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War on Gaza: US courts must hold Biden accountable

An upcoming appeal in San Francisco will argue that the president's policies are fuelling Israel's genocide against the Palestinian people
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on an executive order limiting asylum in the East Room of the White House on 4 June, 2024 (AFP)

It is no secret that the Israeli military is carrying out genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza. 

At the human rights organisation where I work, Defense for Children International - Palestine, I’ve analysed and reported on more first-hand accounts of Palestinian child killings, injuries, arrests and torture than I can count. 

People around the world have seen for themselves the gut-wrenching images of charred Palestinian children’s bodies on social media; heard Israeli leaders spell out their intentions to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from Gaza; and from where I live in Washington, DC, witnessed the Biden administration continue to diplomatically support and send weapons to Israel with abandon.

While President Joe Biden recently said that “no one is above the law”, in response to guilty verdicts in former President Donald Trump’s hush-money trial, his administration is seemingly committed to shielding Israel from accountability at any cost - even if that means tearing apart the rules-based international order. 

Biden has so far not only refused to support the ongoing case brought by South Africa at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), but he has actively rejected the preliminary findings of the World Court determining that Israel is “plausibly” committing genocide. 

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Even more, Biden continues to undermine the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, after news emerged that he was pursuing arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant for perpetrating war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza. 

While the US court system seems to finally be holding Trump accountable for some of his litany of crimes, the courts have failed to stop Biden from furthering US complicity in the Israeli genocide of Palestinians. 

'Unflagging' support

On 10 June, an appellate court in San Francisco will have the opportunity to demonstrate that indeed no one, including the president of the United States, is above the law.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, representing plaintiffs Defense for Children International - Palestine (DCI-P), Al-Haq, Palestinians in Gaza and Palestinian Americans, will ask a panel of judges to reconsider the district court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to stop the US government from transferring more weapons to Israel during an ongoing genocide.

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The Center for Constitutional Rights brought the lawsuit against Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin in November, arguing that the Biden administration is complicit in Israel’s genocide of Palestinians by continuing to provide financial and diplomatic support, as well as weapons. 

In its response to the lawsuit, the Biden administration has maintained that the courts do not have purview over foreign policy, a legal concept known as the political question doctrine. 

In January, Palestinians and Palestinian Americans testified in a federal court in Oakland, California, about the impacts of US weapons and support to Israel on their families and loved ones in Gaza, and asked the judge to issue an emergency order to prevent the US from sending more weapons to Israel. 

If the US courts continue to green-light Biden's impunity, more Palestinian children and their families will pay the price

Just days after the ICJ issued its first provisional measures in South Africa’s case against Israel, indicating that Israel is “plausibly” committing genocide in Gaza, the US federal judge dismissed the lawsuit against the Biden administration on jurisdictional grounds, but “implored” Biden to reconsider his “unflagging” support for Israel. 

Since then, Israeli forces have killed thousands more Palestinians in Gaza; repeatedly targeted journalists, doctors and humanitarian aid workers; besieged hospitals; bombed displacement camps; starved disabled Palestinian children and newborn babies to death; blocked humanitarian aid and basic necessities from reaching people in need; and more. 

Yet still, Biden has continued expediting the transfer of US funding and weapons to Israel. Not only have US weapons, warplanes and technology been used to directly carry out much of the Israeli military’s campaign of genocide, but American taxpayers have paid for it.

Choice between life and death 

The Israeli military dropped American bombs - GBU-39 small diameter bombs, manufactured by Boeing - on a displacement camp in Rafah at the end of May, igniting the tents sheltering thousands of Palestinians. At least 45 Palestinians were killed in the attack, including women and children. 

These families were sheltering in a “safe area” after fleeing their homes elsewhere in Gaza, following evacuation orders from the Israeli military. Israeli planes bombed them anyway. 

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While Biden has acknowledged that Israeli forces have used US weapons to kill civilians, and a report by the State Department last month said “it is reasonable to assess that [US] defense articles … have been used by Israeli security forces since October 7 in instances inconsistent with its [international humanitarian law] obligations”, they have done everything possible to keep the stream of US weapons flowing to Israel.

The US courts have an opportunity in front of them: judges can choose to take a minimal step towards allowing DCI-P and the other plaintiffs to have a chance at holding the Biden administration accountable for its role in the genocide of Palestinians, or they can sit back and refuse to carry out checks on the executive branch. 

It is a choice, quite literally, between life and death. 

Israeli forces, emboldened by the so-called ironclad support of the Biden administration, have killed on average more than 60 Palestinian children every day since 7 October. That’s more than 15,000 children who won’t go back to school, or play with their friends, or hug their parents ever again. Those 15,000 children will not grow up and live in a free Palestine. 

If the US courts continue to green-light Biden’s impunity, more Palestinian children and their families will pay the price. It is a price that I, alongside many other voters in the US, are not willing to accept.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Miranda Cleland is an advocacy officer at Defense for Children International - Palestine and lives in Washington, DC, where she advocates for the human rights of Palestinian children. She holds a bachelor's with honors from American University in International Studies and Arabic language.
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