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Gay Resigns, Biden Official Quits

Above photo: Protesters at Harvard University show their support for Palestinians at a rally in Cambridge, MA on October 14. Joseph Presiozo/Getty Images.

Claudine Gay stepped down at Harvard after being targeted by an anti-DEI, pro-Israel campaign.

Palestinian American Tariq Habash quit the Dept of Education over the Biden administration’s support for “ethnic cleansing by the Israeli government.”

Claudine Gay has resigned as Harvard University’s president, the shortest tenure in the history of the school.

Gay was ostensibly ousted over alleged plagiarism, but those accusations only emerged after her calamitous testimony at a congressional hearing on campus antisemitism.

That hearing ended up having very little to do with actual campus antisemitism and more to do with student protests in response to the assault on Gaza. The presidents of MIT, Penn and Harvard were grilled by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), but most of the anger was directed at the first black woman to lead Harvard. Stefanik called for resignation and claimed that the university ranked last in protecting Jewish students.

One of the major goals of Stefanik’s questioning was to equate the word “intifada” with a call for genocide against Jews. “You are president of Harvard, so I assume you’re familiar with the term ‘Intifada,’ correct?” Stefanik asked Gay. “Then you understand that the use of the term ‘intifada,’ in the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict, is indeed a call for violent armed resistance against the State of Israel, including violence against civilians and the genocide of Jews?”

All the presidents were asked if calls for the genocide Jews would violate the school’s conduct policy and all three did a terrible job of responding. They side-stepped and equivocated, but they also pushed Stefanik’s agenda by failing to correct her on the intifada point.

After resigning Gay penned an Op-Ed for the New York Times. She makes some good points about academic freedom and the right-wing war on diversity in schools, but she still fails to push back on the narrative embraced by politicians like Stefanik.

“Yes, I made mistakes,” writes Gay. “In my initial response to the atrocities of Oct. 7, I should have stated more forcefully what all people of good conscience know: Hamas is a terrorist organization that seeks to eradicate the Jewish state. And at a congressional hearing last month, I fell into a well-laid trap. I neglected to clearly articulate that calls for the genocide of Jewish people are abhorrent and unacceptable and that I would use every tool at my disposal to protect students from that kind of hate.”

Gay definitely fell into a trap, but it wasn’t exactly well-laid. Even casual observers of Israel/Palestine could see this one coming a mile away.

Gay is the second president at that hearing to resign, a great coup for the right in their ongoing culture war. However, this time around they had a lot of help.

Pro-Israel groups like the Anti-Defamation League (who are generally opposed to, say, book banning) predictably embraced Gay’s ouster.

The media’s role in this is glaring.

“Articles about Claudine Gay and her various ‘scandals’ were top 5 featured stories on the New York Times homepage Dec 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 22, 25 and her firing is the now their top story,” wrote media critic Adam Johnson after Gay’s resignation. “There is simply no way this is proportionate, sober or reasonable coverage.”

Contrast the amount of space given to Gay’s alleged missteps with media coverage of an actual campus scandal: the crackdown on student activism in support of Palestine.

Another Biden Official Resigns

Gay is not the only notable resignation in recent days. Tariq Habash, a Palestinian American who worked at the Department of Education’s Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, has stepped down from his role in protest of the Biden administration’s Gaza policy.

“I joined the Biden Administration nearly three years ago to fight for a more just America, to fix the broken student loan system by providing relief to millions of Americans, and to address systemic inequities across higher education that disproportionately affect underserved students and families,” reads his resignation letter. “I actively campaigned for the President, helping to shape his platform on education, consumer finance, and racial justice. I was one of the first Biden Administration political appointees to arrive at the Department of Education.

“Over the last three years, the White House issued numerous press releases noting that this was the most diverse administration in history, that it reflected America,” Habash continues. “I am part of that America. As a Palestinian-American—in fact, the only Palestinian-American political appointee at the Department of Education—I bring a critical and underrepresented perspective to the ongoing work on equity and justice. But now, the actions of the Biden-Harris Administration have put millions of innocent lives in danger, most immediately for the 2.3 million Palestinian civilians living in Gaza who remain under continuous assault and ethnic cleansing by the Israeli government. Therefore, I must resign.”

