“The United States — and U.S. citizens, including and up to the president — can be held responsible for their role in furthering genocide,” says a brief by experts at the Center for Constitutional Rights.
By Jake Johnson
A day before President Joe Biden delivered his primetime Oval Office address demanding more military aid for Israel, a group of expert attorneys issued a grave warning.
By continuing to arm the Israeli military as it carries out a massive assault on the Gaza Strip, the lawyers argued in an emergency briefing paper, the Biden administration is rendering itself complicit in possible genocide against Palestinians in the occupied territory.
“The United States is not only failing to uphold its obligation to prevent the commission of genocide, but there is a plausible and credible case to be made that the United States’ actions to further the Israeli military operation, closure, and campaign against the Palestinian population in Gaza rise to the level of complicity in the crime under international law,” warned experts with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a U.S.-based nonprofit.
CCR’s brief notes that “the United States—and U.S. citizens, including and up to the president—can be held responsible for their role in furthering genocide,” both under international and U.S. law.
“Israel’s invocation of self-defense for the campaign it has unleashed against the entire Palestinian population in Gaza, and the full credit the United States gives it when affirming its unconditional support, does not negate genocidal intent or serve as a justification for its crimes under international law,” the brief adds. “In the absence of accountability, we have now reached the point of genocide. All states must now — finally — act, including the United States, to end and address all of these crimes.”
The brief was released following Biden’s visit to Israel, during which he embraced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and vowed to keep backing the far-right leader’s devastating military campaign, which has killed more than 7,000 Palestinians in Gaza and left large swaths of the enclave in ruins.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that at least 30 percent of Gaza’s housing units have been destroyed or damaged by Israeli airstrikes.
CCR observed in its legal analysis that “prior to and alongside these acts of mass killings and targeting of civilian infrastructure, Israeli officials in the political and military hierarchy have made clear, unambiguous statements that reveal an intent to destroy the Palestinian population in Gaza, including by creating conditions of life calculated to bring about the population’s destruction (in whole or in part).”
Katherine Gallagher, a senior attorney with CCR, emphasized in an interview with The Intercept on that “U.S. officials can be held responsible for their failure to prevent Israel’s unfolding genocide, as well as for their complicity, by encouraging it and materially supporting it.”
“We recognize that we make serious charges in this document — but they are not unfounded,” said Gallagher. “There is a credible basis for these claims.”
The brief provides a day-by-day summary of Israeli officials’ “statements and conduct advancing genocide” since Oct. 7, when Hamas carried out a deadly attack on Israel. The brief then examines statements from U.S. officials signaling unconditional support for Israel on those same days, even as the evidence of war crimes mounted.
For example, on the same day that Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Daniel Hagari announced that the Israeli military had already dropped “hundreds of tons of bombs” on Gaza and declared that the focus of the assault was “on damage and not on accuracy,” Biden said that his administration “will make sure that Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself, and respond to this attack.”
Days later, a member of the Netanyahu government’s “war cabinet” said in an interview that Gaza “must be smaller at the end of the war.” According to a White House readout from that day, Biden “spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu to reiterate unwavering U.S. support for Israel.”
Even in the face of warnings from genocide studies scholars, human rights groups, and the United Nations that Israel is running roughshod over international law and committing crimes against humanity, Biden has requested $14 billion in additional military assistance for Israel as part of a supplemental funding package.
That sum, according to CNN, “reflects requests Biden received while traveling to the region.”
CCR attorneys stressed in their brief that the Biden administration’s pledges of military support for Israel “have been made with full knowledge of Israeli statements and Israel’s action from which genocidal intent against the Palestinian civil population can be inferred.”
“Furthermore and critically,” the brief reads, “the material assistance and pledges of assistance and encouragement have never diminished, and in fact, continued, after Israeli officials clearly stated the goal of subjecting the entire civilian population of Palestine to conditions of life intended to destroy the group in whole or in part, through the killing of Palestinians by indiscriminate bombardment, including after the death toll of children surpassed 1,000.”
“It continued after the deprivation of the most essential necessities to sustain human life reached a point where the Palestinian population was largely without food, water, electricity, and fuel, with the attendant devastating impacts on their access to medical assistance and health,” the document adds.
Jake Johnson is a staff writers at Common Dreams.