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Palestine charity takes Biden to court for 'complicity in genocide'

January 29, 2024 at 3:18 pm

A demonstrator holding a sign with President Joe Biden picture and the text reading “I Love Genocide, Ceasefire Now” as he joins in demonstration, in Washington, DC, on 13 January 2024 [Probal Rashid/LightRocket via Getty Images]

The Biden Administration was put on the dock on Friday as rights groups accused it of “complicity” in Israel’s genocidal bombing of Gaza.

Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) claims US President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin have backed Israel’s ongoing bombing campaign in Gaza in which more than 27,000 Palestinians have been killed, the vast majority children and women.

The plaintiffs are demanding the federal court declare that the US has failed to prevent genocide and is aiding and abetting genocide and to end American military and diplomatic support for Israel’s genocidal campaign in Gaza.

The hearing, which lasted more than four hours and which was held in Oakland, California, included testimonies from a doctor working in Gaza, four Palestinian-Americans who have lost family members in the relentless bombing campaign, as well as a DCIP official and an expert on the Holocaust.

The Palestinians outlined how their lives have changed since 7 October, when Israel began bombing Gaza.

“We went through multiple displacements… This is the fourth displacement for me and my family,” Dr Omar Al Najjar told the court from Gaza. He explained how he has “no direct contact” with his family and he works 24 hours a day in hospital.

“I have nothing left but my grief, a lifeless body walking. This is what Israel has done, with its supporters.”

Former Gaza resident, Ahmed Abofoul, who “survived three wars” and decided to study law as a result, said: “The Gaza that we know, no longer exists. Everything that we know no longer exists.” He said his family had lost over 60 members in the bombing, 50 in one strike. “With every phone call [my family] are not the same, we’ve lost more,” Abofoul told the court.

Asked how events on the ground in Gaza had affected her day-to-day life in the US, plaintiff Laila El-Haddad said: “It’s consumed every aspect of my life. It’s been a living nightmare, figuratively and literally.”

“My money is complicit” in what is happening, she explained, in reference to US tax money being used to support Israel. “It also makes me feel as a Palestinian Muslim, unseen, unheard, discriminated against, dehumanised, completely invisible.”

“We are witnessing an unfolding genocide, there is no doubt in my mind,” her fellow plaintiff, Wael Elbahassi, added. explaining that people have taken action by protesting, petitioning, talking to their local councils, but nothing has changed. “We are here to appeal to you, to implore you to order the government to comply with the law… to stop this.”

“The Israeli intention was clear from the beginning, to commit a genocide. From Day 1, the Israeli defence minister was clear, no food, no water, no fuel… to open a war against people in Gaza, they are ‘human animals’. The result is the number of the killings. I never witnessed in every 5 mins a child dies anywhere in the world, but in Gaza that’s what happens,” Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) General Director, Khaled Quzmar, told the court from his office in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

In Gaza, he continued, “everyone expects to be killed at any minute.”

The defence team argued that the court has no jurisdiction in a case which refers to US foreign policy and therefore there are no grounds for the hearing. However Judge Jeffrey White highlighted that it was the Supreme Court that overturned former President Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban and therefore courts can enact judgements against government policy while maintaining a separation between the judiciary and legislature.

The defence also objected to the testimony of Holocaust expert Dr Barry Trachtenberg claiming his knowledge has no relevance to the case. Trachtenberg had published an opinion in November warning that events unfolding in Gaza could lead to a genocide, he said that what he questioned before he was certain of now.

In closing, Senior Staff attorney Pam Spees, said: “The plaintiffs only need to show that there are serious questions going to the merits; the merits being that a genocide is unfolding and there’s a duty to prevent and the US is failing in that and is fact is enabling in that. We would submit that we’ve shown that there are far more than serious questions.”

“The government’s only response is to say to this court that it can’t even engage in the question.. because it touches on foreign policy.”Closing the hearing, Judge White said the case “is one of the most difficult cases legally.”

“The testimony we have heard is gut wrenching, horrific. The government needs to review what is going on to the people of Gaza, to the Palestinians.”

He added that he wished to tell all those who had testified that “you have been seen, you have been heard. I’m going to consider your testimony and consider the law.”

No details have been given as to when a verdict will be issued in the case.

Outside the court, peace activists protested and painted the streets calling for a ceasefire.