Your Man in the Hague (in a Good Way). 226

I attended the hearing on Thursday of South Africa’s case against Israel for genocide at the International Court of Justice. I was able to sit in the public gallery and watch all the proceedings. I was, however, handicapped in reporting by the fact that we were not allowed pens or pencils (though we were allowed paper). I asked the Head of Security at the ICJ why pens were not allowed in the public gallery. He told me, with a perfectly straight face, that they could be used as a weapon. So bereft of my deadly ballpoint, this account is less detailed and more impressionistic than I would wish to give you.

I had arrived at the Hague early Wednesday morning on 10 January, having flown in from Indonesia. This had involved four flights, to Singapore, Milan, Copenhagen and finally Schiphol. Wednesday was spent in a frantic search of the charity shops of the Hague for warm clothing, as I had only beach clothes with me apart from a friends’ old ski jacket. I called first at the ICJ to get information on how to attend Thursday morning’s session.

A young lady informed me that I had to queue outside the small arched gate in the wall. It would open at 6am and the first 15 members of the public would be admitted to the gallery. I asked where I should queue exactly. She said she doubted it was necessary, it should be fine to arrive at 6am on Thursday.

I am staying in a hotel just five minutes’ walk away, so at 10pm on Wednesday evening, with the temperature already at -4°C, I went to check if a queue had formed. Nobody was there. I returned to the hotel, but every hour went to check for a queue I should join. Nobody was there at midnight or 1am, but at 2am there were already 8 people, sat around in three very cold little groups. Everybody looked extremely cold, but everybody was friendly and talkative.

The first group, right next to the gate, consisted of three young Dutch women, who sat on a blanket and were well provided with flasks of hot coffee and boxes of baklava. The second group were three young students of international law, all of them Arabs, who had attended other cases and knew the ropes here. The third group were two young women, one Dutch and one Arab, sitting on a bench, looking cold and miserable.

We were soon all talking together and it was plain that every one of us was motivated by support for the Palestinians in their struggle against the relentless occupation. Shortly afterwards, another Arab gentleman arrived, older and authoritative, who rather incongruously had been schooled in Scotland at Gordonstoun. A tall Tunisian man kept walking back and forth making phone calls; he appeared pre-occupied and rather shy.

We had all been given similar information about the number of people who would be admitted, though some had been told 15, some 14 and some 13. Our numbers were stable at 12 for several hours. Then about 4.30am a car drew up and out jumped Varsha Gandikota-Nellutla of Progressive International. She had come as a place-keeper for Jeremy Corbyn and Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Others of her organisation arrived bit by bit. Then as 6am approached, there started a small flood of people arriving, many with Palestinian flags and wearing keffiyehs.

It really was seriously cold. After four hours my toes had gone from very painful to having no feeling, and my fingers were becoming unresponsive. As so often, from 5am the cold grew more and more invasive. Mélenchon and Corbyn had arrived at 5.30am to take their places in the queue, Mélenchon as voluble as ever, wide awake, delighted to meet everybody, and lecturing on economics and the organisation of society to anybody who would listen. As my brain had by now frozen, that did not really include me. Jeremy was equally typically Jeremy, concerned that he did not want to take anybody’s position in the queue.

Then as preparations to open the gate began on the other side, things took an unpleasant turn. Those of us who had been there all night knew our order of arrival, but we began to be swamped by latecomers pushing past and around us to get to the gate. I had to be assertive and try to marshal the queue. Activists in the crowd challenged this, suggesting that the criterion for entry should not be time of arrival, but that Palestinians should be given the places.

It all became distressing. One Palestinian lady from Sweden who was just behind 14th in the queue became deeply distressed at the idea of not being admitted, and a couple of Palestinian gentlemen who had arrived after 6am started to determinedly push past the queue. I made a little counter speech explaining that we were all here to help the Palestinians, but none of us knew each other’s stories, and the question of what use someone’s attendance would be to the Palestinian cause was as important as gratifying individual feelings of the terribly aggrieved.

The diffident Tunisian was replaced in the queue by the former Tunisian President whose place he had been keeping – a really pleasant and diffident man, but the timing did not help the situation. In the end we were admitted in groups of five and processed. One of the Dutch ladies who had been the very first to arrive gave up her place to a Palestinian. I left clutching my pass, number 9, and returned to the hotel and straight into a hot bath. The pain from my toes and fingers as they thawed was really unpleasant.

Then it was quickly back for 9am and a lot of excessive security hassle and removal of deadly wallets and pens. Then we were escorted into the public gallery.

