Doctors and journalists also file briefs as support for landmark case comes in from across the country and around the world
January 3, 2024, New York – Civil society groups from around the world submitted briefs in support of a lawsuit brought by Palestinians against President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken, and Secretary of Defense Austin for their failure to prevent – and complicity in – Israel’s genocide in Gaza. The broad global backing for the lawsuit, which a federal court in California will be hearing later this month, emerges as South Africa brings a case before the International Court of Justice charging Israel with genocide.
The plaintiffs in the California case include Palestinian human rights groups Al-Haq and Defense for Children International – Palestine, Palestinians who live in Gaza, and Palestinians in the U.S. with family who live in Gaza. Filed in November on their behalf by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Van Der Hout LLP, their suit seeks an emergency court order to halt U.S. military and diplomatic support for Israel’s assault. In its response seeking dismissal, the U.S. government does not contest that Israel is committing genocide or that it is complicit in it, but rather focuses on technical jurisdictional issues, arguing that the court cannot review its policy choices and that only Israel, an “independent actor,” is causing plaintiffs’ injuries, despite the fact that the U.S. is supplying most of the weapons, bombs, and ammunition.
Several esteemed legal experts and genocide scholars submitted declarations with the lawsuit. Now a diverse collection of human and civil and rights organizations, legal groups, bar associations, medical professionals, and journalists – notable for the breadth of both their expertise and geographic range – have provided support for the case via amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs.
One brief was submitted by four leading grassroots organizations that represent Muslim and Arab Americans: The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Arab Resource & Organizing Center, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, California, and the Arab-American Civil Rights League. Together, they collected accounts from Palestinians in the U.S. of the extensive suffering in their communities and the U.S. failure to protect even U.S. citizens in Gaza. The deaths in Gaza, says their brief, “are not numbers; they represent people with names, lives, hopes, and dreams. Many of the people killed by Israel are family and friends of community members in the United States.” The brief cites Y.E, a 27-year-old law student in Illinois: since October 7, Israel has killed 120 of her family members, including two young cousins who returned from the store to find their home destroyed by an airstrike. As they tried to dig their parents and sisters out of the rubble, another airstrike hit, killing them.
Seventy-seven legal and grassroots non-governmental organizations based across the world – from Buffalo to Bahrain, from Ireland to Indonesia – submitted a brief that says, “This case is of exceptional importance, for the gravity of the harms involved, the compelling need to prevent and protect against genocide, and for what is at stake in terms of maintaining well-established norms of international law...” The Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 50 groups that represent the interests of Black Americans, joined this brief, as did the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR). Israel bombed the home of PCHR's director, Raji Sourani, and he and his family barely escaped.
Another brief, filed by physicians and other medical professionals, documents Israel’s intentional destruction of Gaza’s health sector. It details “the ways in which the Israeli government has intentionally attacked health services and the catastrophic effect those attacks have on the possibility of Palestinian life in Gaza. Collectively, these attacks constitute acts of genocide.”
The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, a trade union representing more than 3,000 workers in the occupied territory and abroad, examines in its brief why Israel’s assault on Gaza has been so deadly for journalists: “Evidence strongly indicates that the vast majority of the journalists and media workers killed since the start of the genocide were specifically targeted for assassination by the Israeli military…At least 84 of the 95 deceased journalists were killed in ‘surgical’ or sniper Israeli attacks that targeted either their homes (or, in one case, their personal vehicle) or the area where they were reporting, filming, or otherwise covering news stories.”
A brief was also filed by Jewish Voice for Peace, which champions solidarity with the Palestinian freedom struggle from a Jewish perspective. “As a U.S.-based and Jewish organization,” it says, “we demand the Biden Administration uphold its irrefutable legal responsibility to prevent genocide. Acting in violation of the law can never be a policy choice…Biden does not have the discretion to decide to support a genocide, and we are appalled that he is doing so with our tax dollars and in our names.”
A federal court in Oakland, CA, will hear arguments on Plaintiffs’ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction and on Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss on January 26.
For more information, see the Center for Constitutional Rights case page.
The San Francisco law firm of Van Der Hout LLP is co-counsel on the case.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.