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Nicaragua's ICJ genocide case exposes Germany’s amoral stance

April 2, 2024 at 2:45 pm

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L), and the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz shake hands after a joint press conference following their meeting in Jerusalem on March 17, 2024 [LEO CORREA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]

The International Court of Justice will once again hold hearings on the Israeli genocide in Gaza on 8 and 9 April. This time, the judges in The Hague will hear arguments in Nicaragua’s case against Germany. The chickens appear to be coming home to roost for Germany, which has backed Israel wholeheartedly in its genocidal war against the Palestinians in Gaza.

“We are aware that different countries have different assessments regarding Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip,” said German officials about South Africa’s legal case against Israel at the ICJ. “However, the German government unequivocally rejects the genocide accusation against Israel in the International Court of Justice.” Germany has since expressed its desire to participate as a third party in support of Israel during the legal proceedings.

Nicaragua’s legal manoeuvre has pushed Germany from being Israel’s legal representative to being a co-defendant in the dock.

In its submission to the court, Managua has contended that Germany’s assistance to Israel and its discontinuation of funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) have facilitated the occupation state’s genocide in Gaza. It asserts that Germany has failed to fulfil its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention to take all necessary measures to prevent genocide. As such, Nicaragua has asked the ICJ to implement urgent measures requiring Berlin to cease its military support to Israel and reverse its decision to halt funding for UNRWA.

Due to the “moral debt” stemming from the “legacy of the Holocaust,” Berlin has long been among Israel’s most prominent supporters. This sees it giving political cover to Israel’s massacres and violations of international law in the occupied Palestinian territories, characterising them as “Israel’s existential struggle.” This support is apparent both within German public opinion and on the international stage.

Berlin has silenced any internal criticism against Israel for years in a manner reminiscent of “McCarthyism” under the guides of curbing alleged “anti-Semitism”. Incredibly, since the beginning of the 7 October process, the German government, with the support of pro-Israel civil society structures and mainstream media organisations, has intimidated anyone and everyone critical of its unconditional support for Israel by unleashing harsh sanctions against them.

The Muslim community in Germany has been targeted in particular. Criticisms directed at Israel’s military operations or messages of solidarity for Palestinians have been interpreted arbitrarily within the context of anti-Semitism, leading to arrests and punitive measures. The perception that Muslims residing in Germany harbour anti-Semitic sentiments has been normalised, and they have been pressured to “prove” that they are not anti-Semitic to satisfy public opinion. Proving a negative is, of course, impossible.

READ: Student wearing ‘Allah’ necklace attacked in school in Germany

Moreover, beyond domestic politics, Germany engages actively in attempts to exonerate Israel from the crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territories through its diplomacy on the international stage. Olaf Scholz was the first foreign head of government to visit Israel and convey messages of support and solidarity in the aftermath of the 7 October cross-border incursion.

“Germany stands in one place, and that is on the side of Israel,” Scholz told the German parliament. According to Israel’s Ambassador to Berlin, Ron Prosor, “Following its unwavering and unconditional support since 7 October, Germany has become Israel’s foremost ally in Europe.”

Moreover, the efforts of Scholz and other members of the cabinet to reject humanitarian ceasefire calls and shape global opinion to look upon Israel’s “plausible genocide” as “self-defence” contribute to the occupation state’s ability to commit heinous crimes against Palestinian civilians with impunity. The German chancellor basically gives Israel a green light to continue to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Germany’s backing for Israel is also evident in terms of military support. It is one of its largest arms suppliers, alongside the United States. Twenty-four per cent of the weapons and military equipment supplied to the Israeli army come from Germany. According to the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection in Berlin, arms sales to Israel amounted to €326.5 million in 2023. In the weeks following the start of Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, Berlin approved 185 additional export licences for arms to go to Israel.

Regardless of the number of civilian casualties and Israel’s destruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza, Berlin continues to provide political and military support to Tel Aviv.

It has faced growing international criticism for its blind support for the apartheid state and its hypocritical stance when it comes to condemning other countries for human rights abuses, but not Israel. Germany’s amoral position has been exposed by Nicaragua’s case at the ICJ.

In its ICJ submission, Nicaragua alleges that Germany has violated the 1948 Genocide Convention by failing to prevent genocide against the Palestinian people and by contributing to genocide through political, financial and military support to Israel’s ongoing military campaign in Gaza. In support of its argument, Nicaragua noted further that, “Germany is facilitating the commission of genocide by defunding UNRWA, which provides essential support to the [Palestinian] civilian population.”

According to the convention, every signatory nation must implement all essential steps to hinder genocide. This implies that states are not just bound to abstain from committing genocide, but are also required to employ all means necessary to prevent it. Hence, aiding or enabling genocidal activities is deemed as contravening the convention.

Given that Germany’s political backing of Israel, particularly its refusal to heed ceasefire appeals, and its supply of arms has contributed to the loss of numerous Palestinian civilian lives, Nicaragua’s indictment against Germany is built on solid legal grounds.

If the ICJ finds Berlin accountable for the genocide perpetrated by Israel, it will inevitably broaden the scope of protection provided by the Genocide Convention, as parties not directly involved in genocidal activities will also be held to account for their actions. By seeking to set this legal precedent, Nicaragua’s action will contribute to safeguarding civilians and deterring support for states engaged in genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, regardless of who or where they are.

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