In an interview with MSNBC about his departure, Habash spoke about the growing opposition to Biden’s support for Israel within the U.S. government. “We’ve seen hundreds of State Department officials sign onto numerous dissent cables that were leaked,” he noted. “We’ve seen USAID officials, we’ve seen White House staff, we’ve seen interns, we’ve seen hundreds of officials across the administration from dozens of agencies. This is a pretty commonly held position by a lot of the biggest supporters of the president. And the majority of American voters support a cease-fire, but the president’s unwillingness to move on this policy is deafening and it hurts.”

Habash is the second Biden official to resign over Gaza. In October Josh Paul, who worked for the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, stepped down.

“It is my firm belief that in such conflicts, for those of us who are third parties, the side we must pick is not that of one of the combatants, but that of the people caught in the middle, and that of the generations yet to come,” wrote Paul in a Linkedin post on his resignation. “It is our responsibility to help the warring parties build a better world. To center human rights, not to hope to sideline or sidestep them through programs of economic growth or diplomatic maneuvering. And, when they happen, to be able to name gross violations of human rights no matter who carries them out, and to be able to hold the perpetrators accountable–when they are adversaries, which is easy, but most particularly when they are partners.”

Speaking of Josh Paul, you might recall that in November, Defense for Children International, Al-Haq, Palestinians in Gaza, and Palestinian-Americans sued President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken, and Secretary of Defense Austin for aiding and abetting genocide. The Biden administration has since replied, filing to dismiss the case on jurisdictional concerns.

At the end of December, the plaintiffs replied to that reply with a number of declarations, one of them coming from Josh Paul. Here it is:

“The United States provides and transfers to Israel a vast amount of military critical technologies and capabilities; that the United States is aware that these military critical technologies and capabilities will be used in ways that are contrary to U.S. law and Israel’s own commitments to the U.S. under applicable processes and agreements, and other requirements including international law; that the U.S. is willing and able to address such violations when they arise, or could arise, with other partners; and, that should the court direct the suspension of such military transfers and assistance to Israel, it would—‘more likely than not,’ to borrow a phrase from the Biden Administration’s own Conventional Arms Transfer Policy—have an impact on the Israeli military operations of concern to the Plaintiffs in this case.”

We’ll continue to follow this case in this newsletter and on the website.

Odds & Ends

🇸🇦 Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is introducing legislation to block the Biden administration’s attempt to sell $582 million in arms to Saudi Arabia.

🇺🇸 The Electronic Intifada: ‘Nothing is voluntary about fleeing Gaza and American bombs’

🇮🇱 Jewish Currents: ‘Top Executive Leaves ADL Over CEO’s Praise of Elon Musk’

🤝 Israeli Official Benny Gantz on Twitter: “I met this evening US Senator Lindsey Graham. I firstly conveyed my profound appreciation for the United States’ support and Senator Graham’s personal friendship for the State of Israel particularly since October 7th. We discussed the war’s developments, the uncompromisable necessity to dismantle Hamas in Gaza, the irreconcilable reality on Israel’s northern border and finally the prospects of restoring regional stability and mitigating the Iranian-led axis of terror in the Middle East.”

🗳️ The Guardian: ‘A split among Democrats may threaten ‘the Squad’ – and help Trump – in 2024′

🌹 ‘Free Palestine protesters block street during 135th Rose Parade’

📄 The Dersh is in the newly released Epstein docs.

🦞 Portland Maine City Council unanimously voted to support a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Palestine.

🇺🇸 Asked about South Africa’s historic suit accusing Israel of genocide White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told “meritless, counterproductive, and completely without any basis in fact whatsoever.”

Much of the suit actually quotes statements made by Israeli leaders.

🇺🇸 The Intercept’s Ryan Grim asked State Department spokesman Matthew Miller about Palestinians being displaced from Gaza during yesterday’s State Department briefing:

Grim: Thanks, Matt. To pick up on your response to Smotrich and Ben-Gvir yesterday, you and Linda Thomas-Greenfield both had similar statements. You both said in your statements, quote, “There should be no mass displacement of Palestinians from Gaza.” Given that you both had the same word-for-word statement, it seems like there was thought put into that. Why use the word “should” there, “There should be no mass displacement”? Would you be willing to make a more definitive comment like “there must”?

