Josh Paul, who resigned last month as the director of congressional and public affairs for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs in the State Department, has said he does not believe that that U.S.-provided arms should be used to massacre civilians.

In an appearance on Democracy Now!, Paul said he tried to raise his concerns with his superiors but found “no appetite for that discussion” and that unlike all other U.S. arms sales that take humanitarian concerns into account, Israel gets a blank check.

He also said in the broadcast that the overall message inside the Biden administration is: “Don’t question the policy because it’s coming from the top.”

Paul resigned citing concerns over the ongoing arms sales to Israel during the Gaza bombardment.

In his resignation letter, Josh Paul criticised what he saw as “shortsighted,” “destructive,” and “contradictory” US support for Israel. He argued that the American government’s support for Israel was contributing to the perpetuation of the conflict, rather than helping to bring about a peaceful resolution.

Media reports suggest that Paul is not alone in his frustrations within the State Department. Many other officials are said to share his concerns, but they have faced similar obstacles when trying to raise their own objections. The lack of willingness to engage in discussions about the US role in the Israel-Gaza conflict within the department has created a climate of unease and disquiet.

One key argument raised by Paul is the perceived lack of humanitarian consideration in US foreign policy concerning Israel. American arms sales to other countries typically undergo rigorous scrutiny and consideration of potential human rights abuses. However, Israel is often regarded as receiving a “blank cheque” when it comes to military support.

According to Paul, there is a top-down approach within the Biden administration that discourages questioning the policy as it originates from the highest levels of government. This perceived lack of transparency and willingness to engage in dialogue has led to growing internal dissent within the State Department and among American diplomats tasked with managing US foreign policy in the Middle East.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent visit to Israel brought renewed attention to American foreign policy in the Middle East, as well as the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict. Blinken continued to emphasise Israel’s right to defend itself following the Hamas attack on 7 October. His statements highlighted the one-sided US support for Israel, which has been criticised by many for contributing to the perpetuation of the long-standing conflict.

The White House’s stance on the Israel-Gaza conflict has also come under scrutiny, with the administration dismissing calls for a full ceasefire. Instead, they advocate for temporary and localised pauses in the fighting.

In a controversial move, the White House requested an unprecedented loophole in arms spending that would allow conducting arms deals with Israel in complete secrecy, without oversight from Congress or the public. This sparked concerns among experts who worry about Israel’s potential use of US-supplied weapons for actions that could amount to war crimes.

Paul’s foremost concern revolves around the use of US-provided arms causing civilian casualties, particularly in the Gaza Strip following the Hamas attack. He believes that US arms should not be used in ways that lead to the killing of innocent civilians. The increasing humanitarian toll of the Israel-Gaza conflict has drawn international condemnation, with critics arguing that American military aid should come with conditions to prevent its use in actions that harm non-combatants.

In line with his belief that a military solution is not the answer to the Israel-Gaza conflict, Paul sees the provision of arms to Israel as a policy that does not contribute to peace and security for Palestinians and Israelis alike.

In the wake of his resignation, Paul received an overwhelming response from colleagues, not only within the State Department but also from across different branches of the US government, including Congress, the Defence Department, and the uniformed military services. Many individuals reached out to express their agreement with his concerns.

However, Paul’s experience also revealed that many within the government may feel constrained from speaking up due to potential career consequences or the lack of a supportive environment for dissenting opinions.

Paul was primarily tasked with the arms sales process within the US government.

The US arms sales process involves multiple parties and authorities. The presidential authority is delegated to the Secretary of State, who further delegates these responsibilities to the Undersecretary for Political Affairs. The Undersecretary approves arms sales, evaluating their political implications, and ensuring they align with US foreign policy goals.

Josh Paul noted that his tenure in the State Department exposed him to many morally challenging and controversial arms sales. Throughout his career, he grappled with the intricate balance between national security interests and ethical considerations.

What set the Israel-Gaza situation apart from previous instances was the absence of room for discussion and debate. In past cases, including those that occurred under the Trump administration, there was a notable opportunity to consider and mitigate potential negative outcomes. The State Department had the flexibility to delay arms sales until crises passed or to collaborate with Congress to gain a broader policy perspective.

Josh Paul perceived a departure from the usual safeguards and opportunities for debate and mitigation, which ultimately led to his decision to step down.

A few days earlier, the Director of the United Nations Human Rights New York Office, Craig Mokhiber, also tendered his resignation in protest of the UN’s handling of the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, citing the attacks as genocide.