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Verdicts & Settlements

Federal Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Demanding That Biden Stop Israeli “Genocide” of Gaza

— February 2, 2024

In his dismissal. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White said that the federal judiciary simply does not have the power to direct the White House in foreign policy–even if White himself sympathized with the plaintiffs’ allegations.

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that intended to force U.S. President Joe Biden into pressuring Israel to cease its bombing of Gaza.

According to NBC News, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White on Wednesday dismissed the claim, finding that he had no jurisdiction over the matter. However, in issuing his ruling, White withheld little criticism of the Biden administration’s apparent inaction, saying that Israel’s conduct in Gaza may amount to genocide.

White had, late last week, heard testimony from people whose family members have died in Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip.

Gaza, situated between Israel and Egypt on the Mediterranean coast, has a geographical area comparable to that of the city of Detroit. But it is densely-populated, with more than 2.5 million people living on 140 square miles of arid land.

Israel began bombing Gaza shortly after Hamas—the militant Islamist organization that governs the strips—led a violent incursion into Israeli territory, killing more than 1,200 civilians.

In their lawsuit, plaintiffs asked the court to order President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to “adhere to their duty to prevent, and not further, the unfolding genocide of the Palestinian people in Gaza.”

White declined to issue any form of preliminary injunction and dismissed the case.

Then-VP Joe Biden meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu in March, 2016. Photo by the U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. CC BY 2.0

Nonetheless, he reserved some criticism for the administration, opining, “There are rare cases in which the preferred outcome is inaccessible to the Court. This is one of those cases.”

In his decision, White recognized that the plaintiffs’ may be correct in alleging “that Israel’s conduct amounts to genocide,” and asked that the White “examine the results of [its] unflagging support for the military siege against the Palestinians in Gaza.”

However, White said that the federal judiciary does not appear to have any constitutionally-delegated authority to command the Biden administration to adopt or recant foreign policy positions—prerogatives that have long been the near-exclusive domain of Congress and the White House.

“The Court is bound by precedent and the division of our coordinate branches of government to abstain from exercising jurisdiction in this matter,” White wrote.

The San Francisco Chronicle notes that, in his decision, White cited the case of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American college student and International Solidarity Movement volunteer who was struck and killed by a U.S.-made Caterpillar bulldozer while trying to protect a house in Gaza from demolition.

Corrie’s family later filed a complaint against Caterpillar, claiming that the company had aided Israel in committing war crimes.

But, in its ruling on the Corrie case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit said it was compelled to dismiss the claim, for any other conclusion “would impermissible intrude upon the executive branch’s foreign policy decisions.”

In reference to the Carrie decision, White said that permitting the lawsuit against the Biden administration to proceed who require that he “implicitly question, and even condemn, United States foreign policy toward Israel.”


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