Tomorrow the International Court of Justice will give its decision on the South African interim request for provisional measures to prevent genocide in Gaza. Many are holding their breath for something that will help. How will this go?
You can read my views on some of the arguments in play in my article for Middle East Eye. There is no comment section on MEE, so feel free to discuss that article here.
You will recall that my observation of the demeanour of the judges at the Hague left me not too hopeful. They definitely appeared very uncomfortable to be taking a case which effectively puts the actions of the entire western political establishment on trial, not just Israel. Yet it was impossible to say that South Africa had not presented a strong prima facie case of genocide, including plentiful evidence of intent, which at this stage was all South Africa needed to do.
As I reported the judges got most visibly interested by the procedural arguments that South Africa could not bring the case because it was not in a dispute with Israel at the time of filing. But I don’t think that will stand. Firstly, it doesn’t pass the commonsense test; there is no doubt there is a dispute between South Africa and Israel over whether Israel is committing genocide. While the procedural problem does not in fact arise from the text of the Genocide Convention, but merely from previous jurisprudence from the court that indicates parties should aim to achieve a resolution before going to the court.
None of that previous jurisprudence relates to genocide. In any case of alleged genocide, there is obvious urgency. If Israel’s procedural argument is accepted, then any country committing genocide would only need not to respond to correspondence on the subject and nobody could take them to court for it, until after a “reasonable period” to reply, during which the genocide could continue. What is a “reasonable period” where scores of children are being killed every day? I don’t think the court is going to fall for that one, much as they visibly gasped to be let off the hook.
Judges are of course themselves highly privileged members of the ruling elite. The extent to which that elite is bought up by the Zionist cause has never been clearer to the world. But I retain some hope still because the ICJ has a truly strong record. If tomorrow we learn it has failed, we will know the notion of international law has been finally abandoned.
Both Israel and South Africa’s legal teams will by now probably have been given, in strictest confidence, an indication of the result by the President. This is done to head off any unexpected spontaneous eventuality in court. If they haven’t yet, they will first thing tomorrow morning.
But where there are seventeen judges of different nationalities, including one South African and one Israeli, and several of them are open to influence and discussion with their national governments, you would have to be extremely foolish to believe that the decision has not already leaked out to senior official circles. Which leaves me rather heartened by the fact that South Africa’s foreign minister is flying to The Hague for the decision. That would not be done if the result is a humiliation.
Where there is humiliation is in the willingness of the Western political class to abase themselves utterly in acknowledging the plain truth of Israel crimes. On a macro scale they state it is nonsense to claim that 15,000 dead children so far might indicate a genocidal intent. On a micro scale, in the past 24 hours Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer and the spokesman for the US State Department have all refused to say, point blank, that it is a crime to shoot an unarmed civilian carrying a white flag.
I expect tomorrow will be a fudge. The court will say it will decide on the case in due course, and in the meantime Israel should be careful to take all steps to comply with international humanitarian law and to take all necessary actions to crack down on incitement to genocide. Then nothing would change.
If, however, the court does order a ceasefire on the grounds of a prima facie case for genocide, then I do think you will see a serious moderation of the actions of western politicians, including a reduction in armaments to Israel. That will of course not stop Israel.
Israel has been engaged in the genocide of the Palestinians for 75 years. All we have since October 7 is a more intensive phase again. In the year to October 7 2023, Israel killed over 350 Palestinians. Israel will continue its genocidal policies until the Apartheid State of Israel is abolished. That is the fundamental truth that the ICJ will not address tomorrow.
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