A GROUP of South African lawyers has threatened to take legal action against the government of the United States (US) over Israel’s war with Palestinian city, Gaza on the Gaza Strip.
This was after Wikus Van Rensburg Attorneys accused the US government of aiding, abetting, supporting, and providing material assistance and means to Israel and its defence force against the people of Palestine.
They said this conduct has enabled, and continues to enable, Israel to engage in international crimes against Palestine.
This, according to the lawyers, resulted in the displacement of Palestinian people from their homes and property, the destruction of Palestinian property, and the theft of Palestinian land.
Their intentions follow Israel’s three-month war on Gaza, in which thousands of Palestinian civilians have been killed while more than 2.4 million residents have been forced out of their homes.
In a letter issued on January 2, the lawyers said without going into the historical background of the US government’s blind support for Israel – which has been seen over the past 75 years – the country had recently used purported emergency authority provisions to provide 14 000 tank shells, among others, to Israel without congressional review.
The letter was sent to US President Joe Biden, his deputy Kamala Harris, and the office of the secretary of the state.
The lawyers further said that, in particular, the US has indicated that it supposedly used the Arms Export Control Act emergency declaration for the tank rounds worth about $106.5 million (about R2 billion) for delivery to Israel early in December 2023.
They said the US government did this fully knowing that thousands of innocent Palestinians, mostly women and children, had been killed and are still being killed by the Israeli government at the hands of its armed forces.
“The tanks shells so supplied by the US government to Israel is part of a bigger sale, for which congressional approval will be sought for the larger arms package worth more than US$500m, and comprises of, amongst others, 45 000 shells for Israel’s Merkava tanks, of which tanks are regularly deployed in Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which offensive has killed thousands of civilians and which continues to kill civilians daily,” reads the letter.
The lawyers said that the US policy and international law required that weapons transferred to foreign governments, including Israel, should be used in a manner consistent with protecting civilians' lives.
“The world’s top international human rights organisations, US and United Kingdom (UK)-based Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have conducted and presented in-depth legal analysis over the past several years that have found the Israeli government is committing the crimes of apartheid and persecution as per the legal definitions in international law.”
The group said Palestine had been subjected to the worst international law crimes by the Israeli government and its armed forces, with the ongoing support of the British and US governments.
They said it was now 106 years since Palestine had been subjected to this.
The lawyers said this started with the Balfour Declaration which was issued on November 2, 1917, and resulted in a significant upheaval in the lives of Palestinians.
The Balfour Declaration was established by the UK’s then-foreign secretary Arthur Balfour, whom the British and US governments supported after consultations with former president Woodrow Wilson.
“In brief, as you know, the Balfour Declaration was literally the British government, together with the USA government, announcing its support for the establishment of a ‘national home for the Jewish people’ in Palestine, a country, like every other, having its indigenous people at the time, to the factual detriment of the Palestinian people as seen today.
“Importantly, the Balfour Declaration became the catalyst and vehicle for the Zionist aim of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine into a reality with the British and US governments’ public pledge to establish a national home for Jewish people there.
“With the benefit of time, history has shown that British and US governments have certainly used their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, being the current Jewish state of Israel, but certainly did little to nothing to ensure that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, given the historical, ongoing and current international war crimes committed by Israel and its armed forces against the innocent Palestinian people.
“Ironically, exactly 106 years later, being November 2, 2023, Palestine is being subjected to the worst international law crimes in (modern) history by the Israeli government and its armed forces, with the ongoing support of the British and US government,” said the lawyers.
The lawyers recently said on November 2, 2017, US Senators Lankford and Manchin introduced a Senate Resolution to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the Balfour Declaration despite the known hardship, death and destruction it has caused to the Palestinian people over the years.
“It is well documented that the current ongoing bombardment by Israel of Gaza, and the displacement of Palestinian people from their homes constitutes war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, to say the least. With the amount of information and evidence out in the open, it barely requires any investigation to prove these crimes.
Based on the above, the US government is hereby placed on notice of our intention to hold it liable for all the atrocities that the Palestinian people have been subjected to since 1917 and will seek various court orders in terms of our international criminal law and international law in general, seeking justice and compensation, and repatriation of the Palestinian people,” said the lawyers.