United States District Court, Northern District of California: While considering the instant matter filed by Defense for Children International-Palestine seeking preliminary injunction against Joe Biden, the President of United States of America, vis-à-vis providing significant military and financial support for Israel in the ongoing conflict in Gaza Strip; the Bench of Jeffery S. White, J.*, denied the plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction on jurisdictional grounds. The Court pointed out that 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 lie outside the Court’s limited jurisdiction. However, the Court implored the US Government to examine the results of their unflagging support of the military siege against the Palestinians in Gaza.
The Court further observed that, “There are rare cases in which the preferred outcome is inaccessible to the Court. This is one of those cases. 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 has found, it is plausible that Israel’s conduct amounts to genocide”.
Background: On 7-10-2023, Hamas attacked Israel, killing approximately 1,200 people and taking 240 citizens hostage. Since that time, Israel has mounted a military campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. During this military campaign, there have been roughly 26,000 people killed and over 63,000 wounded in Israeli attacks.
The President of United States and his Secretaries of Defense and State, as well as other senior administration officials have been engaged in diplomatic discussions in the area, in addition to providing significant military and financial support for Israel.
The plaintiffs thus filed the instant suit seeking preliminary injunction to direct the defendants to stop any further military or financial support, aid, or any form of assistance to Israel’s attacks and maintenance of a total siege on Palestinians in Gaza, in accordance with their duty under federal and customary international law and to take all measures within their power to prevent Israel’s commission of genocidal acts against the Palestinian people of Gaza.
Allegations: The plaintiffs alleged that defendants have violated their duties under Article I of the Genocide Convention by supporting Israel’s military actions following the attacks on 7-10-2023.
Plaintiffs further alleged that defendants, by providing diplomatic, financial, and military support to Israel, are complicit in Israel’s purported commission of genocide, in violation of Article III(e) of Genocide Convention and its implementing legislation, which makes genocide a federal crime.
Plaintiffs alleged that defendants have violated the duties of the United States under international law and, by its actions, is complicit in the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people in Gaza.
Court’s Assessment: The Court perused the allegations raised against the President and the counter motion of dismissal filed by defendants.
The District Court took note of the order issued by the International Court of Justice on 26-01-2024, wherein it had directed Israel to take measures to prevent commission of acts covered under the scope of Article II of Genocide Convention after finding that there is a plausibility that atrocities on Palestinian civilians happening in Gaza can come under the category of genocide.
Considering the motions, the Court took note of various provisions of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure. A motion to dismiss is proper under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) where the pleadings fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Even under the liberal pleading standard of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), states that plaintiff’s obligation to provide ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitlement to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions, and formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Furthermore, a plaintiff cannot merely allege conduct that is conceivable but must instead allege enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.
Taking note of the political aspect of the issue, the Court found that the claims alleged in the instant case raise fundamentally non-justiciable political questions. “At its core, the political question doctrine is concerned with the separation of powers between the separate branches of government, and limits jurisdiction of the courts to cases and controversies”. The Court stated that Political Question Doctrine excludes from judicial review those controversies which revolve around policy choices and value determinations constitutionally committed for resolution to the halls of Congress or the confines of the Executive Branch.
The Court pointed out that Foreign Policy is constitutionally committed to the political branches of government, and disputes over foreign policy are considered nonjusticiable political questions. The plaintiffs’ challenge to the appropriateness of providing financial and military aid to Israel, is a challenge to the manner in which the President and Executive Branch officials conduct the foreign affairs of the United States. Plaintiffs’ request to have the Court enjoin the government of the United States from providing military or financial assistance to Israel invokes matters are “intimately related to foreign policy and national security” and are “largely immune from judicial inquiry and interference”.
“Where both the Congress and the President have determined that military and economic assistance to the State of Israel is necessary,” the question of “whether foreign aid to Israel is necessary at this particular time is a ‘question uniquely demanding single-voiced statement of the Government’s views’ and is therefore inappropriate for judicial resolution”.
Thus, with the afore-stated assessment, the Court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the suit brought by Children International-Palestine.
[Children International-Palestine v. Joseph R. Biden, 23-cv-05829-JSW, decided on 31-01-2024]
*Order by Justice Jeffery S. White
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