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US court urges Biden administration to stop supporting Israel’s ‘military siege’ in Gaza

US court urges Biden administration to stop supporting Israel’s ‘military siege’ in Gaza
People in front of the Peace Palace ahead of a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on a request from South Africa for emergency measures for Gaza, in The Hague, Netherlands, 26 January 2024. (Photo: EPA-EFE/Remko de Waal)

The federal court in California ruled — like the ICJ — that Israel is plausibly committing genocide in Gaza.

A US federal court has found that Israel is plausibly committing genocide against the Palestinians of Gaza and has urged the US to stop its “unflagging support for the military siege” in Gaza.

However Judge Jeffrey White of the federal court in Oakland California concluded that he could not order the Biden administration to stop its support of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza as that would interfere in the executive’s right to conduct foreign policy.

In its ruling on Wednesday, the court recognised that the prohibitions on genocide are fundamental and binding international law, but White said this was a “rare” instance where “the preferred outcome is inaccessible to the Court”.

He nonetheless rebuked the US government, saying that “as the ICJ has found, it is plausible that Israel’s conduct amounts to genocide” and, therefore, the “Court implores Defendants (the Biden administration) to examine the results of their unflagging support of the military siege against the Palestinians in Gaza.”

White was referring to the 26 January ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in a case brought by South Africa, that there was plausible evidence of genocide by Israel and provisionally ordering the Israeli government to prevent acts of genocide and to provide the Palestinian people with basic services and humanitarian aid, pending the court’s final determination of whether or not Israel is committing genocide.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ICJ ruling in SA’s genocide case against Israel lauded as ‘historic’ and victory for human rights

The California case was brought by the NGO Defense for Children International — Palestine which charged the Biden administration with failing in its duty to prevent, and otherwise aiding and abetting, the unfolding genocide in Gaza.

The US court based its assessment on what it called the “uncontroverted” live testimony of seven Palestinian witnesses, including one from Gaza and one from Ramallah, who testified firsthand to Israel’s killing of their nieces, cousins, aunts, uncles, elders, and members of their community, to the mass displacement of their families reminiscent of the 1948 Nakba, and to the devastating conditions of life in their homeland as the siege leads to mass starvation, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which supported the application.

It said the court had also relied on the expert opinion of genocide and Holocaust scholars “who confirmed that Israel’s military assault and totalising humanitarian destruction bears the hallmarks of a genocide based on legal and historical precedent,” the Center said.

The court wrote, “Both the uncontroverted testimony of the Plaintiffs and the expert opinion proffered at the hearing on these motions as well as statements made by various officers of the Israeli government indicate that the ongoing military siege in Gaza is intended to eradicate a whole people and therefore plausibly falls within the international prohibition against genocide.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Middle East crisis news hub

The court recognised the substantial role of the United States in furthering the genocide and noted that “as the ICJ has found, it is plausible that Israel’s conduct amounts to genocide” and, therefore, the “Court implores Defendants to examine the results of their unflagging support of the military siege against the Palestinians in Gaza.”

The court added, “It is every individual’s obligation to confront the current siege in Gaza.”

‘Unflagging US support for Israel’

Katherine Gallagher, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights who argued the genocide case before the court said, “The court affirmed that what the Palestinian population in Gaza is enduring is a campaign to eradicate a whole people — genocide — and 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.”

Diala Shamas another senior staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, said; “To be clear, this is far from a win for the US government. It is unprecedented and damning that a federal court has all but affirmed that Israel is committing a genocide while criticising defendants Biden, [Secretary of State Antony] Blinken, and [Secretary of Defence Lloyd] Austin’s ‘unflagging’ support for the acts that constitute that genocide.”

Plaintiff Waeil Elbhassi told the Center for Constitutional Rights, “My family lived through and was displaced by the first Nakba (catastrophe) in 1948, which the world has barely acknowledged.

“Yet in court on Friday, I testified to make a record of Israel’s horrific slaughter of my family, and the destruction of my homeland and Palestinian heritage, and to demand that the United States stop giving the Israeli government its total financial and diplomatic support for this ongoing genocide, a second Nakba.” DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Mahendra Dabideen says:

    About time

  • JP K says:

    I’m sure Israel and genocide apologists will be very glad to know that, notwithstanding the court finding “as the ICJ has found, (that) it is plausible that Israel’s conduct amounts to genocide”, the court also dismissed the case since it cannot rule on foreign policy.

