Leading genocide and Holocaust experts back request for preliminary injunction to prevent “irreparable harm” to plaintiffs; Palestinians in Gaza submit new declarations as well
November 16, 2023, San Francisco – Today, Palestinians filed an urgent motion asking a federal court to immediately stop President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken, and Secretary of Defense Austin from providing further arms, money, military support, and diplomatic support to Israel on grounds that they have a legal duty to prevent, and not further, an unfolding genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.
On Monday, the plaintiffs, represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights with the law firm of Van Der Hout, LLP, sued Biden, Blinken, and Austin for their failure to prevent genocide. Now the plaintiffs are seeking a preliminary injunction that would halt U.S. support for Israel as it carries out its assault and siege on Gaza while the broader case is being decided. It is needed, they say, to protect them from “irreparable harm.” Some of the plaintiffs face a grave risk of death as a result of Israel’s war on Gaza, which U.S. officials are aiding. Collectively, at least 116 of the plaintiffs’ family members have already been killed in Gaza by Israel since October 8th.
“Our team has had to update more than once the numbers of our clients’ relatives who have been killed as we prepared this lawsuit and motion,” said Astha Sharma Pokharel, an attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “There is no starker illustration of how urgently this injunction is needed.”
The plaintiffs in the case are the Palestinian human rights organizations Defense for Children International–Palestine and Al-Haq; the individuals Ahmed Abu Artema, Dr. Omar Al-Najjar, and Mohammed Ahmed Abu Rokbeh, who are in Gaza; and Mohammad Monadel Herzallah, Laila Elhaddad, Waeil Elbhassi, Basim Elkarra, and “A.N.”, who are U.S. citizens with family in Gaza.
Filed on their behalf by the Center for Constitutional Rights with the law firm of Van Der Hout, LLP, the motion provides extensive evidence that the acts of the Israeli government constitute an unfolding genocide, which the Genocide Convention defines as acts committed “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.” Senior Israeli officials, including the Prime Minister and Defense Minister, have made comments expressing genocidal intent, and the country’s military has relentlessly targeted civilian areas and infrastructure, used chemical weapons, and deprived Palestinians of food, water, and other necessities. Today, it is not even possible to provide current estimates of those killed in Gaza due to the “collapse of services and communications” at hospitals. The last available numbers, as of November 10, are that since October 8th, Israel has killed more than 11,078 Palestinians in Gaza, including more than 4,500 children – and displaced 1.5 million.
The declarations filed by the plaintiffs in Gaza offer a glimpse into the layers of loss that each family has endured, say their attorneys. Ahmed Abu Artema describes the heartbreaking reason his family was gathering in the first place when the airstrike that hit his father’s home killed his son, injured him and his two other children, and killed five other relatives including his 85-year-old Aunt Fatema. Abu Artema and his relatives had gathered to offer condolences to Fatema, who herself had lost four grandchildren and a son in two different strikes since October 7th.
The Palestinian human rights organization Al Haq, founded in 1979 and also a plaintiff in the case, declares this is the first time in its history that it is unable to document atrocities on the ground due to the intense and relentless nature of the hostilities.
In another declaration filed with the court, William Schabas, the world’s leading legal expert on genocide, identifies features of the Israeli government’s statements, deadly military assault, and total siege as signs of genocide and affirms the United States’ breach of its legal duty to prevent it, as required under customary international law and the Genocide Convention.
Holocaust and genocide scholars Drs. John Cox, Victoria Sanford, and Barry Trachtenberg submitted a separate declaration explaining how the actions of Israeli leadership resemble other genocides in recent history. “Our research and studies of these past genocides lead us to the conclusion that the time for legal remedies is now,” they write, “especially considering calls for a ‘second Nakba.’ by members of the Israeli Knesset.”
The Center for Constitutional Rights is counsel on the case with San Francisco attorneys Marc Van Der Hout and Johnny Sinodis of the law firm Van Der Hout, LLP. For more information and to read the documents, visit the Center for Constitutional Rights’ case page.
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.