The Palace of Peace was built by Andrew Carnegie, the extraordinarily morally complex Fifer, a vicious and incredibly successful capitalist monopolist who also wished to end all war and to improve the lives of the poor everywhere. Its fairytale appearance, with its folly of a tower perched on a tower, belies its steel frame and concrete construction, and inside it could be any grand City Chambers in Scotland, with majolica tiling and solid Armitage Shanks in the toilets. Extraordinarily, the building is still owned and managed by the Carnegie Foundation.

For a building that was built as a world court, strangely it does not appear to contain a court room. The Grand Chamber is just a large empty hall, taking up one side-wing of the building. A comparatively modern, simple and gently curved dais has been inserted across the length of the hall and held a long table and seventeen chairs for the judges, but this structure looked temporary, as if it gets taken away and the building used for weddings. The parties to the case were seated on simple stacking chairs arranged in the body of the hall beneath the dais, again looking more like a wedding than a court. Above the judges spread a mighty stained-glass window, of garish colours and rather dubious quality.

I have written of my faith in the International Court of Justice, in its history of impartial judgment and in its system of election by the UN General Assembly. The ICJ has rather unfairly been tarnished by the reputation of its much younger sister the International Criminal Court. The ICC is rightly derided as a Western tool, but that really is not true of the ICJ. On Palestine alone, it has ruled that the Israeli “wall” in the West Bank is illegal and that Israel has no right of self-defence in the territory of which it is the occupying power. It ruled that the UK must decolonise the Chagos Islands, a cause close to my own heart.

There was every reason for those of us opposing the genocide to have travelled hopefully to the Hague.

In addition to the normal fifteen judges of the court, each of the parties to the dispute – South Africa and Israel – had exercised their right to nominate an additional judge. After the judges filed in to the court, proceedings started with these two judges taking an oath of impartiality, which gave us the first Israeli lie of the case before it had even started.

The nomination of Aharon Barak as the Israeli judge on the International Court of Justice is extraordinary, given that as President of Israel’s Supreme Court he refused to implement the ICJ judgment on the illegality of the wall, stating that he knew the facts of the matter better than the ICJ.

Barak has an extremely long history of accepting all forms of repression of Palestinians by the Israeli Defence Force as legal for “national security”, and in particular has repeatedly refused to rule against the longstanding Israeli programme of demolitions of Palestinian homes as collective punishment. That reads across directly to the destruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza now.

Barak is viewed as a “liberal” in Israel in the constitutional struggle between the judiciary and executive. But that is about the ability of Netanyahu’s corruption to go unchallenged, not about Palestinian rights. By appointing his apparent opponent Barak to the ICJ, Netanyahu has exhibited typical cunning. If Barak rules against Israel, Netanyahu can claim his domestic opponents are traitors to national security. If Barak rules in favour of Israel, Netanyahu can claim Israeli liberals support the destruction of Gaza.

I expect it is the latter claim we shall be seeing.

I was seated in the public gallery, and watching the seventeen judges occupied much of my time throughout the hearing. Acres have been written about which way who will jump. There is a too-easy assumption they will be swayed by their domestic governments. That varies from judge to judge.

The President of the court, Joan Donoghue, is a US State Department, Clinton hack who has never formed an original idea in her life, and I should be astonished if she starts now. I half-expected her strings to actually be visible, emerging from holes in the hall’s magnificent deep relief-panelled wooden ceiling. But others are more puzzling.

There has been no more rabidly anti-Palestinian national elite than that of Germany. Rather than channel feelings of inherited guilt into opposition to genocide in general, they seem to have concluded that they need to promote alternative genocides to make amends. Added to which, the German judge on the ICJ, Nolte, does not come preceded by a liberal reputation. But friends in Munich tell me that Nolte has a particular interest in the law of armed conflict, and is a stickler for intellectual rigour. Their view is that his professional self-esteem will be the key factor, and that only points one way with regard to what the Israeli Defence Force has done so blatantly to the civilian population in Gaza.

On the other hand, there is a Ugandan judge on the ICJ who you might assume would align with South Africa. But Uganda, for reasons which frankly I do not fathom, joined the United States and Israel in opposing Palestine’s membership of the International Criminal Court, on the grounds Palestine is not a real state. Similarly India you might expect to support South Africa as a key member of BRICS. But India also has a Hindu Nationalist government prone to hideous Islamophobia. I haven’t found any evidence of Judge Bhandari’s domestic record on inter-communal issues.

But it has been suggested to me that in this case before the World Court now, the UN General Assembly may have shot itself in the foot in replacing a particular British judge with the Indian, an election viewed at the time as a triumph in the UN for the developing world. My point is this: that these questions are very complicated, and much of the analysis I have seen, including from some dear colleagues, has been simplistic mince.

