Education Dept. Official Resigns Over Biden’s Policies on Israel and Gaza

A top adviser at the Education Department has resigned over President Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war, the second official to do so as the administration faces divisions over U.S. support for Israel’s bombardment in Gaza.

The adviser, Tariq Habash, who is the department’s only Palestinian American political appointee, announced on Wednesday that he could no longer serve an administration that had “put millions of innocent lives in danger.”

In an interview on Thursday, Mr. Habash said he had come to the decision after feeling “no empathy and no recognition of my own humanity by the president.”

“I care about helping people,” said Mr. Habash, who was born in the United States but is the descendant of Palestinian Christians who were expelled from Jaffa in 1948, when the Israeli state was established. “I thought the president did, too.”

In his Jan. 3 resignation letter, addressed to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Mr. Habash said he could no longer serve an administration that had “put millions of innocent lives in danger.”

“It should go without saying that all violence against innocent people is horrific. I mourn each and every loss, Israeli and Palestinian,” Mr. Habash wrote in the letter. “But I cannot represent an administration that does not value all human life equally.”

Mr. Habash had served as an adviser in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, where he worked on higher education policy issues such as student loans, college access and affordability.

He was the second official to publicly resign over the administration’s policies on the war, which started after Hamas led an incursion into Israel on Oct. 7 that killed more than 1,200 people.

In October, shortly after Israel began its bombardment, a top state department official resigned over the United States’ decision to send weapons and ammunition to Israel as it besieged the residents of Gaza, in what he called “blind support for one side.”

Other staff members have written anonymous, open letters calling on the administration to support a cease-fire. And in the weeks after the war started, top administration officials have spent weeks meeting with various groups inside and outside the White House as the administration navigates dissent over the war.

When asked about the resignation, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, told reporters that “people have the right to voice their opinion” and that the administration understood that it was an “emotional time.”

She referred further questions to the Education Department, which said, “We wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

The conflict has caused a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, with more than 20,000 Palestinians killed, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Half of the population of about 2.2 million is at risk of starvation, the United Nations said in a recent report.

Mr. Biden has repeatedly asserted Israel’s right to defend itself, and the United States has shown powerful support for Israel by fending off calls for a cease-fire at the United Nations and authorizing the sale of thousands of tank shells.

But in an unusually blunt assessment last month as the conditions in Gaza worsened, the president said Israel had support from Europe and much of the world as well as the United States, but “they’re starting to lose that support by the indiscriminate bombing that takes place.”

A New York Times/Siena College poll found last month that voters broadly disapproved of how Mr. Biden was handling the war, with younger Americans much more critical than older voters of both Israel’s conduct and the administration’s response to the conflict.

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