United States Complicity and Failure to Prevent the Israeli Government's Unfolding Genocide of Palestinians
The Israeli government is committing genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza with unconditional U.S. support.
Genocide is the gravest of crimes under international law. As defined by the international Genocide Convention (1948), genocide refers to specific actions – such as killing or deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the destruction of a group in whole or in part – taken with the intention of destroying, in whole or in part, the group targeted, including on ethnic or national grounds.
Numerous Israeli government leaders have expressed clear genocidal intentions and deployed dehumanizing characterizations of Palestinians, including “human animals.” At the same time, the Israeli military has bombed civilian areas and infrastructure, including by using chemical weapons, and deprived Palestinians of everything necessary for human life, including water, food, electricity, fuel, and medicine. Those statements of intent – when combined with mass killing, causing serious bodily and mental harm, and the total siege and closure creating conditions of life to bring about the physical destruction of the group – reveal evidence of an unfolding crime of genocide.
Since October 7, the Israeli government has killed at least 11,100 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including over 4,600 children, and injured more than 28,000. There is documented use of white phosphorus, and the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor reported that by early November, “Israel [had] dropped more than 25,000 tons of explosives on the Gaza Strip,” the “equivalent to two nuclear bombs.” Israel’s constant bombardments and total closure of Gaza has resulted in the collapse of Gaza’s entire healthcare capacity. The World Health Organization has verified 250 attacks on hospitals, ambulances, healthcare workers and patients in Gaza and the West Bank. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) estimates that 1.65 million people have been internally displaced across Gaza (statistics in this paragraph are current as of November 13).
The Israeli government's argument of self-defense in response to the unlawful attacks by Hamas on October 7 that killed 1,200, including civilians, does not absolve it from committing crimes of its own: under international law, there is no justification for genocide. As as a matter of law or morality, there can be no justification for the lethal collective punishment and commision of the gravest of crimes – genocide – against an entire Palestinian population. The October 7 attacks do not obviate the US’ corresponding duty to prevent the continuation of the unfolding genocide.
Leading genocide legal scholars and historians of genocide and the Holocaust, including William Schabas, have identified features of the Israeli government’s rhetoric and military response as signs of genocide:
“In the present case, there is much direct evidence in the form of statements by senior officials and politicians in Israel indicating an intent to destroy the people of Palestine. Furthermore, the conduct of the State of Israel provides evidence from which genocidal intent may be inferred. The avowed policy of depriving Gaza of water, food, medicine and electricity, bearing in mind the rather desperate economic situation in the territory prior to the conflict and the fact that the borders are sealed, leaving the people of Gaza with nowhere to go, will inexorably lead to their physical destruction. If the siege and blockade continue, there can be no other outcome.”
Immediately after the launch of the Israeli military campaign targeting Gaza, President Biden offered “unwavering” support for the Israeli governement, which he and administration officials have consistently repeated and backed up with military, financial, and political support even as mass civilian casualties escalated alongside the Israeli government's genocidal rhetoric.
The United States is failing to uphold its legal obligation to prevent genocide, and President Biden and other high-level officials are actively aiding and abetting the Israeli government’s genocide of the Palestinian people.
The U.S. is a signatory to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Congress passed the Genocide Convention Implementation Act (18 U.S.C. § 1091) in 1988, making it federal law. International law imposes on Biden and other high-level officials a legal duty to prevent genocide. The United States has significant capacity to influence Israel's actions as its primary provider of military and political support. Therefore, the U.S. has been obligated, since learning of the serious risk of genocide in Gaza, to exercise its considerable influence on the Israeli government to prevent the crime.
Not only have high-level officials, President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken, and Secretary of Defense Austin, failed to exercise their influence to prevent genocide, but they have publicly and repeatedly offered statements of unconditional support of the Israeli government’s actions while pledging and providing additional military financial assistance and equipment to Israel. They have repeatedly said Israel has “no red lines”, continued their unconditional support, while undermining global calls for a ceasefire. In 2023, like every year, the U.S. government provided Israel $3.8 billion USD in unrestricted military financing. Since the Israeli government’s indiscriminate bombardment of Palestinians in Gaza began on October 7th, the defendants have sought approval from Congress to provide Israel with an additional $14.1 billion USD in military hardware, deployed aircraft carrier battle groups, and increased U.S. forces in the region to “assist in the defense of Israel.”