Not only is the Great Hall of Justice not fitted out as a courtroom, for a World Court the public gallery is minuscule. Running along one side of the hall, high enough to kill you if you fell over the balcony edge, it is just two seats deep. Furthermore the fitted theatre-style seats are a hundred years old and in a state of near collapse. Your arse is eight inches off the ground and the seats now tilt so your thighs are four inches off the ground and the whole contraption is throwing you forward and over the edge. Rather than fix the seats, the Carnegie Foundation have fixed a strong cable from wall to wall above the balcony rail, acting in effect as a second rail giving six inches more protection.

With one third of the public gallery screened off to house the audio-visual projection and webcasting facility, there were just 24 available seats in the public gallery. There were us 14 from the queue and the rest were for representatives of key NGOs and UN organisations, such as Human Rights Watch and the World Health Organisation. They were allowed pens, obviously being judged respectable enough not to kill anybody with them. I may in fact have acquired a pen from one of them at some stage, purely of course to assist them. Or I may not – it is very difficult to know what counts as terrorism these days.

South Africa opened with statements from their Ambassador and their Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola, and they opened with a bang. I rather expected South Africa to start with some soft soap about how much they had condemned Hamas and sympathised with Israel over 7 October, but no. Within the first thirty seconds South Africa had launched both the word “Nakba” and the phrase “apartheid state” at Israel. We had to hang on to our collapsing seats. This was going to be something.

Minister of Justice Lamola came out with the first memorable phrase of the case. Palestinians had suffered “75 years of apartheid, 56 years of occupation, 13 years of blockade”. It was very well done. Before handing over to the legal team, the “agents” of the South African state, in terms of the Court’s statute, were framing the argument. This injustice, and history itself, did not start on October 7.

There was a second important point of framing. South Africa stressed that in order for the request for “provisional measures” to be granted, it did not need at this stage to be proven that Israel was committing genocide. It only had to be shown that actions of Israel were prima facie capable of falling as genocide within the terms of the Genocide Convention.

The legal team then led off with Dr. Adila Hassim. She outlined that Israel was in breach of the Genocide Convention Article II a), b), c) and d).

On a), killing of Palestinians, she outlined the simple facts without embellishment. 23,200 Palestinians were killed, 70% of them women and children. Over 7,000 were missing presumed dead under the rubble. Over 200 times, Israel had dropped 2,000lb bombs into the very residential areas in southern Gaza into which Palestinians had been ordered to evacuate.

60,000 people were seriously wounded. 355,000 homes had been damaged or destroyed. What could be observed was a substantial pattern of conduct indicating a genocidal intent.

Dr Hassim was notably calm and measured in her words and delivery. But on occasion when detailing atrocities, particularly against children, her voice trembled a little with emotion. The judges, who were generally fidgety (on which much more to follow), looked up and paid closer attention at that.

The next lawyer, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi (only South Africa spoke today) addressed the question of genocidal intent. He had perhaps the easiest task, because he could relate numerous instances of senior Israeli ministers, senior officials and military officers referring to Palestinians as “animals” and calling for their complete destruction and that of Gaza itself, emphasising that there are no innocent Palestinian civilians.

What Ngcukaitobi did particularly well was emphasise the effective transmission of these genocidal ideas from senior government to the troops on the ground, who quoted the same phrases and genocidal ideas in filming themselves committing and justifying atrocities. He emphasises that the Israeli government had ignored its obligation to prevent and act against incitement to genocide in both official and popular culture.

He concentrated particularly on Netanyahu’s invocation of the fate of Amalek and the demonstrable effect of that move on the opinions and actions of Israeli soldiers. Israeli ministers, he said, could not now deny the genocidal intent of their plain words. If they did not mean it, they should not have said it.

The venerable and eminent Professor John Dugard, a striking figure in his bright scarlet gown, then addressed questions of jurisdiction of the court and of the status of South Africa to bring the case – it is likely that Israel will rely heavily on technical argument to try to give the judges an escape route. Dugard pointed out the obligations of all state parties under the Genocide Convention to act to prevent Genocide, and the judgment of the court.

Dugard quoted Article VIII of the Genocide Convention and read out in full Paragraph 431 of the court’s judgment in Bosnia vs Serbia,

This obviously does not mean that the obligation to prevent genocide only comes into being when perpetration of genocide commences ; that would be absurd, since the whole point of the obligation is to prevent, or attempt to prevent, the occurrence of the act. In fact, a State’s obligation to prevent, and the corresponding duty to act, arise at the instant that the State learns of, or should normally have learned of, the existence of a serious risk that genocide will be committed. From that moment onwards, if the State has available to it means likely to have a deterrent effect on those suspected of preparing genocide, or reasonably suspected of harbouring specific intent (dolus specialis), it is under a duty to make such use of these means as the circumstances permit.

