Human Rights Advocate Takes a Stand: Anelle Schelain's Decision to Resign

Anelle Schelain, a Middle East analyst who has promoted human rights on behalf of the US government, is the latest US State Department official to leave her post over President Joe Biden's pro-Israel policies

by Sededin Dedovic
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Human Rights Advocate Takes a Stand: Anelle Schelain's Decision to Resign
© Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images

Anelle Schelain, a Middle East analyst who promoted human rights on behalf of the US government, recently left her post at the US State Department because of President Joe Biden's policies in favor of Israel. Her resignation was announced in an interview with The Washington Post on Wednesday, as the official death toll in Gaza since October 7 reached 32,490 and the World Food Program warned that starvation in the enclave had become imminent.

Israel is convincingly accused of starving the remaining two million people, citing a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food; a group of humanitarian organization leaders warns that without adequate help, hundreds of thousands of people would soon join the dead.

Despite this, Israel is still planning an invasion of Rafah, where most of the population in Gaza has fled; The UN office described the expected massacre as "unbelievable." In the West Bank, according to Schelain in an article for CNN, settlers and Israeli soldiers are killing Palestinians, including US citizens.

These actions, which experts on genocide have labeled as responsible for the crime of genocide, are carried out with the diplomatic and military support of the United States of America. "For the past year, I have worked in an office dedicated to the promotion of human rights in the Middle East.

I strongly believe in the mission and important work of that office. However, as a representative of the government that directly enables what the International Court of Justice has called a possible genocide in Gaza, such work has become almost impossible.

Unable to serve in an administration that enables such crimes, I have decided to resign from my position at the State Department. Despite the credibility that the United States of America had as an advocate of human rights, that credibility has almost completely disappeared since the beginning of the war.

Citizens eat the food that is cooked in large pots and distributed for free during war-time on March 10, 2024 in Rafah, Gaza© Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images

Our office strives to support journalists in the Middle East; however, when NGOs asked me if the US could do more to protect Palestinian journalists who were detained or killed in Gaza, I was disappointed that my government did not do more to protect them.

Ninety Palestinian journalists in Gaza have been killed in the past five months, the Committee to Protect Journalists has announced. This is the highest number recorded in any single conflict since the Committee began collecting data in 1992.

In the beginning, I did not plan a public resignation. Because my time at the State Department was so short—I was hired on a two-year contract—I didn't think I was important enough to publicly announce my resignation.

However, when I started talking to colleagues about my decision to resign, the response I often heard was: 'Please speak for us.' Across the federal government, employees like me have spent months trying to influence policy, both internally and externally.

My colleagues and I have watched in horror as this administration has delivered thousands of precision-guided munitions, bombs, small arms, and other lethal aid to Israel, bypassing even Congress to do so. We are appalled by the flagrant violation of US laws that prohibit the US from providing aid to foreign militaries that violate human rights or restrict the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The Biden administration policy says: 'The legitimacy and public support of arms transfers between the United States and recipient states depend on protecting civilians from harm, and the United States distinguishes itself from other potential sources of arms transfers by elevating the importance of protecting civilians.'

However, the State Department has recently determined that Israel is acting in accordance with international law in waging war and providing humanitarian aid. Some argue that the US has no influence over Israel. However, retired Israeli Major General Yitzhak Brik noted in November that Israel's rockets, bombs, and planes come from the US.

"The moment they turn off the tap, you can't continue the fight," he said. "Everyone understands that we cannot fight this war without the United States of America. Period." I am haunted by the latest social media post by Aaron Bushnell, the 25-year-old US Air Force soldier who self-immolated outside the Israeli embassy in Washington on February 25: “Many of us like to ask ourselves: What would I have done if I had been alive during slavery? What would I do if my country committed genocide?' The answer is, you do.

Now." I hope that my resignation can contribute to the many efforts to force the administration to withdraw its support for the Israeli war, for the sake of the two million Palestinians whose lives are at risk, and for the sake of America's moral standing in the world.

Joe Biden
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