Lawyers argue U.S. weapons to Israel case, pro-Palestine groups rally at SF federal courthouse

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner


SAN FRANCISCO – At a rally outside a federal courthouse in San Francisco on Monday, pro-Palestinian supporters demanded a stop to the war in Gaza while lawyers inside argued for judicial oversight of U.S. foreign policy related to the Israeli invasion. 

The three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit considered arguments in the case of Defense for Children International–Palestine v. Joseph R. Biden. 

Plaintiffs’ attorney Katherine Gallagher argued the court should step in to limit U.S. military aid to Israel and that U.S. courts have the power to intervene in foreign policy decisions made by the executive branch.

“This genocide has been enabled by a massive flow of lethal U.S. munitions that has continued despite the clear warning that genocide is occurring,” Gallagher said.

On long sheet of paper on the sidewalk, demonstrators painted watermelon seeds, aiming to collect 40,000 forming the words “SEEDS OF RESISTANCE”. By their count, each seed represents a Palestinian killed in the Israel-Hamas war.

In January, a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California appeared sympathetic to plaintiffs’ claims of genocide, but dismissed the case, saying the courts lack the ability to interfere in foreign policy decisions.

Plaintiffs appealed to the Ninth Circuit, but the trio of judges on Monday appeared inclined to side with the lower court’s ruling.

A lawyer for the government, Max Baldi, argued that the courts indeed lack jurisdiction and therefore only have the power to dismiss the case entirely.

“Since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7th, the United States has worked to ensure Israel’s long-term security, ameliorate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, secure the release of all hostages, prevent the conflict with Hamas from escalating into a wider regional war, and obtain a just and durable peace,” Baldi told the justices. “A court cannot second guess how the executive branch pursues these goals.”

Outside the courthouse, however, the government’s argument fell flat with those rallying to prevent what they call an on-going genocide of the Palestinian people by the Israeli military.

Speakers and attendees said they would use any avenue available to them to protest the war – boycott, street demonstrations, or legal action 

Retired San Francisco teacher Yolanda Catzalco, passed out literature with the headline “What’s Happening in Court Today.” 

She said that she doesn’t consider Hamas to be the problem, maintaining that they were willing to accept a permanent ceasefire. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused it, she said, “That shows that he wants to continue the war, because the U.S. sends a lot of military money and a lot of military equipment to Israel.”

Ukiah Smith, a student from San Francisco, cheered as an intertribal delegation took the impromptu stage. Led by Indigenous Justice, an anti-incarceration group, they drummed and sang. Morning Star Gali, the organization’s founder, declared that Indigenous Americans live through similar violations as Palestinians.

“I’m Native American,” Smith said, “Our community has experienced genocide, so I want to support Palestine that way, it resonates deeply with me.”

Laila El-Haddad, a plaintiff in the case, said that while it appears as if the justices might side with the Biden Administration, bringing the issue to court has been a critical step in pushing back against U.S. policy.

“It’s important to just go through those motions and to send a clear message that President Biden is not above the law, that we will not stand, sit idly by and stay silent when this administration has clearly been aiding and abetting and enabling a genocide,” El-Haddad said.

The Ninth Circuit justices didn’t give a timeframe for when they might make a decision in the case.


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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.