I must confess I was very gratified. Dugard’s argument was precisely the same, and quoted the exact same passages and paragraphs, as my article of 7 December explaining why the Genocide Convention should be invoked.

The judges particularly enjoyed Dugard’s points, enthusiastically rustling through documents and underlining things. Dealing with thousands of dead children was a bit difficult for them, but give them a nice jurisdictional point and they were in their element.

Next was Professor Max du Plessis, whose particularly straightforward manner and plainness of speech brought a new energy to proceedings. He said that Palestinians were asking the court to protect the most basic of their rights – they had the right to exist.

Palestinians had suffered 50 years of oppression, and Israel had for decades considered itself above and beyond the reach of the law, ignoring both ICJ judgments and security council resolutions. That context is important. Palestinian individuals have rights to exist protected as members of a group in terms of the Genocide Convention.

South Africa’s case was founded on respect for international law and was based on law and on fact. They had taken the decision not to show the court atrocity videos and photos, of which there were many thousands. Their case was of law and fact, they did not need to introduce shock and emotion and turn the court into a theatre.

This was a shrewd blow by Du Plessis. The hearings were originally scheduled for two hours each side. The South Africans had been told, very late, that was increased to three because the Israelis insist on showing their hour long October 7 atrocity video. But in fact the court’s guidelines reflect a longstanding resistance to this sort of material which must be used “sparsely”. If 23,000 people are dead it does not add intellectual force to show the bodies, and the same is true of the 1,000 dead from 7 October.

Du Plessis concluded that the destruction of Palestine’s infrastructure that supports human life, the displacement of 85% of residents into ever smaller areas where they were still bombed – all were plain examples of genocidal intent.

But undoubtedly the highlight of the entire morning was the astonishing presentation by Irish KC Blinne Ni Ghràlaigh. Her job was to demonstrate that if the Court did not order “provisional measures”, then irreparable damage would be done.

There are times when a writer must admit defeat. I cannot adequately convey to you the impression she made in that courtroom. Like the rest of the team she eschewed atrocity porn and set out the simple facts plainly but elegantly. She adopted the ploy used by all the South African team, of not using emotional language herself but quoting at length deeply emotional language from senior UN officials. Her outline of daily deaths by type was devastating.

I simply urge you to listen to her. “Each day over ten Palestinians will have one or more limbs amputated, many without anaesthetic …”

I should write more now about the court. The South African delegation sat beside their lawyers on the right of the court, the Israeli delegation on their left, each of about 40 people. The South Africans were colourful with South African flag scarves and keffiyehs draped over shoulders. There was a mixture of South Africans and Palestinians, with Deputy Foreign Minister of the Palestinian Authority Amaar Hijazi prominent, which I was glad to see.

The South African delegation was buoyant and mutually supporting, with a lot of inclusive body language and comparative animation. The Israeli delegation was the opposite of animated. It appeared severe and disdainful – it was as though the members were all under instruction to get on with some work and not particularly notice the proceedings were happening at all. They were generally youthful, and I think cocksure would be a fair description. When Blinne was speaking they seemed particularly keen to ensure everyone could see they were not listening.

You would not think from the body language it was Israel that stands accused. In fact the only people in the court whose demeanour was particularly dodgy and guilty were the judges. They absolutely looked like they really did not want to be there. They seemed deeply uncomfortable, fidgeted and fumbled papers a lot, and seldom looked directly at the lawyers speaking.

It occurred to me that the people who really did not want to be in the Court at all were the judges, because it is in fact the judges and the Court itself on trial. The fact of genocide is incontrovertible and had been plainly set out. But several of the judges are desperate to find a way to please the USA and Israel and avoid countering the current Zionist narrative, the adoption of which is necessary to keep your feet comfortably under the table of the elite.

What counts more for them, personal comfort, the urgings of NATO, future wealthy sinecures? Are they prepared to ditch any real notion of international law for those things?

That is the real question before the court. The International Court of Justice is on trial.

During Blinne’s talk, the President of the court suddenly took an intense interest in her startling red iPad, the colour of a particularly bright nail varnish. This came out several times during the hearing, and I could never put these iPad appearances together with what had just been discussed – it was not that cases or documents had just been cited to look up, for example.

The final speaker for the South African legal team was Vaughn Lowe, and he had the delicate task of countering Israel’s defence, which they have kept secret from the court until it is made. Countering arguments you have not seen yet is a tricky proposition, and for me this was the legal tour de force of the entire morning. Vaughn Lowe’s performance was outstanding.

