Updated Jan 4, 2024 - Politics & Policy

2nd Biden admin official resigns over president's response to Gaza war

President Biden and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during an October meeting in Tel Aviv. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

A senior Education Department official resigned Wednesday, citing President Biden's response to the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

Why it matters: Biden administration appointee Tariq Habash is at least the second official, and the first who's known to be of Palestinian origin, to resign in protest over the U.S. response to the war.

Driving the news: "As a Palestinian-American — in fact, the only Palestinian-American political appointee at the Department of Education — I bring a critical and underrepresented perspective to the ongoing work on equity and justice," said Habash, who worked as a volunteer on Biden's 2020 presidential campaign, in his resignation letter that he shared with media outlets.

  • "But now, the actions of the Biden-Harris Administration have put millions of innocent lives in danger, most immediately for the 2.3 million Palestinian civilians living in Gaza who remain under continuous assault and ethnic cleansing by the Israeli government," added Habash, whose work focused on student loan issues.
  • "I cannot stay silent as this administration turns a blind eye to the atrocities committed against innocent Palestinian lives, in what leading human rights experts have called a genocidal campaign by the Israeli government."

The big picture: Many Arab American voters feel betrayed by Biden's unequivocal support for the Israeli government since the war began in October following Hamas' attack on Israel that left some 1,200 people dead, Axios' Samuel Robinson notes.

  • More than 22,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli military's subsequent aerial bombardment and ground offensive, according to the Ministry of Health in the Hamas-run Gaza.
  • In a rare moment of public criticism, Biden said last month that he had warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government that it needed to change its policy as it was losing international support over the war in Gaza.

Of note: Habash during an interview on MSNBC Wednesday evening addressed Biden's October comments in which the president said he had "no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using" for the death toll in Gaza.

  • "It is a dehumanizing thing to hear from the President of the United States," Habash told MSNBC's "The ReidOut."

What they're saying: When asked for comment on Habash's resignation, a Department of Education spokesperson said they wished him the best in his future endeavors.

  • A State Department spokesperson declined to comment and referred Axios to the Department of Education and representatives for the White House did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Read Tariq Habash's resignation letter, obtained by the Washington Post, in full via DocumentCloud:

Flashback: U.S. State Department official resigns over military aid to Israel

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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