USAID Contractor Forced Out Over Presentation on Palestinian Maternal and Child Mortality

Alexander Smith was given the choice to resign or be dismissed

A contractor for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) was forced out of his job over a disagreement on a presentation he prepared on maternal and child mortality among Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, The Guardian reported on Thursday.

Alexander Smith worked for USAID as a senior advisor on gender, maternal health, child health, and nutrition. He was scheduled to present the paper on mortality at an internal USAID conference, and it was initially cleared. But it caught the attention of officials in the USAID’s Middle East department, who asked for redactions to be made.

Smith told The Guardian that the edits they requested involved removing a slide describing the applicable international law and removing any language that implied the recognition of a Palestinian state, including names of UN agencies that include the word “Palestine.”

USAID leadership ended up canceling the presentation altogether and claims it was outside of Smith’s area of responsibility, but he said his expertise on maternal and child health is relevant to all humanitarian crises. Two days after his presentation was canceled, Smith was told by his direct employer, the Highbury Defense Group, which has government contracts with USAID, that his contract would be terminated early.

Highbury said that Smith’s contract would be terminated over “personality differences” and that USAID was unhappy with him despite his years of performance on the job and years of positive reviews of his work. Smith was given the option to resign and wrote a scathing resignation letter.

“USAID has always prided itself on our programs supporting democracy, human rights, and rule of law. In Ukraine, we call for legal redress when people are victimized and name perpetrators of violence … We boldly state ‘Slava Ukraini’ in peppy promotional videos,” he wrote.

“When it comes to the Palestinians, however, we avoid saying anything about their right to statehood, the abuses they’re currently suffering, or which powers have been violating their basic rights to freedom, self-determination, livelihoods, and clean water,” he added.

The news of Smith’s resignation makes him the ninth US official to publicly step down over President Biden’s full-throated support for Israel’s slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza. Josh Paul, who resigned from the State Department in October, said dozens more have stepped down quietly and that he expects more resignations to come.

The Independent previously reported on the widespread dissent within USAID. The investigation found that 19 dissent memos had been sent within the department to criticize US support for Israel.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.