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Another State Department official resigns over US Gaza policy

Hala Rharrit, the former spokesperson for the Middle East and North Africa at the United States State Department, tendered her resignation in protest of America’s policy regarding Gaza. This marks the third notable departure from the department amidst escalating pro-Palestinian demonstrations at university campuses nationwide.

Rharrit, who also served as the deputy director of the Dubai Regional Media Hub, had a tenure of nearly two decades at the State Department, initially joining as a political and human rights officer, as indicated on the department’s website. According to Al Arabiya, she shared her decision via a LinkedIn post, stating, “I resigned April 2024 after 18 years of distinguished service in opposition to the United States’ Gaza policy. Diplomacy, not arms. Be a force for peace and unity.”

Her resignation follows those of Annelle Sheline from the State Department’s human rights bureau, announced nearly a month earlier, and Josh Paul from the State Department in October. Tariq Habash, a senior official at the US Education Department and of Palestinian-American descent, had stepped down in January.

In response to inquiries during Thursday’s press briefing, a State Department spokesperson reiterated the existence of internal mechanisms for expressing dissenting views on governmental policies. When pressed further, the spokesperson declined to comment beyond labeling Rharrit’s resignation as a “personal matter.”

Criticism towards the United States’ support for Israel has been mounting both internationally and domestically, particularly concerning the civilian casualties and humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Meanwhile, student protests at Columbia University and other campuses have gained momentum, advocating against US military aid to Israel and urging divestment from companies with Israeli ties.

Amidst the unrest, Columbia University’s president, Minouche Shafik, issued a warning to student protestors to dismantle their encampment by Friday to restore calm to the campus. However, ongoing discussions between the university and the protestors have shown progress, with efforts to de-escalate tensions.

In a related development, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, criticized the Columbia protestors, alleging Hamas involvement and condemning their support for the organization amidst its alleged crimes. Demonstrations across the nation continue to highlight opposition to the civilian toll in Gaza and call for policy changes regarding US support for Israel.

Meanwhile, the University of Southern California announced the cancellation of its main commencement ceremony due to safety concerns amid the ongoing protests.

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