Miller: There must not be, yeah. No, there —

Grim: And then to get to Ben-Gvir’s response, which I’m sure you saw – he posted on Twitter, “…with all due respect, we are not another star on the American flag. United States is our best friend, but first of all, we will do what is best for the state of Israel. The emigration of hundreds of thousands from Gaza will allow the residents of the enclave,” or the envelope, “to return home and live in safety and to protect the IDF soldiers.” Any response to Ben-Gvir’s public response to you?

Miller: So certainly, Israel is a sovereign country that does make its own decisions. There is no dispute about that. The point of our – of the statement that I made yesterday was that the comments that Ben-Gvir and Minister Smotrich have made are in direct contradiction of Israeli Government policy as has been represented to us by multiple Israeli Government officials, including the prime minister himself. So I’m not surprised that he continues to double down and make those statements, but they are not only in contradiction with United States policy and what we think is in the best interests of the Israeli people, the Palestinian people, the broader region, and ultimately stability in the world, but they are in direct contradiction of his own government’s policy. And we believe those statements should stop.

🏫 ‘On white supremacy and Zionism: a reflection on Claudine Gay’s tenure as president of Harvard University’

☀️ Politico: ‘Cease-fire protest halts California legislative session’

Jewish Voice for Peace board member and San Francisco resident Lisa Rofel on the action: “We represent thousands of Jewish people from over California who oppose the Israeli government’s genocidal campaign that has murdered over 22,000 including thousands of children and displaced the people of Gaza from their homes.”

Here’s a JVP press release describing the scene:

On the first day of the 2024 Legislative Sessions, more than 500 Californian Jews alongside a diverse coalition of Californians shut down the California State Assembly session and the California State Capitol Rotunda to demand an immediate permanent ceasefire in Gaza. In response, the State Assembly canceled the session for the day. Members of Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network along with other Jews and concerned Californians gathered in protest, song, and prayer to demand that California legislators stand for justice and call a lasting ceasefire now. The coalition of protestors included rabbis, children of holocaust survivors, Israelis-Americans, teachers and healthcare workers and many more community members united in their call for American politicians to stop funding genocide.

Protesters gathered in both the State Assembly session and in the Capitol rotunda singing Jewish songs and prayers and calling for a ceasefire. They dropped banners from the balcony of the State Assembly room that said “Jews Say No US Funding for Israel’s Genocide of Palestinians.” Protestors laid red tissue-paper poppies on the center of the rotunda to mourn the lives of each Palestinian who has been murdered in Israel’s genocidal campaign. Protesters came together in grief and anger to protest and pray as a community while disrupting business as usual in resistance to the Israeli military’s genocidal campaign against Palestine, which is backed by the US government via significant financial aid as well as the sale of bombs and weapons. After the sit-in, the vast coalition joined a local rally in the Capitol’s rose garden led by Palestinian organizers in Sacramento.

💰 Sludge: ‘AIPAC Made Record Donations to Congress in November, New FEC Filing Shows’

🥞  This week Senator Bernie Sanders released a statement calling for “no more U.S. funding for Netanyahu’s illegal and immoral war against the Palestinian people.”

“Since the start of the war 1.9 million Palestinian men, women, and children have been driven from their homes – 85% of the total population of Gaza. According to an analysis of satellite radar data nearly 70% of the housing units in Gaza have been destroyed or damaged by Israeli bombardment,” it reads. “Today, not only are the vast majority of people in Gaza homeless, they lack food, water, medical supplies, and fuel. A recent UN report indicates that half of the population of about 2.2 million are at risk of starvation and 90% say that they regularly go without food for a whole day. The chief economist at the World Food Program said the humanitarian disaster in Gaza is among the worst he has ever seen. This cannot be allowed to continue.”

“Congress is working to pass a supplemental funding bill that includes $10 billion of unconditional military aid for the right-wing Netanyahu government to continue its brutal war against the Palestinian people,” Sanders continued. “Enough is enough. Congress must reject that funding. The taxpayers of the United States must no longer be complicit in destroying the lives of innocent men, women, and children in Gaza.”

🏫 Robert Reich in The Guardian: ‘Powerful donors managed to push out Harvard’s Claudine Gay. But at what cost?’

🍉 Jennifer Garner’s daughter wearing a Palestine sweatshirt has become a scandal.

🇮🇱 Jacob Kornbluh on Twitter: “New Economist/YouGov poll suggests Ukraine is far more popular than Israel among Americans. 62% sympathize with Ukraine in war with Russia. 39% — and 25% of Dem/Biden voters — sympathize with Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

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