A former State Department official who resigned late last year over the Biden administration’s approach to Israel’s offensive in Gaza has joined the movement encouraging Michigan residents to vote “uncommitted” in the state’s Tuesday primary.

In a post on LinkedIn over the weekend, Josh Paul said he will “join those calling for voters” to select uncommitted instead of President Joe Biden on Michigan’s Democratic ballot.

“Even if you’re not planning on voting for Biden in November, voting uncommitted now strengthens the hand of activists (myself included) pressing the White House to change course,” he wrote. “Please do it this Tuesday!”

Last October, Paul quit the State Department’s bureau of political-military affairs, which oversees arms sales, after 11 years. At the time, he told HuffPost that he was unable to push for a more humane policy on Israel and Gaza from within the U.S. government. The Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas militants killed about 1,200 people and resulted in hundreds of hostages, while Israel’s continued retaliation has killed almost 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza and displaced millions at risk of starvation and disease.

“When I came to this Bureau … I knew it was not without its moral complexity and moral compromises, and I made myself a promise that I would stay for as long as I felt the harm I might do could be outweighed by the good I could do,” Paul wrote in an open letter posted on LinkedIn when he resigned.

“In my 11 years I have made more moral compromises than I can recall, each heavily, but each with my promise to myself in mind, and intact,” he continued. “I am leaving today because I believe that in our current course with regards to the continued – indeed, expanded and expedited – provision of lethal arms to Israel – I have reached the end of that bargain.”

Former State Department official and activist Paul, who resigned over the Biden administration's approach to Israel's offensive in Gaza, speaks during a demonstration calling for a cease-fire in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 13.
Former State Department official and activist Paul, who resigned over the Biden administration’s approach to Israel’s offensive in Gaza, speaks during a demonstration calling for a cease-fire in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 13.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Michigan’s primary election has been under the spotlight given its status as a swing state and its considerably large Muslim and Arab American populations. Despite some attempts by the Biden campaign and Michigan’s community leaders to come together and discuss Arab and Muslim voters’ deep concern over the president’s unconditional support for Israel, those leaders said the community still feels Biden is not taking them seriously.

In response to Biden’s failure to win over Arab and Muslim Michiganders, community leaders launched a campaign called “Listen to Michigan.” The campaign is working to encourage Michigan voters disappointed in Biden’s approach to Gaza to vote uncommitted in the primary and to send a warning to the president that his reelection is at stake if he does not withdraw his administration’s support for Israel’s offensive.

“First, it’s important to go vote in the primary — it is important to demonstrate that those with concerns about President Biden’s policies towards Palestine/Israel do show up to the polls and should factor into the Biden campaign’s November strategy,” Paul wrote in his latest LinkedIn post.

“Second, voting uncommitted sends a signal to the Biden campaign that Michigan is in play,” he continued, “and that his chances of winning it depend entirely on what he does between now and November.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the lone Palestinian American member of Congress, has endorsed the movement. Her younger sister, Layla Elabed, serves as the campaign manager for Listen to Michigan.

The campaign was also endorsed by former Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), a Jewish Democrat who lost reelection after a pro-Israel group targeted him over his opposition to the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank — a move that human rights organizations have for years labeled as an act of apartheid.

“I am working with some people who feel like they will never vote for Joe Biden, but there are many, many, many I feel will vote for Joe Biden on Nov. 5 if he changes course,” Levin told The New York Times. “This is the best way I can help Joe Biden.”


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