    Apologists will also be very happy to note that despite the fact that applicant experts said nothing about hostages (thus clearly indicating their bias), the court saw through this.

    All these people crying genocide are just all biased – the UN, journalists (what’s up with that Daily Maverick!), NGO’s. What about the hostages (the Israeli ones of course)? If Hamas released the hostages today everything would go back to normal. Normal being the relative banality of living under occupation and siege (if you can call it living) run by an Apartheid state.

    • Rod H MacLeod says:

      A point of virew can be changed with words.
      An opinion can be changed with cogent argument.
      But a belief can only be changed with facts.
      There were 7 ex-Palestinian refugees giving unchallenged testimony. Nothing from the other side. What facts are you presenting that will change the belief?

      • JP K says:

        I’ve already said apologists would be very happy with the ruling. My bad, I left out the bias of the witnesses. And also the process. Ag, you know, the world really.

        Anyway, how interesting. You’re suggesting that facts change people’s beliefs. Not a new idea. Sadly research shows that it’s wrong. Indeed, so much has been written just on DM but I guess that’s just fake news, right? So are you sure you want to hear this?

        Israel is an Apartheid state – refer to the detailed reports of Amnesty International (2022), B’tselem (2021), Human Rights Watch (2021).

        As for the occupation – well, they not called the Occupied Palestinian Territories for nothing you know…

        The Israel siege of Gaza has been in place since 2007. The UN in 2015 predicted that Gaza would soon become uninhabitable and that years of blockade had shattered its ability to provide for its people ravaged its infrastructure and accelerated its de-development. Well, obviously the siege was taking too long. Did you know that’s also why Nazis ramped up their efforts? Starvation is slow.

        On Israel committing genocide, I mean there’s no automatic reason that an Apartheid occupying power would automatically ramp up to genocide. But hey there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that it’s least plausible. You might want to start with the 84 page report produced by the ICJ.

        But anyway, as I’ve already noted, apologists for genocide will be very glad with the court’s dismissal of the case – as indeed you seemingly are.

      • Peter Oosthuizen says:

        Some facts – since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 there have been a series of conflicts between Jewish and (Palestinian) Arab communities, which resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. In 2015 there were about 2,5 million refugees living in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria registered with UNRWA.

        Should they all line up to give evidence? The facts are irrefutable.

        • Francoise Phillips says:

          Well said. Never mind the bombing and massacre of an entire refugee camp of Palestinians in Lebanon. Israel has a long history of genocide and Netanyahu has many, many crimes against humanity committed by him in his long, corrupt and racist life of murder and lies.

    • Sydney Kaye says:

      Your sarcasm is misplaced.
      The Judge in California may have “recognised that the prohibitions on genocide are fundamental and binding international law”, but the ICJ is the court to which accusations of genocide are put and that court made no such finding against Israel.
      Whether Israel committed genocide or not was not before American court so evidence was not led to the contrary and consequently the judge was not in a position to make a finding.
      And calling any reader an “apologist” in advance of applying the facts to your misrepresentation is a well worn trick these doesn’t wash.

      • JP K says:

        There are those people who defend Israel, despite the ICJ ruling that there is evidence that Israel is plausibly committing genocide. These people instead want to focus on hostages (has nothing to do with the case) Hamas rapists (nothing to do with the case) ignoring the clear incitement to commit genocide by senior Israeli officials. Ignoring the death and destruction being meted out on Palestinians. Despite the occupation. Despite the apartheid. Despite illegal settlements. Despite the siege. Despite the slow strangulation of Gazans. Etc. Gosh, if only there was a word that captured that….

        Oh, I know! Apologist: “a person who writes or speaks in defence of a belief, a cause, or a person’s life.” You know. A lot like yourself because you’ve been defending Israel for a long time, haven’t you?

        It’s disinegenous to pretend that plausibly committing genocide doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be concerned. This court, we both know, did not have the juridiction to rule on foreign policy matters, as I’ve already stated – but it nevertheless agrees with the ICJ assessment that Israel is plausibly committing genocide. So no, no court has ruled on the matter, but that sounds an awful lot like people who argue that because they haven’t been found guilty of anything they can’t be judeged. The world is judging. But hey, we shouldn’t believe our lying eyes, right?

      • John P says:

        The ICJ has stated that it is plausible that Israel is committing Genocide. At this stage it cannot hand down a judgement on this as an entire process has to be followed allowing evidence to be presented by ALL interested parties. Thereafter they can hand down a judgement, if it goes against Israel what will be the response of the Netanyahu led right wing Zionists and their myriad of keyboard warriors I wonder?

