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War on Gaza: The tide is turning on Biden and Israel

A US federal judge has urged the president to reconsider the country's unconditional military support for Israel, marking the latest blow to his beleaguered administration
US President Joe Biden in Tel Aviv on 18 October 2023 (Miriam Alster/Pool/AFP)

This week, a US federal judge in California concluded it is "plausible" that Israel's military campaign against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip amounts to genocide and "implored" President Joe Biden and his top officials to consider the impacts of their "unflagging" support for Israel. 

The tide is turning. Between this ruling, the International Court of Justice's provisional measures ordering Israel to stop killing Palestinians, protesters interrupting Biden's public events to demand a ceasefire, and more American voters pledging they will not vote to re-elect him in November, pressure is mounting on the Biden administration to cut off the flow of weapons and money to Israel.

The judge in Oakland, California, heard testimony last week from Palestinian and Palestinian-American plaintiffs, who described in excruciating detail how Israeli forces had killed their loved ones, destroyed their homes and bombed the Gaza they knew beyond recognition. 

Plaintiffs asked the judge to order the Biden administration to stop sending weapons that Israel would use to kill even more of their family members. The final witness, Jewish history and Holocaust scholar Barry Trachtenberg, testified that Israel's actions against Palestinians constituted a textbook case of genocide.

Trachtenberg stated in his testimony how rare it is that government and military officials so clearly express their intent to commit genocide. 

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The judge agreed, and noted that "statements made by various officers of the Israeli government indicate that the ongoing military siege in Gaza is intended to eradicate a whole people and therefore plausibly falls within the international prohibition against genocide".

The court ultimately dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds, relying on precedent that the judicial branch cannot rule on foreign-policy decisions made by the executive branch. 

So what's next? Usually, a dismissed case is considered a loss for the plaintiffs. Not here. 

Building pressure

This case, filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of Palestinian human rights organisations Defense for Children International - Palestine and Al-Haq, alongside Palestinians in Gaza and the US, was historic from the onset. It remains a tool to build pressure on the Biden administration and hold US leaders accountable for their role in Israel's genocide. 

For too long, the US has unconditionally sent billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded weapons, warplanes and other military assistance to Israel. Americans have had enough, and so has the rest of the world. 

The US has provided Israel with about $158bn (in non-inflation-adjusted dollars) in bilateral assistance and missile-system funding since World War II, making it the largest recipient of US funding abroad.

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Palestinian families in Gaza cannot afford for the US to send one more dollar to the genocidal Israeli regime. Every dollar of unconditional military funding - every tank shell, joint direct attack munition kit and warplane - sent by the US is used to destroy Palestinian life and the ability for families to build a future.

Just after Biden fast-tracked the sale of tank shells to the Israeli military late last year, 12-year-old Dunia Abu Mohsen was killed by an Israeli tank-fired shell as she slept in her bed at Nasser Hospital in southern Gaza. Dunia was in the hospital recovering from an Israeli air strike in late October that killed her family and injured her leg so severely it had to be amputated. 

Dunia's story follows an arc that has become representative of the Palestinian child's experience in Gaza. Israeli forces displaced, bombed, orphaned, maimed and killed Dunia, all in a matter of weeks. She is one of more than 10,000 Palestinian children in Gaza killed by Israeli forces in the past four months. 

It is past time for the US to stop arming the Israeli military. The push to cut off US support for Israel is stronger than ever

If Dunia were still alive, she might have been one of the million Palestinian children in Gaza on the edge of famine. She might have eaten grass, drank dirty water and shivered at night, like many Palestinian families living in tents with nowhere else to go. If Dunia had survived, she might have grown up to become a doctor and helped Palestinian children living with lifelong disabilities, like she dreamed. 

It is too late for Dunia. Had Biden acted as soon as Israeli forces started raining bombs down on Gaza, there is no doubt in my mind that she would still be alive. She could have lived, and it is the moral failure of the Biden administration that she did not. 

The federal judge in California understood this. I sat in the courtroom and watched him listen intently to the testimony of each plaintiff, especially those who described the shame and guilt they felt as their tax dollars paid for the annihilation of their families. I believe his shock at the US-backed Israeli military brutality was genuine, leading to his strong rebuke of the Biden administration's "unflagging support".

It is past time for the US to stop arming the Israeli military. The push to cut off US support for Israel is stronger than ever, and as the judge noted: "It is every individual's obligation to confront the current siege in Gaza."

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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