color photograph of a Palestinian man and woman crouching over a dead body wrapped in white cloth
KHAN YUNIS, GAZA - NOVEMBER 15: People mourn as they collect the bodies of Palestinians killed in Israeli raids on Nov. 15, 2023, in Khan Yunis, Gaza. (Photo by Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images)

U.S. Palestinian human rights organizations, Gaza residents, and U.S. citizens impacted by Israel’s war on Gaza filed a federal lawsuit Nov. 13 against President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin for failing to prevent Israel’s “unfolding genocide” against 2.2 million Palestinians in Gaza. 

Plaintiffs in the suit, including Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCIP) and Al-Haq,  ask the court to enjoin U.S. officials from providing further military, financial, and diplomatic support to Israel for genocide against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. The lawsuit, filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights, claims that the U.S. officials have a legal duty under the 1948 Genocide Convention and customary international law to “prevent, and not further this most serious of crimes.” 

“To be honest, it’s difficult to revisit all the scenes of the past weeks. They open a door to hell when I recall them,” said Dr. Omar Al-Najjar in a press release. The 24-year-old intern physician at Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Yunis City, Gaza, is a plaintiff in the case.

“I’ve 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,” Al-Najjar said. 

The legal filing was accompanied by a declaration from William Schabas, a leading expert on genocide, who “affirms the United States’ breach of its legal duty to prevent genocide.” Additional declarations from genocide and Holocaust scholars compare the apartheid State of Israel’s actions to other genocides in recent history.

According to the complaint, even Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that killed an estimated 1,200 Israeli civilians and soldiers and led to the kidnapping of 240 civilians cannot legally justify the genocidal actions of the Israeli government. Since Oct. 8, Israel has killed more than 11,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and displaced more than 1.5 million people. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have destroyed homes, hospitals, schools, and most of Gaza’s infrastructure, rendering life in the region impossible.

During a virtual press conference Tuesday, Palestinian-American plaintiff Basim Elkarra, spoke about the impact of Israel’s attacks and the U.S.’ aid on his family. Both of Elkarra’s parents were born in the Gaza Strip and hundreds of family members remain there.

“We’ve lost close to 65 family members, and the count goes up every day,” Elkarra said during the press conference. “There’s still folks under rubble. There’s a lot of folks we can’t even get a hold of.”

Elkarra says he spends every evening scrambling to call family members to see who he can get ahold of—often to no avail.

“It’s just the trauma that every single day we call in to see who survived the bombing of the night,” Elkarra said. “The least that we can do is to join this lawsuit by the Center for Constitutional Rights … Our taxpayer dollars are being used to fund this genocide.”

Elkarra also said it is high time that the U.S. call for a ceasefire to end the suffering.

Katherine Gallagher, a senior attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights and one of the lawyers who brought the case, said in a press release that the U.S. has a “clear and binding” obligation to prevent genocide, and thus far, it has failed to do so. 

“For the last five weeks, President Biden and Secretaries Blinken and Austin have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with an Israeli government that has made clear its intention to destroy the Palestinian population in Gaza,” Gallagher said. “As neighborhood after neighborhood, hospital after hospital, and sheltering displaced Palestinians were bombed, while subject to a total siege and closure that denies 2.2 million people basic necessities for life, they have continued to provide both military and political support for Israel’s unfolding genocidal campaign while imposing no red lines.” 

The lawsuit comes after weeks of protests across the U.S. that demand a ceasefire in Gaza. Meanwhile, President Biden is preparing to send $14 billion in military aid to Israel, funds that will likely be distributed before the Center for Constitutional Rights’ case is heard in San Francisco federal court in the coming months. 

“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 in a press release. The Palestinian-American plaintiff currently 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.”

Alexandra Martinez is the Senior News Reporter at Prism. She is a Cuban-American writer based in Miami, Florida, with an interest in immigration, the economy, gender justice, and the environment. Her work...