Veteran State Department official Stacy Gilbert quit the agency because the Biden administration is “twisting the facts” to make a “patently, demonstrably, quantifiably false” claim that Israel is not blocking humanitarian aid for Gaza in order to justify his administration’s continued military support to the country, she told HuffPost on Wednesday in the first interview since her resignation.

Gilbert, who has over 20 years experience in U.S. policy toward global crises and conflicts, said she is convinced Israel’s U.S.-backed operation in the Palestinian enclave is violating international humanitarian law — particularly by restricting supplies for its civilian population. She added she sincerely believed President Joe Biden was serious about ensuring Israel complied with international and U.S. laws that shield civilians in war zones, but she had experienced deep disappointment that led her to conclude it was futile to continue trying to improve America’s policy in Gaza from inside the government.

Gilbert told her colleagues she was quitting May 10, immediately after the Biden administration released a report on Israeli conduct on which she had worked. Referring to that assessment, which Biden had promised would probe Israeli compliance with American and international law, Gilbert told HuffPost: “It just doesn’t matter. … We could have AI write the report because it is not informed by reality or context or the informed opinions of subject matter experts.”

Gilbert’s resignation is a fresh example of dissent and resignations among national security figures reflecting deep frustration over Biden’s Gaza policy within his administration. It is especially notable given her position: She was most recently a senior civil military adviser at the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, which is the agency’s chief humanitarian office and features heavily in internal policy discussions over Gaza.

Asked about Gilbert’s critiques of her former employer and her characterization of the report, a State Department spokesperson told HuffPost via email: “We do not comment on personnel issues, but we have made clear we welcome diverse points of view and believe it makes us stronger. The Secretary and other Department leadership will continue to seek out a wide range of views because we believe it improves our policy making process. We continue to press the government of Israel to avoid harming civilians and urgently expand humanitarian access to and inside Gaza.”

Like many of the administration staff who are exasperated with Biden’s resistance to changing course on near-total backing for Israel, Gilbert said her concerns are rooted in her expertise and the sense that it is being disregarded for political reasons.

“I understand that schools and hospitals can be legitimate military targets in the right circumstances, that war is messy,” she told HuffPost. “But there are rules. Sometimes a hospital can be a legitimate military target if combatants are using that hospital as a base from which to launch attacks … but I think because I try very hard to understand what international humanitarian law is about, it also gives me credibility in saying what is happening in Gaza is not according to international humanitarian law.”

On Feb. 8, Biden responded to public furor over Israeli attacks on civilian targets such as hospitals and Israeli restrictions on aid by promising to within 90 days provide his report on whether Israel was violating international law and American statutes like a law saying Washington cannot send weapons to countries barring the provision of U.S. humanitarian assistance.

Despite the already dire conditions in Gaza that she and other officials were tracking, Gilbert saw the report as an opportunity.

“It’s possibly the first time in my life where I thought this kind of report is necessary,” she said, “and also because it was a new report, you’re setting it up from the ground up … so it was a chance to really influence that.”

She and hundreds of other Biden administration officials got to work on the report. But by the end of March, facing a deadline to say whether Israel had assured Washington it would respect the law, some personnel at the State Department began intensely pushing for the Biden to endorse the Israeli promises, like U.S. ambassador to Israel Jack Lew in a cable to the State Department first revealed by HuffPost on March 19.

To Gilbert, “that was the first indication that this may be more political and less about the facts on the ground as we saw them,” she said.

By April, Reuters and Devex reported that staff at several State Department offices and the U.S. Agency for International Development had concluded that the U.S.-backed Israeli operation had broken the law, yet other officials in the administration were aggressively challenging the prospect of cutting off some assistance to the country.

As a May 8 deadline for the administration to send Congress its report approached, “the final document was edited at a higher level,” Gilbert said. She only became aware of its analysis around the same time that lawmakers, reporters and the general public did — by reading it on the national security-focused website Just Security.

“It’s a very unusual way to handle an official report,” she told HuffPost, expressing surprise the report was not released by the State Department.

After reading it, Gilbert said, she immediately determined she could no longer be part of the agency that produced it.

“”War is messy but there are rules.””

– Stacy Gilbert, State Department official who quit over President Joe Biden’s Gaza policy.

Providing details of where she felt it fell short, she said there was clear evidence on the question of whether Israel was allowing sufficient humanitarian aid into Gaza.

