Palestinians mourn next to the bodies of their relatives

Members of the Nofal family mourn next to the bodies of their relatives, who were killed in Israeli airstrikes in Rafah, Gaza on January 9, 2024 in an attack that used U.S.-made bombs.

(Photo: Mohammed Talatene/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Citing Ethnic Cleansing, US Army Major Resigns Over Israel's Assault on Gaza

"As the descendant of European Jews, I was raised in a particularly unforgiving moral environment when it came to the topic of bearing responsibility for ethnic cleansing," wrote Maj. Harrison Mann.

An American Army officer on Monday described months of being increasingly disturbed by the images and news of Israel's U.S.-backed bombardment of Gaza, which culminated in his public resignation from his position at the Defense Intelligence Agency to avoid further complicity in Israel's "ethnic cleansing" of Palestinians.

Army Maj. Harrison Mann published his resignation letter on LinkedIn, saying he had distributed it internally on April 16 to announce his resignation from the agency.

As an officer at the DIA, Mann said, he has been unable to escape the fact that his place of work "directly executes policy" for the Biden administration, including its "nearly unqualified support for the government of Israel, which has enabled and empowered the killing and starving of tens and thousands of innocent Palestinians."

"My work here—however administrative or marginal it appeared—unquestionably contributed to that support," wrote Mann.

He described wrestling with the question of whether he could continue working at the DIA, reasoning with himself that, "I don't make policy and it's not my place to question it."

"However, at some point it became difficult to defend the outcomes of this particular policy," Mann wrote. "At some point—whatever the justification—you're either advancing a policy that advances the mass starvation of children, or you're not."

At the time Mann sent his letter to his colleagues, Israel was conducting airstrikes and preparing its ground invasion of Rafah, the southern Gaza city that over 1 million Palestinians have been forcibly displaced to since October.

Israel has continued to block aid to Gaza even after saying in early April it would open a crossing and a port, and has now pushed the enclave into what the United Nations World Food Program chief said earlier this month was a "full-blown famine." Dozens of people have died of starvation. At least 35,091 people who have been killed in Israel's military assault—two-thirds of those killed have been women and children, despite Israel's claim it is targeting Hamas fighters.

Mann wrote that as the bombardment dragged on and U.S. President Joe Biden's defense and funding of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) continued, his mind turned to his European Jewish relatives.

"As the descendant of European Jews, I was raised in a particularly unforgiving moral environment when it came to the topic of bearing responsibility for ethnic cleansing—my grandfather refused to ever purchase products manufactured in Germany—where the paramount importance of 'never again' and the inadequacy of 'just following orders' were oft repeated," wrote Mann. "But I also have hope that my grandfather would afford me some grace; that he would still be proud of me for stepping away from this war, however belatedly."

Mann publicized his letter about six weeks after foreign affairs officer Annelle Sheline resigned from her position at the U.S. State Department, saying her work in the human rights realm in the Middle East had become "impossible" in light of Biden's material and political support for Israel's assault on Gaza.

Education Department official Tariq Habash, a Palestinian American, also resigned in protest earlier this year, and a top official who oversaw arms transfers at the State Department, Josh Paul, stepped down in October, citing the Biden administration's decision to send more arms to Israel as the war began.

In February, U.S. Air Force member Aaron Bushnell died after self-immolating in front of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., having said he was engaging "in an extreme act of protest" to avoid being complicit in genocide.

On LinkedIn, Mann wrote Monday that he "received an unexpected outpouring of support" when he distributed his letter internally, and appeared to address other federal employees who may be questioning their complicity in Biden's policies.

"I am sharing [the letter] now in the hope that you too will discover you are not alone, you are not voiceless, and you are not powerless," wrote Mann.

Feds United for Peace, which includes employees across 30 federal agencies who have advocated for a cease-fire in Gaza, called Mann's letter "incredibly significant."

The New York Timesreported that it is not known "whether other military officers have resigned in protest of U.S. foreign policy" since the Hamas-led attack on Israel in October and the IDF's deadly retaliation, "but the resignation of an active-duty officer in protest of U.S. foreign policy is likely uncommon—especially one in which the officer makes public the reasons for doing so."

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