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Over 800 Western officials denounce their governments’ pro-Israel policies

Originally published: Countercurrents on February 3, 2024 by Countercurrents Collective (more by Countercurrents)  | (Posted Feb 06, 2024)

More than 800 civil servants from the U.S., the UK, and the European Union released a statement on Friday criticizing their governments’ support of Israel in its war in Gaza, warning that such policies could be contributing to war crimes and violations of international law.

A report by Time said,

The officials emphasized that western governments risk being complicit in “one of the worst human catastrophes of this century” by failing to hold Israel to the same international humanitarian aid and human rights standards they apply to other countries. The officials say they privately expressed concerns about Israel’s military operations to leaders of their governments and institutions but have been ignored.

“Our governments’ current policies weaken their moral standing and undermine their ability to stand up for freedom, justice and human rights globally,” the statement says.

There is a plausible risk that our governments’ policies are contributing to grave violations of international humanitarian law, war crimes and even ethnic cleansing or genocide.

The statement marks the first display of coordinated transatlantic dissent since Israel’s war against Hamas began nearly four months ago, when the Israeli military launched an air and ground operation in Gaza after Hamas fighters killed 1,300 people in southern Israel and took more than 240 hostages. More than 27,000 people in Gaza have been killed and nearly 2 million have been displaced since the war began, according to the health ministry in Gaza and the United Nations.

The signatories called on their governments to “stop asserting to the public that there is a strategic and defensible rationale behind the Israeli operation and that supporting it is in our countries’ interests.” They also urged western governments to halt military support and secure a ceasefire that will increase aid for Palestinians and ensure the release of Israeli hostages captured by Hamas.

The statement says that it was coordinated by civil servants in EU institutions, the Netherlands, and the U.S. and was endorsed by civil servants in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK. The names of the civil servants are not listed, but the effort reveals that the current pro-Israel policies have generated dissent among some who work in government.

The statement comes a week after the International Court of Justice (ICJ)—the highest court of the United Nations—ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza caused by its military campaign. Israel has denied accusations of genocide in Gaza.

The signatories to the new letter demanded that Israel comply with the ICJ order. “Our governments have provided the Israeli military operation with public, diplomatic and military support,” the statement reads. The officials said they are concerned “that this support has been given without real conditions or accountability” as western governments “have failed to call for an immediate ceasefire and an end to blockages of necessary food/water/medicine in Gaza” in light of the war’s death toll.

Lawsuit Alleging Biden Is Complicit In Palestinian Genocide

A U.S. federal court case has been filed against U.S. President Joe Biden and two U.S. cabinet officials for allegedly  being complicit in Israel’s genocide against Gazans.

Another Time report said:

The case, which names Biden, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin as defendants, was filed by Palestinian human rights groups and individuals with help from the nonprofit Center for Constitutional Rights. Defense for Children International—Palestine v. Biden seeks to stop the U.S. from supporting Israel, which plaintiffs say has cost them the lives of family members, and will be heard in Oakland, Calif.

“We have lost so many people, but there are still many more who are living, and we owe it to them to do everything possible to stop this genocide,” said Mohammad Herzallah, a plaintiff in the case who has family in Gaza.

I have done everything in my power: I have participated in protests, sit-ins, wrote letters to my representatives, civil disobedience. Now I am asking the courts to end this ongoing genocide.

Throughout the conflict, the U.S. has supported their Middle-Eastern ally, vetoing United Nations resolutions calling for an immediate ceasefire, affirming support for Israel and its right to self-defense, and providing financial and military aid to the country  since last fall.

The Biden Administration is seeking to dismiss the case. “This suit raises quintessential political questions because Plaintiffs seek to have this Court superintend the Executive Branch’s foreign policy and national security judgment and compel the government to prevent Israel from purportedly committing genocide in Gaza,” the defendants said in their motion to dismiss.

The lawsuit is unusual, experts say. “In the past, when such complaints have been filed with an American court, usually the courts tended to throw them out… because of issues of national security,” says George Washington University professor Michael Barnett.

That said, the fact that you have complaints filed in an American court brings attention to the very support that the U.S. continues to give to Israel.

 ‘What really matters is that you make noise’

On Nov. 13, Palestinians filed a lawsuit against Biden, Blinken, and Austin to prevent them from providing more “arms, money, and diplomatic support” because they allege Israel is committing genocide “against the civilian population of Gaza.”

The U.S. government previously filed a motion to dismiss, saying that plaintiffs lacked jurisdiction, the complaint presents a “nonjusticiable political question,” and that the Genocide Convention does not “create a private right of action.”

Plaintiffs include Omar Al-Najjar, Ahmed Abu Artema, and Mohammed Ahmed Abu Rokbeh—all currently in Gaza; Mohammad Monadel Herzallah, Laila Elhaddad, Waeil Elbhassi, Basim Elkarra, and “A.N.”—all U.S. citizens with family members in Gaza; and human rights groups Defense for Children International—Palestine and Al-Haq. Seventy-seven international human rights organizations, bar associations and lawyers filed an amicus brief in favor of the plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs have spoken out about the emotional toll the Israel-Hamas war has taken on them and their families. “To be honest, it is difficult to revisit all the scenes of the past weeks. They open a door to hell when I recall them,” said plaintiff Al-Najjar, a 24-year-old intern physician at Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis. “I have lost five relatives, treated too many children who are the sole survivors of their families, received the bodies of my fellow medical students and their families, and seen the hospital turn into a shelter for tens of thousands of people as we all run out of fuel, electricity, food, and water. The U.S. has to stop this genocide. Everyone in the world has to stop this.” (Khan Younis, which houses thousands of displaced citizens and health workers, has recently been under attack after Israel Defense Forces increased their military operations in southern Gaza.)

The legal grounding for the case is based in part on the 1948 Genocide Convention, which the U.S. signed along with 152 other countries. Every signatory to that treaty is obligated to not commit genocide, as well as punish and prevent genocide. Barry Trachtenberg is one of three genocide scholars who submitted a declaration in favor plaintiffs’ motion.

U.S. officials have previously denounced genocide allegations against Israel, with John Kirby, the strategic communications coordinator for the U.S. National Security Council, calling them “unfounded.”

“That is not a word that ought to be thrown around lightly. And we certainly do not believe that it applies here,” Kirby said during a Jan. 11 press briefing.

As part of its defense, the Biden Administration says Israel is a sovereign nation that controls its own operations. It claims the plaintiffs have not done enough to show that “their alleged injuries” can be traced specifically  to U.S. support of Israel. Defendants also note that the U.S. has provided aid “while complying with international humanitarian law.” One example their filing points to includes the Administration’s work to “mitigate the humanitarian crisis” in Gaza, as U.S. officials helped facilitate a seven-day pause in fighting. The Administration also cites  the political question doctrine, which limits federal courts ability to answer some questions that are best resolved by the political branches of government.

Even if the court does decide to throw out the case, it could have political effects rather than legal ones. “What really matters is that you make noise, raise the attention and volume,” Barnett says.

You get the ability to stand in court, and register your overall concerns and make your case.

Public opinion on U.S. involvement in the war has been controversial. Only 35% of adults approve of the Biden Administration’s response to the Israel-Hamas war, according to a Pew Research Center survey published in December.

“The fact that the U.S. is being charged with actual complicity in these crimes against its longtime ally and friend, Israel, is extraordinary,” Barnett adds.

I think it’s worth pausing and taking in this moment because you’re beginning to see American politicians and people in the executive wing begin to reconsider that relationship.

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