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Senior Education official cites Biden handling of Gaza conflict in resignation

A senior official at the U.S. Department of Education stepped down Wednesday, citing President Biden’s handling of the conflict in Gaza.

Tariq Habash was a special assistant that focused on student loan issues and volunteered on Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign. His resignation letter, addressed to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and obtained by The Washington Post, said he “cannot represent an administration that does not value all human life equally.”

Habash, who wrote that he was the only Palestinian-American political appointee in the department, said the actions of the Biden administration have put millions of lives in danger.

“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,” he continued. “I cannot be quietly complicit as this administration fails to leverage its influence as Israel’s strongest ally to halt the abusive and ongoing collective punishment tactics that have cut off Palestinians in Gaza from food, water, electricity, fuel, and medical supplies, leading to widespread disease and starvation.”

Habash noted that as an expert in higher education, “it is also impossible to ignore” that the conflict affects students at American colleges and universities. He called on the Education Department to play an active role in supporting schools as they support students, faculty and staff, including “protecting all students who choose to exercise their first amendment right.”

The former official also said antisemitism, anti-Palestinian sentiment and Islamophobia “are all abhorrent.”

The Biden administration has defended Israel in its right to defend itself since a Hamas attack Oct. 7 killed 1,200 Israelis.

Israel’s air and ground campaign in Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, has left more than 22,000 Palestinians dead, and the administration has urged Israel to change how it is fighting the war to lessen civilian casualties

Habash is the second known official to step down due to the Biden administration’s handling of the war. Josh Paul, an official for the State Department who oversaw arms transfers to foreign powers, resigned in October after the U.S. provided Israel with “lethal arms.”

A group of Biden administration staffers called for a cease-fire and held a vigil outside the White House last month.

According to The Associated Press, a spokesperson for the department said “we wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, when asked about the resignation, said “people have the right to voice their opinion.”

“This is something that we get, people have opinions, they have thoughts,” she said. “These are incredibly personal times for people.”

Alex Gangitano contributed reporting.

Source: The Hill

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