US judge rebukes Biden’s “unflagging support” for war on Gaza

Protesters hold up a giant puppet of Joe Biden with the words "bombs to Israel kill kids" painted on a missile in the puppet's hand

Activists demonstrated at the federal courthouse in Oakland, California, in support of a lawsuit against the Biden administration over its complicity in Israel’s genocide in Gaza, 26 January. (Lisa Nessan)

A US federal court has officially recognized the complicity of the Biden administration in Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

In his ruling of a case brought by Palestinians in Gaza and the US, the judge acknowledged the “undisputed evidence” that Israel’s ongoing siege against Palestinians in Gaza is “intended to eradicate a whole people and therefore plausibly falls within the international prohibition against genocide.”

Plaintiffs had alleged that US President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are complicit in Israel’s genocide and have failed in their legal duty to prevent it.

On Wednesday, US District Judge Jeffrey White ultimately dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds, explaining that the court lacked power to resolve a matter of foreign policy.

But he called it a “rare” instance where “the preferred outcome is inaccessible to the court.”

“It is every individual’s obligation to confront the current siege in Gaza,” the judge wrote.

It was “a historic rebuke of Israel and the United States for its flouting of the Genocide Convention,” according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented plaintiffs from Gaza and the US along with the human rights group Al-Haq and Defense for Children International - Palestine.

“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,” said Katherine Gallagher, senior staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights.

“Together with our plaintiffs, we will pursue all legal avenues to stop the genocide and save Palestinian lives,” Gallagher said.

The lawsuit was filed in November.

The case was heard in a federal courthouse in Oakland, California, on 26 January, the same day that the International Court of Justice ruled in favor of South Africa’s case against Israel over the genocide in Gaza.

Judge White, who was appointed by then US President George W. Bush in 2002, recognized last week’s findings of the International Court of Justice that Israel’s conduct in Gaza plausibly amounts to genocide.

“This court implores defendants [the US government] to examine the results of their unflagging support of the military siege against the Palestinians in Gaza,” White wrote in his decision.

Laila El-Haddad, an author and activist, was a plaintiff in the lawsuit. She joined us on The Electronic Intifada livestream on Wednesday, before the judgment was issued, to talk about the historic testimonies by Palestinians inside the federal courtroom.
“To be clear, [the dismissal of the case] is far from a win for the US government,” explained Diala Shamas, a staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights.

“It is unprecedented and damning that a federal court has all but affirmed that Israel is committing a genocide while criticizing defendants Biden, Blinken, and Austin’s ‘unflagging’ support for the acts that constitute that genocide,” she said.




In my view, this was a bitterly disappointing decision. The judge ruled that an administration may commit crimes in and against foreign countries and enjoy blanket immunity before American courts, even though the acts complained of clearly violate U.S. domestic and international law. All that is necessary is for the government to cite the constitutional provision mandating the separation of powers among the three branches and to assert that the matter under consideration is one confined to the field of foreign policy, in which no court may interfere. In so ruling, this judge has upheld the doctrine that the President and his accomplices are in certain respects absolutely above the law. I take cold comfort from his expressions of concern over the ongoing genocide in Gaza. He had the authority as well as the duty to injunct the President, and he found a way to avoid carrying out that obligation.

I recall the words spoken by Henry Fonda in "The Ox-Bow Incident". Told by one of the leaders of a lynch mob that as a stranger he has no business interfering, the character answers, "Hanging's any man's business that's around." Judge Wright was around. He gave strong indications he was prepared to intervene. He listened carefully to the pleas of the innocent victims. Then he turned and walked away from the tree.

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).