        • Sydney Kaye says:

          I supposs if will bd tge same as the ANC’s which celebrated its loss by calling it a victory. If the object of assisting Hamas by means of a cease fire was not achieved it was a loss. “Plausible” is low bar. All it means is that it is not definately not genocide , which in fact is an absurd accusation

          • John P says:

            “If the object was assisting Hamas” No, the object was to try and prevent the horrors being visited upon the Palestinian people by the IDF. Hamas would undoubtably benefit but that is not what the court action was about.

            Oh, and just semantics, it was the SA government that approached the court, not the ANC as such.

            Plausible(of an argument or statement) seeming reasonable or probable.
            “a plausible explanation”

            The dictionary definition seems very different from your interpretation.

  • Dominic Rooney says:

    A Californian court – LOL.

  • The observer Logical says:

    And absolutely no reference to the murder, rape and sieging of Israeli hostages – including children , of which there are still 100 + still being held against their will. And the rockets that go from Gaza into Israel are never mentioned, and this has been happening for years. The only ‘genocide’ aspect in this war is the Palestinians (HAMMAS?) calling for the eradication of the Jews and Israel in its entirety. All Israel has ever said is that they want to eliminate HAMAS. Not the Palestinian people and therefore it is not genocide. And because the terrorists hide amongst the people THEY are putting their own people in the firing line. It seems that it’s cool to
    be pro Palestine, and support terrorism and and to be vociferously antisemitic. Sorry DM, you are dropping the ball on your portrayal of this conflict. There should be no bias on journalism (think National Party and SABC days) and unfortunately some you journalists are doing so. Such a pity that after the whole Iqbal Surve and un-independent newspapers saga, we now have this from a so called reputable publication!

    • Kenneth Arundel says:

      You should really try objectively putting yourself in both positions and come up with an opinion.
      Then once that is done we should all ask ourselves whether we are willing to put our words to action. If not………..

    • John P says:

      An incredibly one sided response not in any way addressing the published article. Are you convinced that Israel is only directing a targeted response against Hamas? Are they making every effort to rescue the hostages? This despite aerial bombing and destruction of much of Gaza?

  • Deon Jaco Jansen van Rensburg says:

    Just as one can expect from California’s woke judges!

    • John P says:

      On what basis did you decide these are “woke judges”? Possibly just because this court is based in California. Or maybe just because you disagree with their judgement?

      • Kanu Sukha says:

        ‘Woke’ and ‘terrorist/s’ are the current “in” words/terms that are flung around smugly by those who have no other argument. This enables them to ‘brand’ (tar and feather?) anybody or view which contests their myopia. Have you noticed how many glibly dispense the term ‘designated terrorist’ without even acknowledging, that ‘those countries’ represent less than 10% of the world population ? So much hubris ! If uncle Sam says boo, these proxies are obliged to repeat boo also !

        • Enver Klein says:

          Kanu, if America designates you or your organisation as terrorist/s then you are one, it doesn’t seem to matter that more than 80% of the World doesn’t think that you are. The proxies don’t just repeat “boo”, they enquire as to when they are allowed to, and how loud they have to say “boo”.

    • Johann Olivier says:

      Sigh. Your ignorant bias is showing, Mr. Jansen van Rensburg. Judge White, a federal judge, nominated by Republican POTUS George W. Bush & approved by a Republican majority Senate under the control of Mitch McConnell. So much for ‘woke’. Surprise! So, now what do you say? Maybe the judge has a point?

      • John P says:

        This post shows the difference between researching a response as opposed to just blurting out the first “cool” thing that pops into your head.

  • dexter m says:

    My main take away from this case ,was the US did not dispute merits of the case but argued for dismissal of the case on separation of powers between the judicial and executive ( political ) branch on matters as it relates to Israel in US law. The states lawyers also stated allowing the case to proceed could cause international embarrassment and undermine foreign policy decisions. Israel has a unique status in US law. For any other state with the same evidence the case would have proceeded to trial . This is ruling is actually worse for the US Govt. and US Judicial system than if the judge allowed the case to proceed and the state argued the case on its merits and won. It puts into jeopardy the credibility of past and future cases US citizens have enacted against US , Foreign govts or organisations in US Federal Courts .

