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US judge urges Biden to examine support for ‘plausible genocide’ in Gaza

Despite the dismissal of a case accusing US officials of complicity in ‘genocide’ in Gaza, advocates say ruling is a victory.

A United States federal court has dismissed a case accusing President Joe Biden and other senior US officials of being complicit in Israel’s alleged genocide in Gaza.

Still, the court’s decision (PDF) urged Biden and his colleagues to examine “the results of their unflagging support” for Israel, including its human rights implications.

US District Court Judge Jeffrey White dismissed the case on procedural grounds late on Wednesday, citing the division of powers under the US Constitution. He said in his decision that “disputes over foreign policy are considered nonjusticiable political questions” and fall outside his jurisdiction.

“There are rare cases in which the preferred outcome is inaccessible to the Court. This is one of those cases. The Court is bound by precedent and the division of our coordinate branches of government to abstain from exercising jurisdiction in this matter,” he wrote.

But White added that, as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) said in a provisional ruling last month, “it is plausible that Israel’s conduct amounts to genocide.”

“This Court implores Defendants to examine the results of their unflagging support of the military siege against the Palestinians in Gaza.”

The lawsuit came as the Biden administration has faced mounting pressure to end the US’s unwavering support for Israel amid its war on Gaza, which has killed more than 27,000 Palestinians since early October.

Filed late last year by human rights groups and individual Palestinians affected by the war, the complaint accused Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin of failing to fulfil their responsibilities under international and domestic law to prevent genocide.

The US, which provides Israel with billions of dollars in military aid annually, was obligated to “exercise its clear and considerable influence on Israel”, the lawsuit argued.

It also pointed to “dehumanising” remarks by senior Israeli officials, including Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, to illustrate an intent to pursue the “erasure and destruction of Palestinians”.

While Israel has rejected the charge, international law experts have said the bombardment of Gaza and restrictions on the entry of water, food and other humanitarian supplies could amount to genocide.

The 1948 Genocide Convention, which the US ratified, states that “genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which [state parties] undertake to prevent and to punish”. It also outlines that “complicity in genocide” is a punishable act.

‘End deadly course of action’

Katherine Gallagher, senior staff lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a nonprofit involved in the case, said the judge’s ruling “affirmed that what the Palestinian population in Gaza is enduring is a campaign to eradicate a whole people — genocide”.

The decision, Gallagher said in a statement, also affirmed “that the United States’ unflagging support for Israel is enabling the killing of tens of thousands of Palestinians and the famine facing millions”.

“While we strongly disagree with the court’s ultimate jurisdictional ruling, we urge the Biden administration to heed the judge’s call to examine and end its deadly course of action. Together with our plaintiffs, we will pursue all legal avenues to stop the genocide and save Palestinian lives.”

The Biden administration, which is under widespread pressure over its staunch support for Israel, called for the lawsuit to be thrown out.

In December, government lawyers argued that the court was being asked to “intrude into areas committed to the political branches of the government and violate constitutional separation of powers”.

Despite Wednesday’s decision, the plaintiffs and their supporters said the court’s decision to hear their arguments marked an important step. A hearing was held last Friday in California, and Palestinians testified about the dire situation in Gaza.

“It is important that the court recognized the United States is providing unconditional support to Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza and that a federal court heard Palestinian voices for the first time,” Mohammed Monadel Herzallah, a Palestinian American with family in Gaza, said in the CCR statement. He was one of the plaintiffs in the case.

“But we are still devastated that the court would not take the important step to stop the Biden administration from continuing to support the slaughter of the Palestinian people,” Herzallah continued.

“Currently, my family lacks food, medicine and the most basic necessities for survival. As Palestinians, we know this is a hard struggle, and as plaintiffs, we will continue to do everything in our power to save our people’s lives.”


Al Jazeera, 2024


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