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Today, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) International Committee’s Palestine Subcommittee submitted a memorandum to the Biden administration laying out the legal basis for immediate reversal of the Trump administration’s policies on Palestine/Israel and further actions necessary to bring the United States in compliance with international law. This memo comes on the heels of an extensive Human Rights Watch report, released last week, accusing Israel of committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution. It comes also at a time when tensions in the region are high over Israel’s latest plans to confiscate and demolish dozens of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods—actions enabled in large part by the U.S.’s unconditional support for Israel.
While the Biden administration was quick to announce a change in U.S.-Palestinian policy from that pursued by the Trump administration, the first 100 days have seen only minimal steps taken toward restoring relations with the Palestinians and reinstating some critical aid. Trump’s most significant policies, implemented through declarations and executive orders, remain in force. What is more, the Biden administration has indicated an acceptance of, or an intention not to undo, some of the most egregious and consequential of Trump’s policies. The 33-page NLG memo explains, among other things, the absolute prohibition on the acquisition of territory by force and the binding obligation on all states to refrain from cooperating with or recognizing any such acquisition.
“International law is absolutely clear that Israel’s de jure annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, as well as its de facto annexation of occupied Palestinian land for the building of Jewish settlements, are illegal; and that the United States should not be doing anything to indicate tolerance or acceptance of such illegal conduct,” said one of the memo’s authors, Huwaida Arraf, a human rights attorney and co-chair of the NLG International Palestine Subcommittee. “Rescinding Trump’s recognition of Israel’s annexations should have been done on day one of the Biden administration, and although Biden has stated that he would not relocate the U.S. Embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv, this position cannot be reconciled with a stated intent to ‘respect the rule of law.’”
Other issues addressed in the NLG memo include: the restoration of aid, the status of refugees, lifting the illegal and deadly closure of Gaza, U.S.-Palestinian bilateral relations, cooperation with the International Criminal Court, the weaponization of antisemitism, and anti-boycott legislation.
The National Lawyers Guild was formed in 1937 as the first national, racially integrated bar association in the U.S. to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human, and civil rights.