South Africa has accused Israel of breaching the UN Genocide Convention, arguing that even the deadly October 7 Hamas attack could not justify such alleged actions, as it launched a landmark case at the top UN court. However, advocacy group CAGE has hit back – saying the ICJ will not be able to “deliver justice” for Palestinians.
‘No justification’ for Israel’s ‘breaches of the convention’
Pretoria has lodged an urgent appeal at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to force Israel to “immediately suspend” its military operations in Gaza. Israel has dismissed the case as “atrocious” and “preposterous” and vowed to set out a robust defence on Friday 12 January.
Pretoria’s justice minister Ronald Lamola said on Thursday 11 January:
No armed attack on a state territory, no matter how serious… can provide justification for or defend breaches of the convention. Israel’s response to the October 7 attack has crossed this line and given rise to the breaches of the convention.
South Africa argues Israel is breaking its commitments under the UN Genocide Convention, a treaty signed in 1948 in the wake of the Holocaust.
Top lawyer for South Africa Adila Hassim said Israel’s bombing campaign aimed at the “destruction of Palestinian life” and had pushed Palestinians “to the brink of famine”:
Genocides are never declared in advance, but this court has the benefit of the past 13 weeks of evidence that shows incontrovertibly a pattern of conduct and related intention that justifies a plausible claim of genocidal acts.
The US: a rogue state supporting another rogue state
As a fellow signatory to the treaty, South Africa can take Israel to the ICJ, which rules on disputes between countries and is often described as the “World Court”.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) has long been a firm supporter of the Palestinian cause, often linking it to its own historic struggle against the white-minority government, which had cooperative relations with Israel. South Africa has acknowledged the “particular weight of responsibility” of accusing Israel of genocide. It “unequivocally” condemned the Hamas attacks that sparked off the war in Gaza.
The US is backing its ally Israel, with the State Department describing the charges as “unfounded”. Spokesman Matthew Miller said:
In fact, it is those who are violently attacking Israel who continue to openly call for the annihilation of Israel and the mass murder of Jews.
As it is an urgent procedure, the ICJ could rule in a matter of weeks. However, CAGE has been critical of the proceedings – and these UN bodies overall.
CAGE: where’s the ‘rules-based order’?
The group said in a press release that:
The ICJ is unlikely to make a decision on whether Israel is carrying out genocide for several years. This week’s hearing is only to determine whether it should make an interim order for Israel to halt its offensive and withdraw from Gaza. Even if it were to do so, the ICJ has no effective means of implementing the order save by way of a resolution from the UN Security Council.
The US has vetoed Security Council resolutions critical of Israel no less than 89 times and is unlikely to veer away from its function as Israel’s political shield…
In recent decades, we have witnessed the demise of the so called “rules based international order“ because the UN Security Council has failed to effectively intervene to prevent acts of genocide and war crimes in Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and against the Uyghurs in China.
On the contrary, the Security Council itself voted to impose genocidal sanctions on Iraq causing the deaths of approximately half a million children, a price deemed ‘worth paying’ by then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
More recently, international institutions have failed to hold senior political figures such as Dick Cheney, Tony Blair, and George Bush, the architects of these invasions, accountable, raising serious questions about their credibility. Too often they serve to uphold Western domination rather than to deliver justice.
‘Duplicity, hypocrisy, and an unlikeliness that justice will be delivered’
This duplicity and hypocrisy has already been seen at the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose current chief prosecutor, Karim Khan KC, has failed to issue a warrant for Benjamin Netanyahu’s arrest as he did with Vladimir Putin. Khan has jettisoned any credibility in 2021, he decided that the ICC would no longer be investigating alleged war crimes committed by NATO forces in Afghanistan with the focus being limited to allegations against the Taliban and IS-KP.
Overall, the group warned:
Supporters of Palestinian liberation should understand that the ICJ’s verdict on the issue of Israel’s genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza is unlikely to deliver justice. The escalating death toll reveals a global failure to hold the perpetrators and sponsors to account. What it is likely to achieve is the isolation of the Israeli state in the court of public opinion, a wider discussion on the inherently racist and violent nature of Zionism, and the acknowledgement that Palestinians have the right to resist their aggressors. If international law cannot be relied upon to protect the Palestinian people from genocide then their only option is to exercise their inalienable right to self-defence.
CAGE International calls for the re-evaluation of the current international institutions and demands transparency, accountability and impartiality from such bodies that were created to promote both international peace as well as justice. The former cannot be achieved in the absence of the latter.
Additional reporting via Agence France-Presse
Featured image via PoliticsJOE – YouTube