Palestinian, human rights NGOs sue Biden administration over complicity with Israel's 'genocide' in Gaza

Palestinian, human rights NGOs sue Biden administration over complicity with Israel's 'genocide' in Gaza
Organised dissent against the US administration's policy of unconditional support for Israel is growing, as they face a lawsuit, an internal letter of protest, and continued demonstrations advocating for a ceasefire.
4 min read
Washington, D.C.
16 November, 2023
The Biden administration continues to face pushback over its support of Israel in its war in Gaza. [Getty]

A group of Palestinians and human rights groups are suing the Biden administration over what they say is its support of Israel's "genocide" in Gaza.

The complaint, which includes multiple plaintiffs, was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights this week in San Francisco against US President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, accusing them of complicity in genocide.

"The United States has a clear and binding obligation to prevent, not further, genocide. They have failed in meeting their legal and moral duty to use their considerable power to end this horror. They must do so," said Katherine Gallagher, a senior attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights and one of the lawyers who brought the case.

Rights experts have accused Israel of inflicting collective punishment on the people of Gaza for Hamas's 7 October surprise attack on Israel, killing around 1,200 Israelis, which Israel has responded to with the continuous bombings of Gaza, killing more than 11,000 as of mid-November.

The court document reviews casualties and damage caused by Israel's bombing of Gaza and includes research by William Schabas, a genocide expert, who describes the current US support of Israel as setting the conditions for inflicting mass harm on Palestinians.

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"I conclude that there is a serious risk of genocide committed against the Palestinian population of Gaza and that the United States of America is in breach of its obligation, under both the 1948 Genocide Convention to which it is a party as well as customary international law, to use its position of influence with the Government of Israel and to take the best measures within its power to prevent the crime taking place," Schabas wrote in a declaration for the case.

In a Zoom meeting Tuesday morning, plaintiffs for the case and Palestinians affected by the ongoing conflict expressed a sense of urgency in doing what they could to end Israel's bombing and siege of Gaza, which could lead to mass starvation and dehydration.

"We should not wait until the death counts rise for people to act. We should not have to wait until more children are buried under rubble. We should not have to wait until there's mass starvation and deaths due to dehydration and lack of medical care before people act," said Gallagher.  

"And that is why the genocide convention recognising that this is the crime of crimes to try and destroy a group puts this affirmative duty on that states that have the ability to influence perpetrators of genocide to take all measures that they can from the moment they know that there's a serious risk of genocide," she said.

Also on Tuesday, it was reported that more than 500 workers from US government agencies signed a letter to Biden opposing his support for Israel's war in Gaza. 

"We call on President Biden to urgently demand a ceasefire; and to call for de-escalation of the current conflict by securing the immediate release of the Israeli hostages and arbitrarily detained Palestinians; the restoration of water, fuel, electricity and other basic services; and the passage of adequate humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip," the letter reads, according to a report by the New York Times.

Organisers of the letter say they are continuing to gather signatures and will continue to inform the White House of updated signature counts.

On Wednesday evening, a group of around 150 interfaith protesters calling for a ceasefire in front of the Democratic National Committee were dispersed by police. 

While it's unclear if the US administration is listening to or considering the repeated calls for a ceasefire, Blinken clarified that they had gotten the message.

The Times reported that Blinken had responded to the letter from US government workers. He wrote to them, "I know that for many of you, the suffering caused by this crisis is taking a profound personal toll," he wrote, adding that he was aware that "some people in the department may disagree with approaches we are taking or have views on what we can do better."

 "We're listening: What you share is informing our policy and our messages," he added.