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It’s a time for choosing

These awful times require each of us to make a choice.

Will we choose measure over mayhem?

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Will we choose humanity over horror?

Will we choose armistice over genocide?

Will we choose conscience over career?

Josh Paul, a veteran American diplomat, has made his choice.

Last week, Paul resigned from the State Department in the wake of US President Joe Biden’s fulsome, categoric support – rhetorically, diplomatically and militarily – for Israel.

In a long, thoughtful letter explaining his decision, Paul wrote that he had devoted the past 11 years trying to make “differences” in the pursuit of outcomes he considered “good and just”.

Through it all, Paul understood that he was prepared and obliged to make “moral compromises … for as long as I felt [sic] the harm I might do could be outweighed by the good I could do”.

But, to borrow a phrase in vogue these days, Paul had reached an “inflection point” that meant “the end of that bargain”.

Paul opposed Biden sending even more “lethal arms” to Israel quickly.

“Blind support for one side is destructive in the long term to the interests of the people on both sides,” Paul wrote. “I fear we are repeating the same mistakes we have made these past decades, and I decline to be a part of it for longer.”

Paul had rejected the pernicious policy that has long defined America’s cruel attitude towards the Middle East: Kill first, think later.

His blunt rebuke of the commander-in-chief was remarkable for a number of extraordinary reasons that, in the coverage of his abrupt departure, have gone largely and predictably unnoticed.

With cutting precision, Paul pointed to the galling, marquee-sized hypocrisy at the core of Biden’s feckless, historically illiterate response to the murderous madness engulfing Israel and occupied Palestine.

“We cannot be both against occupation, and for it. We cannot be both for freedom, and against it,” he insisted.

Let me paraphrase Paul’s admonition for the smack-the-forehead, oblivious dunces who are, of course, a staple on US networks and cable news outlets: It’s the occupation, stupid.

Then, Paul acknowledged what no Western diplomat, let alone an American envoy, has – to my knowledge – conceded publicly at the risk of incurring the retributive wrath of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his hysterical apologists at home and abroad: Israel is an apartheid state guilty of ethnic cleansing and collective punishment.

Paul framed his searing indictment this way: “There is beauty to be found everywhere in this world, and it deserves both protection, and the right to flourish, and this is what I most desire for Palestinians and for Israelis … collective punishment is an enemy to that desire, whether it involves demolishing one home, or one thousand; as too is ethnic cleansing; as too is occupation; as too is apartheid.”

Paul has, it seems to me, heeded the warnings – issued by human rights groups based in New York, London and Jerusalem – that his boss, Congress and a prostrate Western media establishment have ignored or discredited in their evangelical fealty to a rogue regime brimming with crooks, racists, and authoritarians.

An apartheid state has, since its engineered inception, wielded carte blanche licence not only to steal Palestinian homes and land, but to traumatise, jail, torture, maim, and kill Palestinians with impunity.

That illegal, deliberate, systemic brutalisation and dehumanisation of generation after generation of imprisoned Palestinians in Gaza, the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem is unsustainable and was bound to combust, and, inevitably, fuel Hamas’s ruthless, retaliatory outrages.

It is instructive and a grievous shame that among the career and appointed diplomats who, together, craft the US’s ruinous blueprint for the region, only Josh Paul has had the good and prescient sense to act in the face of an unfolding humanitarian calamity.

It would be easy to dismiss his principled stand as the posturing of a minnow whose quitting will have no impact on the pitiless course that Biden and company have chartered.

It would be wrong, too.

Bureaucracies expect and demand conformity. To get along, you must go along.

So, when a solitary voice breaks from the official line dictated by the president of the US, it is, I suspect, a hard and lonely experience.

Still, one crack in the facade of unanimity can lead to a wider, more troublesome fissure.

Indeed, Paul can now take considerable solace in knowing that many of his former colleagues have joined him in challenging their government’s “unlimited” backing of Israel as dangerous and short-sighted.

Reportedly, a “mutiny” is brewing among scores of US diplomats who are plotting to pen a “dissent cable” to express their grave objections to Biden’s obdurate pursuit of the US’s doomed “kill first, think later” so-called “strategy”.

To stem the building tide of discord, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has apparently held “listening sessions” with small groups of perturbed diplomats of Muslim, Arab and Jewish descent to mollify their concerns.

It is a sham exercise which reveals that “diversity” is a convenient fig leaf used to camouflage this stubborn fact about who calls the genocidal shots at Foggy Bottom and the White House: white, male warmongers.

Nevertheless, dissent is spreading on Capitol Hill.

Adam Ramer, the political director in the office of Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna, quit after only being on the job for two weeks in protest over the representative’s refusal to co-sponsor a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire.

“I resigned my job on Monday because of a refusal to call for a ceasefire. I will be doing everything in my power to stand against war & for Palestinian justice,” Ramer wrote on X.

Days later, in an impassioned open letter, more than 400 Muslim and Jewish congressional staffers demanded that their “bosses” stop “exploiting” their “pain and histories” to “justify violence” and support a ceasefire.

The staffers wrote that, in this urgent moment, “we are calling on our elected officials to find a new way forward together, through unbreakable solidarity motivated by our humanity”.

It was a brave and necessary thing to do.

European Union President Ursula von der Leyen has also faced the righteous rod of 800 public servants who, in a letter, have excoriated her blatant “double standards” and “uncontrolled” endorsement of Israel’s war crimes in Gaza.

“If Israel does not stop immediately, the whole Gaza Strip and its inhabitants will be erased from the planet,” the letter read.

They are right.

Which leads me, finally, to the choice the mostly unrepentant keyboard cavalry who are happily saddling up once more – in derivative columns and hyperbolic appearances on TV – made to side with their home team’s, by now, familiar mantra: Kill first, think later.

We remember when, not too long ago, you made the same disastrous judgements in Afghanistan and then in Iraq.

When the dreadful human and geopolitical consequences of your inexcusable folly became apparent, a few of you admitted your complicity and apologised – half-heartedly.

We did not accept your apologies then and we will not accept your apologies when Gaza is turned to dust and memory.

We will remember, since most of you will no doubt prefer, as always, to forget the catastrophic choice you have made yet again.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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