But the judge overseeing an unprecedented lawsuit from a group of Palestinian families and aid groups who accused the Biden administration of complicity in genocide ultimately dismissed the case, finding that he is restricted by precedent and separation of powers from ordering the president to stop.
“It is every individual’s obligation to confront the current siege in Gaza,” US District Judge Jeffrey S White wrote in an order on Wednesday, “but it also this Court’s obligation to remain within the metes and bounds of its jurisdictional scope.”
The judge noted that a preliminary ruling from the International Court of Justice found that Israel’s conduct in Gaza could plausibly amount to genocide, and called the Biden administration to reflect on that point.
“This Court implores Defendants to examine the results of their unflagging support of the military siege against the Palestinians in Gaza,” he added.
His decision follows last week’s historic courtroom hearing in California, where lawyers from the US Department of Justice urged the judge to dismiss the case, while several plaintiffs – including a doctor who spoke by video from a hospital in Rafah – provided gripping testimony alleging Mr Biden’s failure to prevent genocide in Gaza under obligations to international and federal law.
“There are rare cases in which the preferred outcome is inaccessible to the Court,” Judge White wrote. “This is one of those cases.”
He determined he is “bound by precedent and the division of our coordinate branches of government to abstain from exercising jurisdiction in this matter.”
The judge’s order constitutes a remarkable proposition from a federal court from Israel’s chief ally during its ongoing campaign in Gaza, where more than 25,000 people, including more than 11,000 children, have been killed since October 7 in its retaliatory bombardments after Hamas attacks in Israel killed approximately 1,200 people.
“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,” according to a statement from Center for Constitutional Rights staff attorney Katherine Gallagher, who argued the case in court last week.
“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,” she added.
The federal lawsuit against Mr Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken was filed in November by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of Dr Omar Al-Najjar and aid groups Defence for Children International – Palestine and Al-Haq, as well as plaintiffs with families in Gaza, all of whom have lost loved ones from Israel’s attacks or are among the tens of thousands who have been violently displaced.
They asked the court for an injunction that would halt any additional military aid or diplomatic support to Israel during its campaign.
The 89-page lawsuit outlines a timeline of Israel’s military campaign as well as statements from Israeli officials “evidencing an intent to destroy the Palestinian people in Gaza, including using dehumanising descriptions, which is frequently associated with genocidal and persecutory campaigns.”
President Biden’s administration “refused to use its considerable influence to call for an end to the bombing, cut off weapons deliveries, or take measures to end the siege on the Palestinian populations in Gaza,” according to plaintiffs.
The president “knowingly provided assistance with a substantial effect on the commission of Israel’s violations of international law, and specifically on the underlying acts of genocide of killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm, and inflicting conditions of life on the Palestinian population calculated to bring about its destruction,” according to the lawsuit.
It was unlikely that the case would progress, but the case is “monumental” in that it marks the first time Palestinians were able to testify in an American courthouse to the impact of US support for Israel’s actions, according to Defence for Children International – Palestine advocacy officer Miranda Cleland, whose organisation is the lead plaintiff in the case.
“So many of these atrocities are broadcast live on social media, and everyday people around the world can see for themselves what is happening,” she told The Independent last week. “Courts move slower than the people, of course, and the people have made it clear to Biden and his administration that most Americans do not support this.”
White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told The Independent during a White House press briefing last week that the administration would not comment on the lawsuit but added that “nothing’s changed about the president’s strong view that we’ve got to continue to make sure Israel has what it needs to defend itself”.