Israel’s campaign in Gaza ‘plausibly’ amounts to genocide, US court finds

A federal court in California has ruled that Israel’s military campaign in Gaza “plausibly” amounts to genocide, but dismissed a case aimed at stopping US military support for Israel as being outside the court’s jurisdiction.

“There are rare cases in which the preferred outcome is inaccessible to the court. This is one of those cases,” the US district court in the northern district of California ruled. “The court is bound by precedent and the division of our coordinate branches of government to abstain from exercising jurisdiction in this matter.

“Yet, as the ICJ [the international court of justice] has found, it is plausible that Israel’s conduct amounts to genocide,” the judge in the case, Jeffrey White, said in his ruling, in a case brought by Palestinian human rights groups and individual Palestinians against President Joe Biden, Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, and Lloyd Austin, the defence secretary.

“This court implores defendants to examine the results of their unflagging support of the military siege against the Palestinians in Gaza,” the ruling said.

The judge explained his decision that the matter lay outside the jurisdiction of his court, because the Palestinian groups were asking it to interfere with US foreign policy.

“Because any determination to challenge the decision of the executive branch of government on support of Israel is fraught with serious political questions, the claims presented by plaintiffs here lie outside the court’s limited jurisdiction,” White said.

The Palestinian groups and their lawyers said they might appeal against the dismissal of the case, but welcomed the judge’s judgment on the potential for genocide.

“While we strongly disagree with the court’s ultimate jurisdictional ruling, we urge the Biden administration to heed the judge’s call to examine and end its deadly course of action,” said Katherine Gallagher, the senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights who argued the case before the court.

In his ruling, White referred extensively the genocide case brought against Israel by South Africa in the ICJ in The Hague, which issued “provisional measures” on 26 January calling on Israel to “take all measures within its power” to prevent acts covered by the genocide convention and to ensure “with immediate effect” that its forces do not commit any of the acts covered by the convention.

Israel rejected the ICJ measures as representing a “profoundly distorted” view of the Gaza war that was “barely distinguishable” from that of Hamas.

In his Oakland hearing, White heard evidence from experts on genocide and said in his ruling “the undisputed evidence before this Court comports with the finding of the ICJ and indicates that the current treatment of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military may plausibly constitute a genocide in violation of international law”.