Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2888

Genocide case exposes and humiliates Israeli state

South Africa’s case last week at the International Court Of Justice powerfully revealed Israeli crimes. But how much difference will it make, asks Thomas Foster 
Issue 2888
ICJ genocide Israel

Protesters rage outside the ICJ (Picture: Internationale Socialisten Netherlands)

The genocide hearing at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) demolished Israeli excuses and shows that the Israeli state is carrying out a genocide. 

South Africa started a case at the ICJ in December against Israel for violating the 1948 Genocide Convention. 

In the court filing, South Africa places evidence of Israel’s genocidal acts as part of its long history of Palestinian oppression. 

The genocide is happening in Israel’s “75-year-long apartheid, its 56-year-long belligerent occupation of Palestinian territory and its 16-year-long blockade of Gaza,” it said. 

South Africa is demanding the ICJ, the United Nation’s (UN) highest judicial body, to order emergency measures to protect the Palestinian people against Israel’s genocide.

Measures include the suspension of Israeli military operations in Gaza and the stopping of any genocidal acts.

During the hearing, South African speakers detailed the horrors Israel is carrying out. “Hundreds of multigenerational families have been wiped out with no remaining survivors,” said South African lawyer Adila Hassim.

“The scale of child killings” has led Gaza to be “a graveyard for children”. “Israel has deliberately imposed conditions on Gaza that cannot sustain life and are calculated to bring about its physical destruction.”

Hassim notes Israeli measures intended to prevent Palestinian women from giving birth, such as the blocking of “essential medical kits for delivering babies”.

He set out Israeli crimes such as “specifically targeting Palestinians in Gaza, using weaponry that causes large scale homicidal destruction as well as targeted sniping of civilians. 

“Designating safe zones and then bombing them. Depriving Palestinians the basic needs of food, water, healthcare, fuel, sanitation and communications. 

“Destroying social infrastructure, homes, schools, mosques, churches, hospitals.”

This is a calculated pattern of genocidal intent. Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, a South African legal scholar, went over the instances where senior Israeli politicians and officials have publicly called for genocide. 

He provides examples where members of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, have repeatedly called for Palestinians to be “wiped out”, “flattened”, and “erased”.

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared, “You must remember what Amalek has done to you”, referring to the biblical figure of the Amaleks. 

The Biblical verse says, “Go attack Amalek… spare no one, but kill alike men and women, infants and sucklings.” 

In response Israeli spokesperson Eylon Levy could claim only that the South African case was “an absurd blood libel”—referring to an antisemitic conspiracy theory. 

The Israeli state is murdering Palestinians on a mass scale and denying those in Gaza access to the essentials for survival. Vast swathes of Gaza, entire towns, villages and refugee camps are being wiped off the map.

Unsurprisingly, imperialist ruling classes are backing Israel. David Cameron, British foreign secretary, said, “I don’t think [the case] is helpful. I don’t agree with it. I don’t think it is right.”

A US State Department spokesperson claimed that the US had not “at this point seen acts that constitute genocide”.

Yet, the destruction of Palestinian life in Gaza remains a clear policy of the Israeli state.


Don’t rely on the international bodies to stop Zionist slaughter

A ruling that Israel is guilty of committing a genocide in Gaza would give confidence to all those who have taken to the streets for Palestine. 

It would make it easier to argue in workplaces and in universitiesthat this is Israel’s intent. In that way what happens in the ICJ matters. But, ultimately, the hearing won’t stop the genocide. 

Created by the UN in 1945 to settle disputes between states, the ICJ cannot implement judgements itself, and it has never been able to stop the oppression of Palestinians by Israel. 

In 2004, the ICJ found that Israel’s separation barrier in the West Bank violated international law and should be dismantled. It still stands. 

In 2022, the ICJ ruled that Russia should immediately cease its invasion of Ukraine. In every circumstance, the orders were ignored.

If Israel does not comply, South Africa can approach the UN Security Council for enforcement. However, the US holds veto power on resolutions due to its status as a permanent member.

The US has vetoed 34 out of 36 UN Security Council resolutions relating to the Israel-Palestine conflict since 1945, easily protecting Israel from any punishment. 

From 2015 to 2022, the UN failed to act on any of the 140 resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly condemning Israel.

The UN was itself complicit in the founding of the Israeli settler colony and has been implicated in many instances of imperialist aggression. Imperial powers shape the international legal system to serve their interests.

This was seen last week when the UN was used as a launch pad for attacks on Houthi fighters. 

And South Africa’s rulers have their own intentions for launching the genocide case. 

The legal structures that oppressed people are supposed to rely on have actively legitimised imperial violence.

But if the case was successful, it would be a humiliating blow to Israel and its backers and would boost opposition to Zionism.

Muhannad Ayyash, a professor of sociology at a Canadian university wrote that international law is “designed to stifle, not strengthen, Palestinian resistance” and will “not deliver the desired results on the political front and lead to systematic change.”

Whatever the outcome of the case, Israel will likely ignore it. Instead, the power for change lies in the hands of the ordinary people of Palestine and the surrounding Middle East.

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