“On any given day, you can ask the logistics cluster how many tonnes of food are being held up at the border, why are they being held up,” Gilbert continued. “All of that information is available. … No one who knows humanitarian assistance, who works in that field, there is no one who is saying Israel is not blocking that aid. That’s not to say there aren’t other obstacles, but it’s patently, demonstrably, quantifiably false to say that Israel is not blocking humanitarian assistance.”

Israel claims it is permitting aid in but supplies are stolen by militants, mismanaged by aid groups or stymied by other countries like Egypt, assertions that U.S. officials and humanitarian experts say are overblown.

In Gilbert’s view, the Biden administration used “legalistic” logic to misrepresent Israel’s handling of aid by arguing that its restrictions on assistance are not “arbitrary,” citing Israeli accusations that some aid supplies can be used by Palestinian militants and hence are so-called “dual-use.”

“What Israel says is justified is not understood by anyone else in the humanitarian community. Why are tentpoles not allowed?” she said. “It’s just random things, day by day, in terms of what does Israel consider to be a dual-use item: fuel, generators, GPS equipment.”

Additionally, Gilbert told HuffPost, she “pushed back” against U.S. government officials’ portrayal of whether famine is underway in Gaza. After HuffPost reported internal findings that that is the case, USAID chief Samantha Power publicly conceded that was true in April, but the administration has since distanced itself from the idea famine is occurring.

“It is not an impending famine — it is happening,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert is at least the fourth official to leave the State Department over Biden’s handling of Gaza. Fellow longtime official Josh Paul resigned in October, in a development first reported by HuffPost. Human rights official Annelle Sheline quit in March and career diplomat Hala Rharrit quit in April. All three have argued the Biden administration’s position is morally unconscionable and nonstrategic, fueling instability and undermining U.S. influence globally.

Making similar arguments, Army officer Harrison Mann and two of Biden’s political appointees at other government agencies have left their jobs in recent months: Lily Greenberg Call, formerly of the Department of the Interior, and Tariq Habash, who served at the Department of Education. And on Monday, Alexander Smith, a contractor at USAID, resigned from the U.S. development agency after four years there because he felt the organization was downplaying maternal and child mortality among Palestinians, the Guardian reported. Agnieszka Sykes, another USAID official, had already quit the institution in January.

Scores of still-serving government officials have also joined an advocacy group called Feds United for Peace, which keeps their identities anonymous while organizing them to demand a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. The organization has staged multiple protests and on May 7 helped organize a letter from 27 attorneys at federal agencies and other lawyers who argued U.S. military support for Israel is likely violating international and American laws.

The Washington Post first reported Gilbert’s departure on Tuesday.

She told HuffPost she wants her resignation to be understood as a simple matter.

“It drives me crazy when people say, ‘You’re so principled for resigning,’” Gilbert said. “You can’t work in the government that long and be completely principled but I’m practical. I understand compromises and that there are trade-offs. But in the end, I know the difference between right and wrong. What happened in this report is wrong, and this report is being used to justify continuing to do what we’ve been doing.”

“My energy is better used outside the State Department,” she added.

In a statement she plans to release later Thursday and first shared with HuffPost, Gilbert argues the “report and its flagrant untruths will haunt us.”

At least one Israeli airstrike on Rafah this past weekend that left children beheaded and set fires that burned Palestinian civilians alive in their tents was likely carried out with US weapons. This wanton destruction in Gaza, carried out with U.S. weapons, will continue as a result of the NSM report,” Gilbert’s statement continues, using an abbreviation for the policy that required the assessment on Israeli behavior, National Security Memorandum-20.

CNN, CBS and the New York Times have found Israel used U.S. munitions in the widely criticized May 26 strike that killed at least 45 Palestinians in a tent camp. U.S. officials have not confirmed whether that is their understanding.

Israel launched its military offensive in Gaza — already one of the poorest places in the world amid a 16-year blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt — in retaliation for an Oct. 7 attack by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which is based in the region. The Hamas-led assault killed close to 1,200 people, mostly civilians, per Israeli data. Israel’s U.S.-backed response has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, around two thirds of them women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry, and additionally sparked mass hunger in the Palestinian enclave while destroying the vast majority of its infrastructure.

On Wednesday, the United Nations office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs said that the already limited flow of aid into Gaza has dropped by two-thirds over the past month and that only one hospital in Rafah remains partially functional amid Israel’s invasion of the town.


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