Today’s historic International Court of Justice ruling against Israel comes out hours before federal case is heard
January 26, 2024, Oakland, CA – A federal court heard arguments in the case Defense for Children International – Palestine v. Biden today, including extensive live testimony from Palestinian plaintiffs and a scholar of genocide and the Holocaust. Attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights, together with co-counsel from Van Der Hout LLP, asked the court to immediately order the United States to cease military support for Israel’s unfolding genocide of Palestinians in Gaza and opposed the government’s efforts to have the case dismissed. Earlier today, the International Court of Justice in The Hague issued provisional measures, finding that South Africa has made a plausible case that Israel is committing a genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza.
One plaintiff testified from Gaza, one from Ramallah, and five plaintiffs provided live testimony in court, of the death, displacement, and destruction their families and communities have faced since Israel began its campaign of retaliation for the October 7 Hamas attacks – in just one example, approximately 60 members of Ahmed Abofoul’s extended family have been killed since the complaint was filed on November 13, underscoring the need for the court to issue an immediate injunction.
“The images of our families and communities, Palestinian babies, children, women, and men from Gaza, are shaking us to our core,” said Ayman Nijim, a plaintiff in the case. “These are times of genocide, and we desperately need a U.S. court to intervene. So much hangs in the balance. Today, Palestinians spoke out in court and made a powerful case for why a preliminary injunction is necessary: we are hopeful the judge will agree with us and issue an order soon.”
The case charges President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken, and Secretary of Defense Austin with failing in their legal responsibility to prevent – and their complicity in – Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza. It seeks an emergency court order to halt U.S. support for Israel’s assault, including by enjoining the transfer of more weapons and unconditional support to the Israeli government.
“Our plaintiffs’ testimonies today demonstrate just how urgent it is for the Biden administration to finally do what they and the vast majority of the people of the world have demanded: stop sending weapons to enable Israel’s genocidal campaign against Palestinians in besieged Gaza and instead uphold its clear legal duty to end, not further, genocide,” said Katherine Gallagher, a senior attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights who argued in court today. “These are clear legal duties under U.S. and international law, and we call on the court to uphold its Constitutional role to hold President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken, and Secretary of Defense Austin to legal obligations and issue a preliminary injunction to stop the flow of weapons for Israel’s genocide.”
Additional experts submitted declarations and amicus briefs in the U.S. case, including Josh Paul, the former high-ranking State Department official who resigned to protest the U.S.’s continued transfer of arms to Israel that would be used to commit human rights abuses; the world’s leading legal expert in genocide, William Schabas; 77 human rights organizations from around the world; Arab-American organizations documenting the harm to their communities; Jewish Voice for Peace; Palestinian journalists; and medical professionals.
Dr. Barry Trachtenberg, a genocide and Holocaust scholar who submitted a declaration with other historians and also testified today, said, “Israel’s assault on Gaza has been funded by the American people, fought with U.S.-supplied weapons, and encouraged by a complicit White House,” he said. “Unlike past genocides, which were adjudicated long after they had concluded, we have an opportunity to halt this one in its tracks. Palestinians have suffered far too much and for far too long.”
Notably, in its responses, the U.S. government has not challenged the facts that Israel is committing genocide or responded to the facts setting out the way that U.S.-munitions and other forms of U.S. support have furthered the genocide, but has rather focused on technical jurisdictional issues, arguing that the court cannot review its policy choices and that it is Israel, an “independent actor,” causing the injuries, despite the U.S.’s considerable influence over Israel.
Center for Constitutional Rights attorneys argued today that the court has a constitutional duty to enforce the government’s legal obligations to prevent and not be complicit in genocide, and that it is clear, as both Israel and the U.S. have acknowledged, that Israel’s unfolding genocide could not happen without U.S. weapons and diplomatic cover.
Since the complaint was filed, Israel’s siege and assault has killed over 14,700 more Palestinians, for a total of 25,700 people, and injured over 36,250 more, for a total of 63,740. The U.S. has continued to transfer millions of dollars worth of weapons and ammunition. A previous filing in the case cites reports from early December that the United States had transferred to Israel at least 15,000 bombs, and more than 50,000 155mm artillery shells, which are inherently indiscriminate.
Co-counsel Marc Van Der Hout of Van Der Hout, LLP in San Francisco said after court, “The testimony of our clients today and that of Dr. Trachtenberg was both heart-wrenching and compelling. Defendants merely argued in response that whether or not there is an unfolding genocide by Israel in Gaza that the U.S. is assisting, no court has jurisdiction to tell the president what he can and cannot do. But as this administration itself has argued countless times, no president is above the law, and it is up to the courts to make sure the executive branch follows the law. That is what we are asking Judge White to do.”
The complaint was brought by the Palestinian human rights groups Al-Haq and Defense for Children International – Palestine; Palestinians who live in Gaza – Dr. Omar Al-Najjar, Ahmed Abu Artema, and Mohammed Abu Rokbeh; and Palestinians in the U.S. with family members who live in Gaza – Mohammad Monadel Herzallah, Laila Elhaddad, Waeil Elbhassi, Bassim Elkarra, and “A.N.” They are seeking an emergency court order to halt U.S. support for Israel’s genocidal assault.
A recording of the arguments and testimony will be available on the court’s website.
For more information, see 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. Follow the Center for Constitutional Rights on social media: Center for Constitutional Rights on Facebook, @theCCR on Twitter, and ccrjustice on Instagram.
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.