US human rights official resigns and tears into Biden’s Gaza policy ‘betrayal’

A State Department official responsible for promoting human rights in the Middle East has resigned in protest at Joe Biden’s Gaza policy.

Annelle Sheline, 38, resigned on Wednesday, the latest example of dissent among officials over American support for Israel‘s war in Gaza.

Israel’s offensive has killed over 32,000 people according to local health officials, destroyed over 60 per cent of homes, and displaced around three quarters of the Strip’s population. It was launched after the 7 October Hamas attack on southern Israel that killed some 1,200 Israelis.

Ms Sheline said she had not planned to make her resignation public but that many of her colleagues shared her concerns and asked her to “speak” out on their behalf.

Ms Sheline worked as a foreign affairs officer in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour before she publicly launched an attack on president Biden’s administration, saying she and her colleagues felt “betrayed” by the White House.

Ms Sheline quit one year into a two-year contract with the bureau, with nearly half of that tenure dominated by the war in Gaza.

“For the past year, I worked for the office devoted to promoting human rights in the Middle East. I believe strongly in the mission and in the important work of that office,” she wrote in an opinion piece for CNN entitled “Why I’m resigning from the State Department”.

“As a representative of a government that is directly enabling what the International Court of Justice has said could plausibly be a genocide in Gaza, such work has become almost impossible,” she wrote.

“Unable to serve an administration that enables such atrocities, I have decided to resign from my position at the Department of State.”

Ms Sheline said she was disappointed that the US government did not do more to prevent the deaths of 32,000 people, including 90 Palestinian journalists.

She said she tried to raise concerns internally on dissent cables – a messaging framework open to foreign service officers – and staff forums but her concerns weren’t heard.

She also wrote that America’s credibility as an “advocate for human rights has almost entirely vanished since the war began” and her efforts to mobilise help from NGOs were being refused.

Her decision to make her resignation public stemmed from the encouragement of her colleagues who told her to “please speak for us”, she said.

“So many of my colleagues feel betrayed. I write for myself but speak for many others.

“Across the federal government, employees like me have tried for months to influence policy, both internally and, when that failed, publicly,” she wrote.

“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 and authorised thousands more, even bypassing Congress to do so.”

She said she was “appalled” by the Biden administration’s “flagrant disregard for American laws”.

Relations between Mr Biden and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu sank to a wartime low this week with the US allowing passage of a Gaza ceasefire resolution at the UN and drawing a sharp rebuke from the Israeli leader.

Mr Biden’s decision to abstain at the UN, coming after months of mostly adhering to a longtime US policy of shielding Israel at the world body, appeared to reflect growing US frustration with the Israeli leader.

The president, running for re-election in November, faces pressure not just from America’s allies but from a growing number of fellow Democrats to rein in the Israeli military response to Hamas’s deadly cross-border rampage.

Additional reporting by agencies