New lawsuit challenges US weapons sales to Israel

An Israeli Border Police officer aims a rifle from behind a concrete block

The State Department approved the export of more than 47 million rounds of ammunition to Israel during a two-year period, a lawsuit alleges. 

Mamoun Wazwaz APA images

The US government is being sued for authorizing massive weapons deliveries to Israel.

A new lawsuit notes that the State Department approved the export of more than 47 million rounds of ammunition to Israel between 2007 and 2009. That was enough to “injure or kill every Palestinian living under occupation 10 times over,” according to the lawsuit.

Filed in a district court in Washington, DC, the complaint argues that by sending military aid and approving weapons sales to Israel, the US is violating its own legislation.

Under the Foreign Assistance Act, the US government is required to halt aid to countries that violate human rights with impunity or have used US military equipment for anything but self-defense.

“I’m not asking the court to resolve a longstanding debate,” Martin McMahon, the main attorney involved in the lawsuit, told The Electronic Intifada. “I’m asking the court to enforce the current laws.”

The lawsuit follows the Obama administration’s recent approval of a military aid program to Israel worth $38 billion over a 10-year period.

“No daylight between America and Israel”

It also follows last week’s election of Donald Trump as US president. The Republican Party platform on which Trump’s campaign was fought contains strong commitments to keep arming Israel.

Claiming that US citizens have a “strong desire for a relationship with no daylight between America and Israel,” the platform pledges to “ensure that Israel has a qualitative military edge over any and all adversaries.”

The lawsuit plaintiffs include around 30 Americans, some of whom are originally Palestinian or have Israeli citizenship.

One of the lawsuit’s objectives is to uphold the so-called Leahy law, an amendment to the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act. That law – dating from 1997 – prohibits US military aid to governments which systematically violate human rights.

Abuse perpetrated by recipients of US aid

In April this year, Patrick Leahy, the Vermont senator after whom the law is named, wrote to John Kerry, the secretary of state, urging an investigation into “possible gross human rights violations by security forces in Israel and Egypt.” Some of the abuses may have been perpetrated by recipients of US military aid, Leahy noted.

While the State Department has used the Leahy law to withhold some aid from Indonesia, Colombia and Pakistan, assistance to a number of serious human rights abusers has not been affected.

The new case is part of a series of lawsuits focused on US support for Israel which Martin McMahon is taking.

In January this year, he filed a lawsuit against the US Treasury. That lawsuit – also filed in a Washington district court – urges that the Treasury be compelled to investigate why US-based organizations that raise funds for the Israeli military and for Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank enjoy charitable status.

Although the Treasury has sought to have that case dismissed, the judge handling the lawsuit has not yet decided if it should go forward.

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The same firm, Martin McMahon and Associates, filed suit against Sheldon Adelson in March of this year, charging criminal responsibility for financing Israeli violations of international law. What is the current disposition of that case? I haven't been able to find a recent report.

Let's hope something can be accomplished through such suits. Unfortunately, U.S. courts have lately adopted a stance of denying plaintiff's standing. The fact that a number of the complainants in this case are Palestinian or Israeli may work in their favor. On the other hand, a reactionary federal judge could as easily rule that their foreign status disqualifies them from bringing suit. The bottom line is that the U.S. judiciary is most unfriendly towards opponents of Israeli policy.

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If congrsss can pass a law that woukd allow for the Saudi Arabian government to be sued for "supporting terrorism", the same should apply to the U.S. government supporting Israel'so terrorist acts.

But in reference to your comment, the U.S. Court did not deny Plantiff's standing in "Linde V. Arab Bank" ... Notbonly did the bank lose that case, but they were sanctioned and fined millions of dollars along the way for refusing to violate itso home country's banking secrecy laws.

I imagine if a case against a bank can rise to the level where it can be held accountable for its clients'alleged actions, then the U.S. government should be held accountable for its own biased and harmful actions.

The better question is whether the plaintiffs (who are thus far have only been identified as "30 Americans, some of whom are originally Palestinian or have Israeli citizenship") have standing to sue unless presumably some or any of them have either been personally injured, or know anyone who has been.

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i am a small farmer on social security with limited income. please tell me what i can do to help the cause . i am of native american descent so i know first hand what can happen when foreign forces come in and take your land and proceed to destroy it .

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is to continue to spread awareness of these issues and educate anyone that we know (as well as those we don't) about the grave abuses committed by Israel and the US for its support. If we have money to give, that's a different matter. I think giving to the Palestinians should best done through reputable Muslim Charitable Organizations, my knowledge is extremely limited in this matter...

As regards to the article, I think filing suit is the best weapons we have as U.S. citizens. Using US law against Israel and those who support them is a powerful weapon. Inshallah the suit overcomes the corrupt and intrusive machinations of the pro-Israeli legal system and wins a swift blow against the Israeli occupation, colonialism, genocide, destruction, dehumanization, violation of all human rights, etc., of the Palestinians and all others who are being oppressed by the inhumane Israeli regime.

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Regarding how to give money to help Palestinians, I can say that the Palestine Children's Relief Fund (www.pcrf.net) is an excellent organization, receiving four stars on Charity Navigator, which ranks charities in their professionalism, transparency, and efficiency.

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Charlotte Silver

Charlotte Silver's picture

Charlotte Silver is an independent journalist and regular writer for The Electronic Intifada. She is based in Oakland, California and has reported from Palestine since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @CharESilver.