, such as the UN Family Planning Association (UNFPA). Palestine.

After 24 hours of wrangling over the edits, USAID leadership changed its mind and ordered Smith’s talk to be canceled entirely, deleting mention of her from the conference website.

A USAID official said Smith’s talk was canceled because it was outside his area of ​​expertise.

“This individual’s job responsibilities did not include supporting USAID’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza or the devastating impacts of the conflict on women and children,” the official said. “The proposed presentation did not go through the agency’s standard review and approval process with its supervisors and subject matter experts working on this topic. These procedures are in place to ensure the accuracy of public information.”

Smith argued that her expertise in maternal and child health and nutrition was relevant in all areas of humanitarian crisis.

As for the reasons for his dismissal, the USAID official said he could not discuss “specific personnel issues and why this individual is no longer employed by his USAID contractor.”

On May 23, two days after his talk was canceled, Smith was called by Highbury, the contractor who was his direct employer, and was told that his contract would be terminated early, citing “personality differences.” He was also told that the “client,” the infectious disease section of USAID, was not satisfied with him “regardless of [seu] performance”. Smith showed the Guardian evidence that his job reviews had been very positive in the years before the Gaza war, and he had received corresponding pay rises.

Highbury gave Smith the option to resign if he chose, and he chose to take the opportunity to speak out.

“USAID has always been proud of our programs that support democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” Smith wrote in his resignation letter. “In Ukraine, we call for legal redress when people are victimized and name the perpetrators of violence… We boldly declare ‘Slava Ukraini’ in animated promotional videos.”

“When it comes to the Palestinians, however, we avoid saying anything about their right to sovereignty, the abuses they are currently suffering or which powers have violated their basic rights to freedom, self-determination, livelihood and clean water,” he said .

Via The Guardian


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