State Dept. Whistleblower Defends The Squad's Israel Critiques

As House Republicans move to censure critic of Israel, whistleblower says Israel benefits from criticism

Former State Dept. official Josh Paul, right, on CNN Oct. 28, 2023, with Michael Smerconish.



The former State Department official who resigned to protest U.S. arming of Israel warns that the backlash against The Squad and other progressives criticizing Israel and calling for peace is both “deeply unfair” and politically risky.

Josh Paul, a former director in the department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, told TYT that vilifying congressional progressives for calling out Israel and the U.S. role in the response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack is unhelpful to Israeli and U.S. foreign policy.

In a phone interview last week, Paul also warned of the possibility of long-term political consequences for Pres. Joe Biden.

And Paul said he believes the calls by The Squad “for a humanitarian cause” reflect mainstream American opinion.

Progressive members of Congress, including Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Cori Bush (D-MO), have called out human rights violations by Israel and called for a cease fire. Their statements have been met with rebuke by fellow Democrats, a Republican censure resolution, and even death threats.

Some of the criticism alleging antisemitism focused on remarks that were simply deemed insufficiently sympathetic to Israel after the murder of 1400 people there by Hamas.

In her resolution to censure Tlaib, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) says:

“...instead of denouncing the horrors of Hamas slaughtering Israelis and demanding the release of all hostages held by Hamas, Rashida Tlaib stated on October 8, 2023, ’The path to the future must include lifting the blockade, ending the occupation, and dismantling the apartheid system that creates the suffocating dehumanizing conditions that can lead to resistance.’”

A vote on a motion to table Greene's censure resolution against Tlaib is expected this evening.

Paul said of criticisms of The Squad, “I think it’s deeply unfair, first of all, because I think they are speaking out for a humanitarian cause, and one that is actually shared – I think – a perspective that is shared by a significant percentage of the American population.”

In Paul’s view, it’s unfair to criticize The Squad’s call for a ceasefire in part because congressional progressives are actually closer to popular opinion than their critics are. “I think there's a disconnect between where most of Congress is and where the administration is and where the American public is,” Paul said.

Polling backs him up, finding last week that two-thirds of Americans, including most Republicans, believe the U.S. should call for a ceasefire. Having so many people supporting a measure that Congress and Biden reject will likely result in negative long-term political consequences for Biden, says Paul.

“I think there may well be political consequences down the line,” Paul warned, “in terms of, for example, support for the Biden administration in some of these states.”

Perhaps more importantly, Paul said there’s another danger in squelching The Squad’s critiques. The two countries have long enjoyed what’s been called their special relationship, but Israel gets more than just money and arms from that relationship, Paul argued. He said that Israel benefits from political debate here in the U.S., as long as it’s allowed

“There has to be space for fair, constructive criticism of a partner and a close partner like Israel,” he said. “It's not just arms that we bring to the relationship, it is perspective. And if we cannot offer that perspective because it is shouted down as being anti-Israel, we're doing no one a service.”

Biden declared unwavering support for Israel in his address following Hamas’s deadly and unprecedented attack, but stopped short of acknowledging the suffering of Palestinian civilians caught in the crossfire of this latest conflict. Biden has since been lambasted by progressives for failing to rein in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli airstrikes have now killed more than an estimated 8000 people in Gaza.

In the days following Biden’s address, Tlaib, joined by Jewish groups and faith leaders advocating for peace, called out Biden during a speech on the National Mall.

“If we don’t get back to our shared humanity I don’t think we will ever be able to come back from this. And to our President: As a Palestinian American and a person of Muslim faith, I’m not going to forget this. And I think a lot of people are not going to forget this,” said Tlaib. “The fact of the matter is that our lives are not safe with you or the former impeached president.”

Tlaib is urging voters to withhold their vote from Biden if he doesn’t call for a ceasefire.

During a rally on October 20, Omar gave an impassioned speech criticizing Biden.“How is it that we have a president who's talking about releasing hostages, is talking about getting American citizens out of Israel, but could not get himself to say, ‘I want to save and work to save the hundreds, thousands of Americans stuck in Gaza.’ What is wrong with you?” said Omar.

Muslim members of Congress reportedly have received increased death threats for voicing their concerns.

Last week, ten progressive members including Omar, Bush, and Tlaib, voted against a measure affirming U.S. support of Israel and condemning Hamas.

In a statement, Omar said, “While the resolution rightly acknowledges and mourns the lives taken by Hamas, I cannot support a resolution that fails to acknowledge and mourn the lives of Palestinians taken by the Israeli military.”

Earlier in October, Bush introduced a resolution along with over a dozen lawmakers calling for “an immediate de-escalation and cease-fire in Israel and occupied Palestine.“

TYT Washington Correspondent Candice Cole was previously a correspondent and senior White House producer for the Black News Channel and has worked at a number of local news outlets. You can find her on Twitter @CandiceColeNews.