He started by asserting that South Africa did have standing to bring the case, repeating Durand’s points about the duty of states to act to prevent genocide under the Genocide Convention. He said there was a dispute in the terms of the Convention, over whether or not genocide had occurred. South Africa had framed this dispute in a series of Diplomatic Notes Verbale sent to the Israeli government and not satisfactorily replied to.

Lowe said it was acknowledged that a series of individual incidents were being investigated by the International Criminal Court as war crimes, but the existence of other crimes did not preclude their being part of a wider genocide. Genocide was a crime which by its nature tends to come along with other war crimes committed in furtherance of the Genocide.

Finally Lowe said that genocide is never justified. It is absolute, a crime in itself. No matter how appalling the atrocities committed by Hamas against Israel or Israeli citizens, a genocidal response was not appropriate and never could be.

Vaughn Lowe stated that South Africa asked for action against Israel and not against Hamas, simply because Hamas was not a state and thus not subject to the jurisdiction of the court. But the fact that the court could not act against Hamas must not prevent it from acting against Israel to prevent the current urgent danger of genocide. Nor must the court be swayed by Israeli offers of voluntary restraint. Israel’s failure to acknowledge any wrongdoing whatsoever in its actions in “grinding Gaza into the dust” showed Israel could not be trusted in any assurances to adjust behaviour, as it believed it had done no wrong.

The session ended with the South African Ambassador reiterating the provisional measures South Africa now wished the court to impose. These are:

(1) The State of Israel shall immediately suspend its military operations in and against Gaza.

(2) The State of Israel shall ensure that any military or irregular armed units which may be directed, supported or influenced by it, as well as any organisations and persons which may be subject to its control, direction or influence, take no steps in furtherance of the military operations referred to point (1) above.

(3) The Republic of South Africa and the State of Israel shall each, in accordance with their obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, in relation to the Palestinian people, take all reasonable measures within their power to prevent genocide.

(4) The State of Israel shall, in accordance with its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, in relation to the Palestinian people as group protected by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, desist from the commission of any and all acts within the scope of Article II of the Convention, in particular:
 (a) killing members of the group;
 (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to the members of the group;
 (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; and
 (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.

(5) The State of Israel shall, pursuant to point (4)(c) above, in relation to Palestinians, desist from, and take all measures within its power including the rescinding of relevant orders, of restrictions and/or of prohibitions to prevent:
 (a) the expulsion and forced displacement from their homes;
 (b) the deprivation of:
  (i) access to adequate food and water;
  (ii) access to humanitarian assistance, including access to adequate fuel, shelter, clothes, hygiene and sanitation;
  (iii) medical supplies and assistance; and
 (c) the destruction of Palestinian life in Gaza.

(6) The State of Israel shall, in relation to Palestinians, ensure that its military, as well as any irregular armed units or individuals which may be directed, supported or otherwise influenced by it and any organizations and persons which may be subject to its control, direction or influence, do not commit any acts described in (4) and (5) above, or engage in direct and public incitement to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, attempt to commit genocide, or complicity in genocide, and insofar as they do engage therein, that steps are taken towards their punishment pursuant to Articles I, II, III and IV of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

(7) The State of Israel shall take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence related to allegations of acts within the scope of Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide; to that end, the State of Israel shall not act to deny or otherwise restrict access by fact-finding missions, international mandates and other bodies to Gaza to assist in ensuring the preservation and retention of said evidence.

(8) The State of Israel shall submit a report to the Court on all measures taken to give effect to this Order within one week, as from the date of this Order, and thereafter at such regular intervals as the Court shall order, until a final decision on the case is rendered by the Court.

(9) The State of Israel shall refrain from any action and shall ensure that no action is taken which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve it.

With that, we closed the argument. Next, Israel responds.



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226 thoughts on “Your Man in the Hague (in a Good Way).

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  • Tom Welsh

    ‘On Palestine alone, it [the ICJ] has ruled that the Israeli “wall” in the West Bank is illegal and that Israel has no right of self-defence in the territory of which it is the occupying power. It ruled that the UK must decolonise the Chagos Islands, a cause close to my own heart’.

    All of which tends to suggest that the ICJ is a hollow mockery that cannot achieve anything. It will be interesting, in a horrible sort of way, to learn how the judges get out of their obvious moral duty – but they will. Although, as Mr Murray himself admits, it won’t make the slightest practical difference what the verdict is – except for the judges’ own career and retirement plans.

