Annelle Sheline
Annelle Sheline

WASHINGTON: Annelle Sheline, the second US State Department official to resign over the Gaza conflict, cited her unwillingness to be associated with a government “enabling… genocide” in the Palestinian enclave.

Her departure underscores mounting disillusionment with the Biden administration’s Middle East policy, particularly as recent Gallup polls indicate a significant majority of Americans now oppose the conflict, with 55 per cent against and 36 per cent in favour.

Sheline, a State Depar­tment official focusing on human rights in the Middle East, resigned on Wednesday in protest over US policy toward Israel, as she stated in interviews with CNN, NBC News, and other media outlets.

Expressing her concerns, she cited the escalating death toll in Gaza, which had surpassed 32,000, and the looming threat of famine, saying she no longer wanted to be affiliated with a government that was “enabling what has credibly been described as genocide” in the Palestinian territories.

She was referring to a recent report by Francesca P. Albanese, the UN Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, which stated there were “reasonable grounds to believe Israel has committed genocide in its war on Gaza.”

On Sunday, a Democratic lawmaker from New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also defended her earlier remarks accusing Israel of genocide against the Palestinian people and advocating for cuts to US military aid until humanitarian relief flows freely in Gaza.

Her decision to use the term genocide, as she did during a floor speech on Friday in the House chamber, was “taken with extraordinary gravity”, she said. “If you want to know what an unfolding genocide looks like,” the New York Demo­crat added, “open your eyes”.

Sheline said she was not planning on publicly resigning, but her colleagues asked her to “please speak out” against the Biden administration’s unconditional support for Israel.

“At the end of the day, many people inside [the State Department] know that this is a horrific policy and can’t believe that the United States government is engaged in such actions that contravene American values so directly, but the leadership is not listening,” she said. “I’m trying to speak on behalf of those many, many people who feel so betrayed by our government’s stance.”

She highlighted her motivation, stating, “I have a young daughter. Someday reading about this in school, she might ask, what did I do? I want to be able to tell her that I tried to do as much as I could.”

She expressed dismay over the prioritisation of support for Israel over pressing global issues, remarking, “I continue to be horrified at the largely unconditional support and providing a steady stream of weapons to Israel is considered more important than all of these other extremely significant issues.”

Sheline is the second State Department official to publicly resign citing US policy towards Israel since the conflict began nearly six months ago. In October, veteran State Department official Josh Paul departed from his position in the agency’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs after more than a decade, citing the US “blind support” for Israel.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2024

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