February 6, 2024
Dear Mr. President,
This is to bring to your attention two urgent requests with respect to our nation’s role in the Gaza crisis.
The first was expounded in our Jan. 15 joint letter to you: Toward a New Year & Hope for Peace in the Middle East and Beyond. By it we aim to convey the view of many who are “engaged. . . in the assessment of, or action relating to, the climate crisis.” The climate crisis, of course, is “a matter that you have properly and repeatedly deemed to be among the greatest existential risks confronting humanity.” And so, in the letter, we ask you to apply the same moral sensitivity to the currently imperiled Palestinian population in Gaza.
We noted, in the letter, that we share your revulsion and join your condemnation of the October 7, 2023 attacks by Hamas, including its murder of many hundreds of civilians and its taking of innocent hostages. Nonetheless, that “hideous set of assaults . . . provid[ed] no basis in law or fundamental justice for Israel’s subsequent relentless attack and suffocation of the Gazan civilian population. Put another way, the unconscionable and depraved action of Hamas “does not and cannot justify [the] unleashing of a humanitarian nightmare on millions of civilians.”
The second was initially propounded in an extraordinary opinion of last Wednesday by the Federal District Court of Northern California. In explaining the law at the heart of the case brought by an international children’s rights group, the Court recognized that the 1946 Genocide Convention aimed “on the one hand. . .to safeguard the very existence of certain human groups and on the other to confirm and endorse the most elementary principles of morality.”
Turning, then, to the evidence before it, including “the uncontroverted testimony” of Plaintiffs and experts, “as well as statements made by various officers of the Israeli government,” the Court determined that “the ongoing military siege in Gaza is intended to eradicate a whole people and therefore plausibly falls within the international prohibition against genocide.” Accordingly, as the Court observed, “it is every individual’s obligation to confront the current siege in Gaza.”
Still, in citing to “the primacy of the Executive in the conduct of foreign relations,” the Court refrained from issuing an injunction that would constrain your exercise of authority pursuant to Article II. Nevertheless, while recognizing that your office retains the “vast share of responsibility for the conduct of our foreign relations,” the Court implored you to “examine the results” of your administration’s to-date “unflagging support of the military siege against the Palestinians in Gaza.”
We join the Court’s urgent entreaty. In particular, we urge you to take the constitution’s predominant commitment of foreign affairs authority in your office as an additional reason to re-examine that “unflagging support.” Particularly where the bombardment and siege already “shocks the conscience of mankind.” (UN General Assembly Resolution 96 I, 11 December 1946.)
Accordingly we again urge you, with the greatest respect, “to forge a different path, even where, or, perhaps, especially when some of your present advisers cannot see their way to it.”
General Counsel and Executive Director
Climate Protection and Restoration Initiative