    • Townsman

      All of which tends to suggest that the ICJ is a hollow mockery

      Not necessarily; the purpose of the ICJ is only to decide, and pronounce judgement on, cases which come before it.
      Enforcement of its judgments is not its job.

        • justin

          The link works fine for me, Franc. I’ve viewed it on a PC, iPad and smartphone. Don’t worry if you can’t hear anything at the beginning. They start to speak around 20 seconds in.

          You have to wait a bit longer for a mention of Craig Murray. The first one is at 26mins 18secs.

          Finkelstein: “I was just reading the account you sent me by Craig, uh … ”
          Rabbani: “Craig Murray”
          Fink: “Craig Murray and … ”
          Rabb: “Just to interrupt you because that was an excerpt from a longer piece he wrote, and this is just getting back to your prev… ”
          Fink: “I read the longer piece.”
          Rabb: “He, he was at the court, and he … and in his view the judges were very uncomfortable, and he got the impression that if there was one group of people who did not want to be there, it …”
          Fink: “… it was the judges.”
          Rabb: “It was the judges, yip.”
          Fink: “He also concurred with my own opinion that by far the most effective statement was the one by the Irish woman … Blinney? Is that how you pronounce her name?”
          Rabb: “I believe so” … etc.

          Rabb: “… and some of the leading Palestinian human rights advocates – two of whom had come from the Gaza Strip – were part of their delegation, as was I believe Jeremy Corbyn, the former UK Labour Party leader who was how, you know, … ”
          Fink: “Actually according to … ”
          Rabb: “… he was there in support of them … ”
          Fink: “I’m not sure it was a … I keep forgetting … Craig … ”
          Rabb: “Murray”
          Fink: “Yes, Murray … had, you know, something that really touched me, it really touched me, because it told you something about Jeremy Corbyn that in order to get in – because it was only 24 seats allocated for the public – you had to get there very early; you had to get there no later than 6am, and it was a very cold night; and Murray reconstructed how cold it was to the point that all of his appendages were frozen. And Jeremy Corbyn – for those of your listeners who don’t know, the former head of the British Labour Party – Jeremy Corbyn came up in the car and obviously there was contention about who was going to get in … he said, Murray wrote, Corbyn … ”
          Rabb: “Corbyn was being Corbyn.” (He laughs.)
          Fink: “Yes, he wanted to make sure he wasn’t jumping the queue ahead of anybody else, you know … ”
          Rabb: “Sounds so much like Keir Starmer.”
          Fink: “Yes.” (Both chuckle.) “Keir Starmer would have been, what? … a contingent from the SS to push to the head of the queue … ”
          Rabb: ” … and get the verdict he wants.”

          Fink: “I think it’s a tough question because, you know, the world’s a big place and you’re an international judge and a lot of these disputes that they arbitrate are so arcane. Some of the disputes they have … there’s disputes like ‘oil
          drillings in Bahrain
          ‘ case … you know, the dullest possible title cases. So can they really have a broad expertise on every area? I think the likelihood is on 99% of the cases that they arbitrate, they don’t know more – or probably as much as – the generally literate audience.
          Rabb: “And base themselves probably overwhelmingly on the documentation that’s submitted to them.”
          Fink: “even if if they read it … but also base themselves on what they read in the papers … you know, the cases in the news. Most of their cases, by the way, are not in the news. You know, Nicaragua was in the news … nuclear weapons case was in the news … but in general it’s very obscure topics like uh … what’s his name … Craig Murray … he wanted to prove the independence of the court so he said they gave a great ruling in the Chagos case. The reason they gave a great ruling
          in that is because nobody’s ever heard of it.
          Rabb: ” … also known as ‘Diego Garcia’, where the United Kingdom basically gifted these Indian Ocean Islands to the United States to establish an Air Force Base there, and expelled its entire population to Madagascar.”
          Fink: “Right, I don’t even know the details. I’m learning them from you, even though I think I read the Chagos case and I can’t even remember the details. So, so, most of the cases nobody heard of, nobody cares about. That’s why the courts have a certain amount of Independence, because in cases where nobody cares they can they have a lot more latitude. So my guess is … Listen, truth be told how many books have been written on Gaza? I can name three: Sarah Roy’s book on Gaza [Unsilencing Gaza: Reflections on Resistance], Filiu’s book on Gaza [Gaza: A History], and my good book on Gaza.
          Rabb: “Gerald … the late Gerald Butt had one too [Life at the Crossroads: History of Gaza] … he was a former BBC correspondent and … and there have been a few others. But I get your point.”
          Fink: “So the likelihood that they know anything and they … well, I mean, to give to you an example … ”

