Biden administration to face allegations of genocide complicity in Gaza in US court

Case comes as pressure mounts on US President to do more to rein in Israel's military campaign in the enclave

Pro-Palestine demonstrators gather in front of the White House during a demonstration on January 13. AFP
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Leila al-Haddad, a Palestinian-American writer and activist from Gaza, says more than 100 relatives on her mother's side and eight on her father's have been killed in Israeli bombardments.

Those who managed to survive are struggling to deal with repeated displacement, severe shortages of food and water, and limited access to medical care.

“It's a living nightmare,” Ms al-Haddad, who lives in Maryland, told The National.

“This is happening on our dime as American taxpayers. So as both a Palestinian and an American with family in Gaza, I feel an urgency and an obligation to do everything I can to hold the Biden administration accountable.”

On Friday, Ms al-Haddad and a group of other Palestinian Americans whose relatives have been killed in Gaza, along with three people in the enclave and two human rights organisations, will testify in a US federal court as part of a case against the administration of President Joe Biden, which has been accused of complicity in and failure to prevent an unfolding genocide.

The Centre for Constitutional Rights filed the suit in November last year on behalf of the plaintiffs Defence for Children Palestine and Al-Haq organisation. The suit names three defendants: Mr Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin.

“We're asking the court to order the US government to stop its support to Israel militarily, diplomatically – however it deems to fit,” Diala Shamas, a senior staff lawyer at the CCR, told The National.

“Everybody is looking to what is going to force the US government to pivot towards the rule of law and to falling in line with its obligations under international law and US law.”

Friday's hearing, which will be held in the district court in Oakland, California, is set to begin hours after the International Court of Justice in The Hague is expected to decide on whether to grant emergency measures to stop the war in Gaza in a landmark genocide case brought by South Africa against Israel.

It also comes as pressure mounts on the Biden administration to do more to rein in Israel's military campaign in the Gaza Strip, which has killed more than 25,000 Palestinians – most of them civilians – since the war began.

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Mr Biden, who is running for re-election, has so far stood firmly on Israel's side. He bypassed Congress to approve emergency weapons sales to the country and has supported its stated goal of eradicating Hamas, the group that attacked Israel on October 7.

At the UN Security Council, his administration has vetoed all resolutions calling for a ceasefire.

Mr Biden's position on the Israel-Gaza war has deeply angered Palestinian Americans, many of whom voted for him in the 2020 presidential election.

Last week, Mr Biden brushed off the drop in support among Muslim and Arab Americans, suggesting there was still time to regain their trust before the vote.

DCIP, a human rights group dedicated to defending the rights of children in the occupied Palestinian territories which is named in the suit, said Friday's case is “monumental” in that it is the first time Palestinians will be testifying in US federal court on the impact of the government's policy on Israel.

“This case was filed as a proactive measure to stand up against the Biden administration's complicity in the genocide of Palestinians, zeroing in on Biden's continued military support, expedited weapon sales, and diplomatic support to the Israeli government and military,” Miranda Cleland, advocacy officer for DCIP, told The National.

“This lawsuit is one of hundreds of examples, just in the US, of how Palestinians, Palestinian Americans, and allies will not just sit back and wait for their loved ones to be annihilated.”

The Biden administration says it supports Israel's right to defend itself against Hamas and has filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing its claims intrude on the government's political role and violate the separation of powers mandated by the US Constitution.

Updated: January 26, 2024, 8:27 AM