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Breaking Ranks with Biden, on Gaza

ColumnMay 23, 2024
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By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan

Israel’s assault on Gaza has provoked protests around the globe, including in the United States. While attention lately has focused on college campuses, another protest movement has emerged: dissenters within the U.S. government, who offer a behind-the-scenes critique of U.S. policies that are devastating Gaza. Despite this wave of informed dissent, President Joe Biden, while calling for a ceasefire, continues to provide arms and diplomatic cover to Israel.

“There’s widespread sentiment within all levels of the administration and all agencies that the president’s continued support for Israel’s assault on Gaza is disastrous,” Lily Greenberg Call said on the Democracy Now! news hour. She was a special assistant to the chief of staff at the Interior Department and a Biden political appointee, but resigned her position on May 15th, citing, in her four-page resignation letter, “President Biden’s disastrous, continued support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza.”

“It’s disastrous for American foreign policy, for sentiment towards Americans abroad. It’s disastrous here at home. And it’s very devastating that the leadership of the administration is not only not listening to their colleagues, but to the majority of the American people, who want a ceasefire, who are horrified by what’s happening in Gaza.”

Greenberg Call is the latest Biden administration official to resign over Gaza, and also the first Jewish appointee to do so. Her decision to leave was deeply influenced by her Judaism. She resigned on May 15th, the day Palestinians commemorate the Nakba, when, 76 years ago, close to one million Palestinians were driven from their homes, and tens of thousands were massacred, as Jewish militias engaged in ethnic cleansing during the creation of the state of Israel.

Greenberg Call wrote in her resignation letter: “Nakba and Shoah, the Hebrew word for Holocaust, mean the same thing: catastrophe. I reject the premise that one people’s salvation must come at another’s destruction. I am committed to creating a world where this does not happen — and this cannot be done from within the Biden administration.”

She continued on Democracy Now!: “I was raised with a fairy tale about the Nakba…with this idea that Israel was a land without a people for a people without a land. If there’s no Palestinian society, if there’s nothing to be destroyed, then there’s nothing to mourn. As a Jewish person, it was particularly important for me to acknowledge the significance of the Nakba, and the Nakba that has never really ended, that continues to this day.”

Lily Greenberg Call was not always critical of Israel. In 2019, as a college student at UC Berkeley, she was president of Bears for Israel, affiliated with AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

“There was no daylight between being Jewish and support for the state of Israel in the community I was raised in,” Lily Greenberg Call said. She continued, explaining her political transformation:

“As I got a little older, over the past eight years or so, two things started to happen. First, my world started to expand. I was able to get to know Palestinians, Palestinian Americans. I worked with some Syrian Palestinian refugees in Greece. I saw for myself some of the injustices that Palestinians face in Israel-Palestine — the checkpoints, the system of apartheid…At the same time, the coalition of people that I was advocating for Israel with through AIPAC started to move to the right, as Trump came to power, as the Israeli government shifted to the right. I started to see these people who I had spent years doing pro-Israel advocacy with, in particular, the evangelical Christians, support Trump and support right-wing fascists here in the United States and people who were aligning themselves with white supremacists and antisemites.”

“Pikuach nefesh in Judaism means ‘saving a life,’” she continued. “This idea of b’tselem elohim, that every person is made in the image of God…I feel that I am really living in my Jewishness, in the essence of what I was raised with, by standing up for Palestinians and by demanding their freedom.”

Lily Greenberg Call joins others who have resigned, like former State Department officials Josh Paul, who oversaw weapons transfers to other nations, including Israel; Hala Rharrit, the first diplomat to resign over Gaza, who served as the key Arabic language spokesperson for State; and Annelle Sheline, who worked on human rights issues in the Middle East, and who, after resigning, attended a federal worker “Feds United for Peace” rally in front of the White House. Sheline told Democracy Now!, “When I started to tell colleagues that I was planning to resign over Gaza, so many people’s response was, ‘Please speak out. Please speak for us.’”

President Biden and his inner circle are increasingly isolated in their unflinching support for Israel’s crimes in Gaza. Unlike Palestinians in Gaza, though, Biden has a way out: Permanent ceasefire, now.

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