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Former US State Department officials say they are disappointed with the government

Two former U.S. State Department officials who resigned in protest against U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration’s policies toward Israel’s military operation in the Palestinian territory of Gaza recently spoke about their decisions in interviews with The Yomiuri Shimbun. They described their sense of powerlessness at their failure to stop the killing of civilians through their efforts within the US government, and their disappointment with the US government’s refusal to change its pro-Israel position.

The following material is taken from the interviews.

Hello Rharrit

Former Arabic-language spokesperson for the United States Department of State

The Yomiuri Shimbun: Can you explain why you resigned?

Rharrit: As an Arabic-speaking spokesperson, I monitored the pan-Arab media, and I could see the rise of anti-Americanism more than I have ever seen in my career…even the people who love and admire America…began to losing complete trust and respect in the United States.

After October 7, this became very precarious and unstable, because the situation became so emotional and all the images came from Gaza.

Our topics of conversation were, from my perspective, counterproductive because they focused so much on Israel’s right to defend itself.

My job was to go to the Arab media and bring up those talking points. And I didn’t do that. And I have told the State Department that I will not do that. Not because I personally disagree with the policy. It has nothing to do with my personal beliefs. That is what happens when these statements are read out on the Arab media and on the Arab social media.

It obviously put me in a very difficult situation professionally. It was honestly an intensely frustrating experience for me as a diplomat for 18 years. I have never in my entire career felt like I can’t have a conversation and try to improve the situation.

We’ve had so many difficult policies, especially in this part of the world, but as a State Department we’ve always been able to discuss what works and what doesn’t, how we can be more strategic… but the conversation about this particular policy has been so quiet and people were so afraid to talk that it became simply impossible to continue under those circumstances.

There are many people within the department who are very frustrated.

Many of them contacted me and said, “Oh my God, we feel exactly the same way. We are so frustrated. We wish we could resign, but we can’t.”

Yomiuri: How do you evaluate the Biden administration’s Gaza policy?

Rharrit: This policy that the president has implemented in Gaza has been militaristic. And it is strictly driven by the idea that you must defeat an enemy by strictly militaristic means, at any cost, at any cost.

Not only is it devastating Gaza’s civilian population, but it is also failing to help Israelis become safer.

If anything, I’m trying to help Washington understand how much this message and policy is being rejected, to the point that we are seeing massive anti-Americanism. And we also had data and polls, we had some internal data and some internal polls showing American preference before October 7, and then during the conflict, and as the days went on, it just plummeted.

I’ve documented this in the department in daily reports, where America was, you know, called a child murderer. We were called the devil; there were all these memes going around.

But nothing changed.

I felt like I could no longer be part of the system that refuses to change, even after all this destruction. That is why I have decided to hand in my resignation.

More bombings won’t get us there. Diplomacy will do that.

Jos Paulus

Former Director of the Political-Military Affairs Bureau of the United States Department of State

Yomiuri: Why did you resign from your previous position?

Paul: I was responsible for security systems and weapons transfers. It was part of my day job to be one of the people who approved major arms shipments to countries around the world, including Japan. But of course also Israel in this context. I resigned in mid-October because… I was asked to approve major arms transfers that I believed would cause immense human suffering and significant civilian casualties. By the time I resigned, more than 3,700 people had been killed in Gaza, mostly by American weapons. I felt like this wasn’t something I could be a part of.

We received multiple requests from the government of Israel to expedite arms transfers, and we received guidance from higher levels of the U.S. government, both the State Department and the White House, to move forward with these requests as quickly as possible.

The Biden administration issued something called the Conventional Arms Transfer Policy in February 2023… It says that the transfer of weapons will not be allowed if it is more likely than not that those weapons will be used to commit certain types of human rights abuses, including violations of international law and harm to children. But the State Department did not apply its own policy. It withheld none of these weapons.

Yomiuri: Have you tried to change that reaction within the government?

Paul: Shortly after October 7, I wrote an email to senior officials… to say that I think we need to pause and think about what we are doing because it clearly wasn’t working… I am aware of about twenty [people who resigned from government posts] in the past month.

What we have seen, I think, is a systematic series of violations of international law, a systematic disregard for the lives of civilians in Gaza… And so the time for change, I would say to President Biden, is now… I have President Biden voted. years ago. I think it’s up to him whether he wants my vote this time on what he’s going to do in the next six months.

— The interviews were conducted by Yomiuri Shimbun staff writers Keita Ikeda and Riley Martinez.

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