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      Exactly my point Dexter it will be difficult for any Court to ignore the fact that there is actions leading to massive deaths on a specific ethnical group by the state of Israel.
      Israel was attacked by Hamas but in return assumed that all Palestinians were handing candy to Hamas including toddlers, heavily pregnant women, disabled people,mentally retarded people,the elderly,children,the terminally ill, the list can go on.
      Europe and the west took Israel at face value and offered unlimited military support.
      The two courts have given the much needed off ramp to stop this madness.
      I don’t see any civilized state will ignore the red lights.
      Fortunately the ICJ deliberated on the fundamental issues bought by Ukraine against the Russian federation, interestingly they share the view that the invasion of Ukraine was based on false accusations.
      As much as the president did urge the parties to see war as a destructive way of solving problems,the youth league acted against foreign diplomats by showings videos overseeing elections by Russia in occupied territories not declared by the UN as part of the Russian federation and in the middle of a war.
      Not sure why this diplomatic blunder was never addressed although the main driver from a faction of the ANC was expelled.
      This issue was never adequately dealt with.

  • Biff Trotters says:

    7 October was horror.
    It seems to me that for many of those commenting on any of the Gaza-related posts, the world started with a clean slate on Oct 7.
    Horror begets horror. The Zionists had the most horrifying teachers, so, as LinkedIn would say, they are highly skilled at this (horror).

  • Des Clark says:

    Ouch!!

  • Seems to me that the use of the word “Genocide” is not entirely appropriate – it is a political twisting of meaning.
    Personally, for what is happening in Gaza, I think that “Götterdämmerung” as happened to Germany in 1945 would be more accurate and appropriate and just as horrible even if it doesn’t suit some political asperations.

  • Sannie Symington says:

    SA should care for it’s own hungry people first.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      You mean engage in navel gazing ? At least we are not (yet) dependent on UNWRA for survival … like the Palestinians .. thanks to the Israelis !

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      South Africa is where it is through support and empathy from foreign states.
      There are still many unresolved issues one of them being the land issue.
      It will be unwise to focus only on domestic issues, yes two offices foreign affairs and Justice went to the ICJ.
      All the ministries dealing with domestic issues were here and it was definitely not a public holiday that all work stopped for the ICJ case.
      All courts were in session and foreign affairs matters at the ICJ were presented and deemed justified by the court.
      People who are not willing to share how south Africa ended apartheid might not have played a role and have no experience to share.
      Given our history we should never doubt to help nations facing the same issues and it doesn’t help that Israel was a big sponsor of the Apartheid regime.
      It can be said it had a much needed partner in crime.

      • Rodgers Thusi says:

        Nail in the head. The ICJ case has nothing to do with the ANC as a partisan player in South African politics. It is all about how the majority of South Africans view human rights the world over. Of course, we have our Apartheid hangover and nostalgia, it is expected. For us it really hurts to see fellow human beings being subjected to such depravity. Apartheid was horrible, but even that never descended to this level of brutality and callousness. We thank the South African government, on behalf of its people and Africans in general, for having reawakened the conscience of the world. The Palestinian people may succumb to the genocide unleashed on them by the powerful and heartless West, but this act by South Africa will be remembered as one of the greatest humanitarian acts in history.

        • L T. says:

          Pity the humanitarian acts on behalf of the Palestinians don’t extend to the millions of home- grown South Africans subjected to one of the highest murder and rape counts in the world,

          • John P says:

            Whilst you are right, it is a pity, it also has nothing to do with Rodgers’ comment

          • Vic Mash says:

            Apartheid israel is committing genocide which the Nazis committed against the jews

    • Vic Mash says:

      You are right, we need land

  • Manie Mulder says:

    Palestinians (including children) held by Israel are called prisoners; Israelis (including children) held by Hamas are called hostages.

    • John P says:

      An excellent point always ignored by the pro Netanyahu brigade. Over a thousand of those prisoners are actually held without ever having been charged or convicted. They are held in “administrative” detention for a period of up to 6 months which can be extended and repeated at the will of the security forces.
      Sound familiar?

  • Michael Tilsley says:

    How can the ANC support and introduce a NHS in South Africa, with very poor management at most Government/Provincial hospitals

    • Vic Mash says:

      The world is waking up to the genocide committing by apartheid israel, we are discussing foreign policy here, not ANC or loud mouth Malema

  • Bink Bin Oik says:

    Californian court, nogals, doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.

  • Vic Mash says:

    Even the US courts are agreeing with the South African government, a whole lot of people will be on the wrong side of history

  • Ben Harper says:

    Typical Californians – what a joke

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