          That last extract captures what bugs me about Finkelstein sometimes. Much as I admire his command of precise details to support his opinions, like many un-tenured professors he has extreme tunnel vision. He positions himself in this interview as an expert lecturer on international law, yet he doesn’t know anything about the Chagos Islands, even when Rabbani prompts him (twice) with ‘Diego Garcia’. He thinks the case is too obscure to warrant any concern. Although he may have vaguely heard of it – maybe from that writer whose name he can’t remember for more than 10 seconds – but hey, what’s the big deal? Get over it already. (And those oil drilling rights in Bahrain … who even cares!?) He’s just finished reading Craig’s reports on the ICJ hearing but needed continual prompting from Rabbani to recall the name. His microscopic reading on Gaza is so narrowly focused – he can only recall 3 books about it (including his own!) – that he seems unaware Craig Murray has written anything else about it. Prof Finkle… (Fenkle… Fynkelshtine?) … is so narrowly focused on the facts on his desk that he doesn’t glance outside of his own tunnel and assumes everybody else must be the same. He obviously doesn’t keep abreast of world affairs via the alternative news media. (I mean only weirdos and freaks do that, right?)

    • Stevie Boy

      Just to be clear, the UK didn’t just ‘back’ the Saudi destruction of Yemen, they were actively and explicitely involved in Saudi military operations. From Special Forces on the ground, weekly munitions replenishment flights from the UK to Yemen and UK Military staff in the operations room providing guidance and targeting information to Saudi forces. The UK has blood on its hands, lots of it, yet again. Now they do exactly the same for Israel.

  • Chima from Sharp Focus on Africa

    [ MOD: Caught in spam-filter, timestamp updated ]

    With regards to the Ugandan judge, he is likely to rule by his conscience because Uganda as a national-state has no strong views one way or another on the Israeli-Palestine matter. This idea that if an African state happens to have a policy that coincides with that of USA, then it means it is controlled by USA is just plain silly. Uganda did not recognize Palestinian Authority as a state and therefore opposed its ICC membership. The Americans opposed because they always act for Israeli interest. It is super simple. By the way, Uganda is actually one of the countries backing South Africa’s current action in the ICJ. So much for the implicit claim that Uganda is “western puppet”. Maybe Museveni going to Russia-Africa Summit and making a long speech praising Soviet support for decolonization and denouncing US destruction of Libya’s statehood is evidence of “american puppetry”. Who knows, right?

  • Tim

    On a related note. The Netherlands has had a famous case where a ballpoint was used as murder weapon. This might explain the straight face of the security guard. You can search for “balpenaffaire” or “balpenmoord” if you’d like to know more.

    • Tom Welsh

      According to one of my QI books, more people are killed by trousers than by chainsaws. And a supermarket plastic bag is a very effective murder weapon. Nevertheless…

      • Urban Fox

        Yep, by the stated standards damn near everything is a weapon. Including your fists, if you happen to be the bloody-minded type who could kill with a small pen.

        Again the petty, infantilizing nature of those restrictions and the underlying presumption of guilt. Along with selective enforcement.

        Has sweet buggr-all to do with public good. It’s about demoralising & controling a population.

          • will moon

            And I knew those damn terrorists weren’t as devilish as they were made out to be

            Whilst walking in bare feet I felt a little spike go into my right foot. I stopped and looked at the sole. There was a big, fat bumblebee with its sting half in my foot. As I watched, it put all its feet against the skin and with a little jerk pulled its sting out of my flesh. Then it flew off as unhurt as I was.

            I learnt something that I suspect the bee already knew.

  • harry law

    Professor Haider Eid, has a excellent article here:

    « Back in 2004, Arnon Soffer, head of the National Defense College of the Israeli Offensive Forces and an adviser to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, had already spelled out the desired results of Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post: “When 1.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today. … The pressure at the border will be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day. … If we don’t kill, we will cease to exist. … Unilateral separation doesn’t guarantee “peace”. It guarantees a Zionist-Jewish state with an overwhelming majority of Jews.”

    Now, 20 years after Soffer revealed Israel’s intention to “kill and kill and kill” in the strip, Gaza is truly dying. People are being killed, maimed, starved and displaced en masse before the eyes of the world’s nations, in what tragically has become the first globally watched genocide in history.

    We, Palestinians, will not forget the sickening cowardice of the so-called international community, which has allowed and enabled this genocide. We will not forget how the nations of the world stood idly by as Israel’s racist leaders openly claimed that we, the Indigenous people of Palestine, are the “Amalek” – the foe that, according to the Torah, God ordered the ancient Israelites to commit genocide against – and embarked on a racist, inhuman quest to “annihilate” all of us.

