July 15, 2024

The president of the United States and two of his cabinet members are being sued for failing to prevent and aiding and abetting “genocide” in Gaza.

A federal complaint (PDF), filed on Monday against President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, accuses them of “failure to prevent and complicity in the Israeli government’s unfolding genocide”.

New York civil liberties group the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed the suit on behalf of Palestinian human rights organisations, Palestinians in Gaza and US citizens with relatives in the besieged enclave that has faced more than a month of relentless bombardment by Israel, which receives funding and weapons from the US government.

More than 11,200 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched attacks on October 7. This followed a Hamas attack in Israel, in which about 1,200 people were killed.

“Numerous Israeli government leaders have expressed clear genocidal intentions and deployed dehumanizing characterizations of Palestinians, including ‘human animals’,” the CCR wrote in the introduction to its complaint.

It said those “statements of intent”, when combined with the “mass killing” of Palestinians, reveal “evidence of an unfolding crime of genocide”.

Numerous legal scholars, rights groups and humanitarians have also called Israel’s actions in Gaza genocide.

‘I paid for Israel to kill my cousins’

“Immediately after the launch of Israel’s unprecedented bombing campaign on Gaza, President Biden offered ‘unwavering’ support for Israel, which he and administration officials have consistently repeated and backed up with military, financial, and political support, even as mass civilian casualties escalated alongside Israeli genocidal rhetoric,” the CCR said.

The complaint noted that the US is Israel’s closest ally and strongest supporter, as well as its biggest provider of military assistance – with Israel being the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since World War II. Because of this, it said, the US could have a “deterrent effect on Israeli officials now pursuing genocidal acts against the Palestinian people”.

Instead, the group said, Biden, Blinken, and Austin “have helped advance the gravest of crimes” by continuing to provide Israel with unconditional military and diplomatic support while undermining efforts by the international community to stop Israel’s bombardment.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Astha Sharma Pokharel, a lawyer at the CCR, said: “They have a significant responsibility under customary international law, under federal law, to prevent this genocide, to stop supporting this genocide. At every step of the way, at every opportunity, they have failed. They have continued to provide cover to Israel; they have continued to provide material support to Israel; and currently, they intend to send more money and more weapons to Israel.”

Laila al-Haddad, a US citizen and one of the plaintiffs in the case, has lost five relatives in Gaza since Israel launched its attacks.

“I paid for Israel to kill my cousins and my aunt, there’s no two ways around it,” she told Al Jazeera. “It was my tax dollars that did that, that sent those bombs to Israel to kill my family. And so I feel I and all other American taxpayers have a very unique responsibility to hold our government and our elected officials responsible.”

The lawsuit also calls for an end to the $3.8bn in annual military support the US sends to Israel.

The White House has not yet responded to Al Jazeera’s requests for comment on the case.

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