It was not done by a neighbouring Arab country that shares its borders, nor an Islamic country that belongs to the same religion. Rather, it was done by a country thousands of kilometres away. It was the people of South Africa who were horrified by the bloodshed in the besieged Gaza Strip; the number of children, women and the elderly who have been killed; and the devastation and destruction, all caused by the bombs and shells of the Israel occupation forces.
The political heirs of the great freedom fighter Nelson Mandela shuddered at the tragedy of the Palestinians in Gaza. The Zionist Arab governments, meanwhile, did not bat an eyelid at the massacres committed by the Zionist enemy against innocent civilians, more than 90,000 of whom have been killed or wounded.
The Republic of South Africa acted and did what the Arab countries should have done, but didn’t.
The case submitted to the International Court of Justice accused the apartheid state of Israel of the most grievous crime of all — genocide — in its ongoing military offensive against the Gaza Strip. Shamefully, no Arab or Islamic countries joined this lawsuit, even as a minimum gesture. While the outcome could take years to be reached, the court has the power to impose provisional measures to curb or stop Israel’s offensive in Gaza.
The case was built upon the fact that Israel has bombed the Palestinians in Gaza continuously for three months, killing them and occupying their land. The Palestinians have been killed in very large numbers, mainly civilians and including children, women and the elderly; there are mass graves, and entire families have been wiped out. Conditions have been imposed by Israel deliberately to make life in the Gaza Strip impossible. The occupation state has besieged 2.2 million Palestinians and blocked the entry of food, water, medicine and fuel. Hospitals, schools and civilian infrastructure have been destroyed; the people have been deprived of the facilities, medicines and treatment needed to save their lives. Amputations and other surgical procedures have taken place without anaesthetic.
Moreover, the state of Israel has told Palestinians to move to “safe areas”, and then proceeded to bomb them in those areas. In short, there is no “safe area” in Gaza. An average of 48 women and 117 children have been killed by Israel every day.
In terms of intent, senior officials and politicians have declared their intention to destroy the Gaza Strip and conduct carpet bombing. Calls for genocide, the use of nuclear weapons and displacement — “voluntary transfer” — have been made, and not condemned. Israeli soldiers take pictures of themselves celebrating the destruction of homes and even whole villages, and circulate them on social media. The people of Gaza have been humiliated in scenes reminiscent of past genocides.Israel inflicts collective punishment — a war crime — on the whole population of the Gaza Strip in its supposed “war against Hamas”. No Palestinian is innocent, according to Israeli officials.
In the midst of the onslaught and the humanitarian catastrophe, Israel has hindered the delivery of essential aid. Shots have been fired at Palestinians queueing to collect food and water.
In all of this, the occupation state has been able to act with impunity, aided and abetted by its allies in the West, especially the US, UK and EU.
According to Article 41 of The Statute of the International Court of Justice, “The Court shall have the power to indicate, if it considers that circumstances so require, any provisional measures which ought to be taken to preserve the respective rights of either party.”
Such measures that South Africa’s case aims to deliver include orders to cease all military actions carried out by the Zionist occupation army, as it is these actions that have caused the greatest number of civilian casualties over the past three months. Urgent steps must be taken to preserve the Palestinians’ right to life. Measures related to the rights of highest priority could be delayed until the final decision of the court, and South Africa has requested that the Zionist entity must be obligated to do everything to ensure that the evidence is preserved and not destroyed.
In using the court as a platform to cite the crimes committed by the occupation, with the state in attendance to defend itself, South Africa has achieved a major victory. This is the first time that Israel has stood in an international court, despite the many crimes it has committed over the past 75 years. Its Western allies were unable to prevent this case proceeding, opening up a crack in its ability to act with impunity.
This case puts international law and the ICJ on trial. As one lawyer has put it, the proceedings are “a test for the global community”. The judges are appointed by members of the UN Security Council, so it is inevitable that political considerations may sway them, rather than purely legal arguments, but we hope not. The future of a rights-based system built around international law and its application everywhere, no matter who the plaintiffs and defendants are, will depend on what the judges decide in this case. The governments of Israel’s allies will be watching and waiting, because they are also effectively on trial for complicity in the genocide. Despite the evidence — this is a genocide being carried out and seen in real time on social media — some still claim that Israel is innocent and entitled to “self-defence”, a claim that has no basis for an occupation state against the people living under its occupation.
In saying #Thank you_South_Africa, therefore, we would also like to thank the governments and people of Bolivia and Chile for supporting the case. They have acted with more integrity and decency than our own Arab governments, who should hang their heads in shame. Free Palestine!
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.