Center for Constitutional Rights Interventions
The Center for Constitutional Rights has long challenged impunity for the Israeli government’s violations of international law related to its illegal occupation of Palestine and the U.S. support that enables Israel's violations. In response to the Israeli govenrment's actions after October 7, we joined other experts and legal organizations in issuing urgent warnings to the U.S. of the unfolding genocide, yet the U.S. has stated that it is not actively evaluating whether or not a genocide is occuring. Consequently, we have provided legal and factual documentation to highlight the United States’ failure to uphold its legal obligation to prevent Israeli government's genocide, and its role in advancing the genocide.
Lawsuit, Emergency Legal Briefing and Advocacy
The Center for Constitutional Rights issued an Emergency Legal Briefing Paper in the first weeks after the attacks began. We shared this analysis with national and international stakeholders to provide evidence of the genocide against the Palestinian population in Gaza and U.S. complicity in it and to urge them to take all measures to stop the crimes, to call for an immediate ceasefire, and to end U.S. military, economic, and diplomatic support of the Israeli government's violations.
On November 13, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a federal lawsuit, Defense for Children International—Palestine, et al. v. . Joseph Biden, et al., on behalf of Palestinian human rights organizations and Palestinians in Gaza and the U.S. Plaintiffs are suing President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken, and Defense Secretary Austin for their failure to prevent and complicity in the Israeli government’s unfolding genocide against them, their families, and the 2.2 million Palestinians in Gaza. The case against the three high-level U.S. officials argues that they are violating international law, including those codified in the 1948 Genocide Convention and the corresponding Genocide Convention Implementation Act (18 U.S.C. § 1091) passed by the U.S. Congress in 1988.
The lawsuit situates the unfolding genocide within a history of Israeli actions against the Palestinian people - starting with the Nakba in 1948. It sets out how Defendants Biden, Blinken, and Austin have not only failed to prevent the genocide of the Palestinian people in Gaza but have helped advance the gravest of crimes by continuing to provide the Israeli government with unconditional military and diplomatic support, coordinating closely on military strategy, and undermining efforts by the international community to stop Israel’s unrelenting and unprecedented bombing campaign and total siege of Gaza.
Plaintiffs are filing this federal complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief asking the court to declare that these U.S. officials have failed to prevent genocide and are aiding and abetting genocide, and to order an end to U.S. military and diplomatic support to Israel. The lawsuit is accompanied by a preliminary injunction (PI) motion, which seeks an emergency order to prohibit any further U.S. military and diplomatic support to the Israeli government while the case is being considered.
Press Briefing: Facebook Live Video (Nov. 14)
One-pager about the lawsuit
Expert Declaration of Professor William A. Schabas in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction (legal expert on genocide)
Expert Declaration of Dr. John Cox, Dr. Victoria Sanford and Dr. Barry Trachtenberg in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for PI (genocide and Holocaust historians)
Ihsan Adel and Katherine Gallagher, Genocide in Gaza: A call to urgent global action, Al Jazeera (Nov. 12)
Jason Stanley, My life has been defined by genocide of Jewish people. I look on Gaza with concern, Guardian (Nov. 11)
Israel’s unfolding crime of genocide of the Palestinian people & U.S. failure to prevent and complicity in genocide, Law and Disorder Radio (Nov. 6)
Attorneys warn Biden's support for Israeli assault on Gaza could make him complicit in genocide, Common Dreams (Oct. 20)
Going all-in for Israel may make Biden complicit in genocide, The Intercept (Oct. 19)
UN experts sound genocide alarm over Gaza, Electronic Intifada (Oct. 19)
Additional Center for Constitutional Rights Resources
Emergency Legal Briefing Paper (PDF): Israel’s Unfolding Crime of Genocide of the Palestinian People & U.S. Failure to Prevent and Complicity in Genocide (October 2023)
(c) 2023, Center for Constitutional Rights