    But we will never forget what South Africa did for us either. We will not forget how it showed us unwavering support and bravely took a stand for us at the world court when even our own brothers have turned their backs on us in fear. We will always remember how it linked our struggle, our most basic human rights, to global justice and reminded the international community of our humanity.

    Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza, being committed out in the open and with impunity, has ushered in the end of the Western-led, rules-based international order. By bravely standing up for what is right and taking Israel to the ICJ, however, South Africa showed us that another world is possible: a world where no state is above the law, most heinous crimes like genocide and apartheid are never accepted and the peoples of the world stand together shoulder to shoulder against injustice.

    Thank you, South Africa! »

  • Nota Tory Fanboy

    With regard to Donoghue, her Wikipedia article states:

    “As an ICJ judge, she issued a dissenting opinion in the case Legal Consequences of the Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965, in which the ICJ issued an advisory opinion in 2017 on the Chagos Archipelago sovereignty dispute between the United Kingdom and Mauritius in response to a request from the United Nations General Assembly. The Court deemed the United Kingdom’s separation of the Chagos Islands from the rest of Mauritius in 1965, leading to the expulsion of the Chagossians when both were colonial territories, to be unlawful.[13] Judge Donoghue dissented from the majority opinion, reasoning that:

    I consider that the Advisory Opinion has the effect of circumventing the absence of United Kingdom consent to judicial settlement of the bilateral dispute between the United Kingdom and Mauritius regarding sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago and thus undermines the integrity of the Court’s judicial function. For this reason, I believe that the Court should have exercised its discretion to decline to give the Advisory Opinion.[14][15]”

  • .Tom

    Is there a typo in this paragraph?

    He started by asserting that South Africa did have standing to bring the case, repeating Durand’s points about the duty of states to act to prevent genocide under the Genocide Convention. He said there was a dispute in the terms of the Convention, over whether or not genocide had occurred. South Africa had framed this dispute in a series of Diplomatic Notes Verbale sent to the South African government and not satisfactorily replied to.

    I wouldn’t think SA would talk about their internal government disputes at the ICJ.

    So did SA raise a dispute with Israel and get no satisfactory reply or not?

  • Republicofscotland

    Thank You Craig for putting yourself out to report back to us for the Hague, you did this wonderful work previously in the Alex Salmond trial.

  • tonyopmoc

    Excellent report by Craig Murray – a man of great experience.

    ” I left clutching my pass, number 9, and returned to the hotel and straight into a hot bath. The pain from my toes and fingers as they thawed was really unpleasant.”
    Over 50 years ago, I found out that getting extremely cold is not in itself that painful. When I got home and my family peeled me off my motorbike – almost frozen solid – they stuck me next to a roaring coal fire. That was so painful, I really wanted to go back outside and roll in the snow.

    I won’t speculate about the outcome, but well done Craig Murray.

    It’s wonderful that you were there.

  • harry law

    With regard to the US/UK attack on Yemen, there are legal implications.
    Might is Right gunboat diplomacy carries penalties.
    A responsible view comes from Craig Mokhiber, formerly director of NYC office of UNHCR. He stepped down b/c UN’s weak response to the Gaza Horror.
    All states have a duty under international law to act to stop genocide. Yemen did so by blocking shipping to the offending regime. The US is now bombing them for daring to interfere with the US-supported genocide in Gaza. There is your “rules-based order.”

  • geoff chambers

    A million thanks for this.
    The UK & French press didn’t tell us that Corbyn & Melenchon were standing in sub zero temps in the queue for the public gallery. They missed a chance to accuse them of being pro-Hamas.

  • AG

    from a comment on naked capitalism, quoting Snowden on Twitter:

    “Edward Snowden
    When I worked for the Bush-era CIA—down the street from the @UN HQs—I learned we were relentlessly infiltrating & undermining UN and @IAEAorg (nearby in Vienna) bodies to thwart perceived anti-war “lawfare.” Hard to imagine @CIJ_ICJ
    won’t face similar efforts to prevent justice.”

    p.s. does Dugard have a security detail? 87 year-olds tend to die suddenly.

  • glenn_nl

    Talking about incitement to genocide, how about in the Florida State Legislature, when the Dem. representative Angie Nixon asked – concerning the slaughter of about 10,000 Palestinians at that point – “How many of them have to die?”

    Rep. Michelle Salzman responded, “All of them.”

  • JohnSmith

    “The pen is mightier than the sword…” — when it’s in the right hands.

    The oligarchs fear the exposure of the hypocrisy, the double standards, and the well-crafted public illusions of “democracy” and “human rights”. If the covid debacle was our wakeup event, these Gaza atrocities are a bucket of ice water in the face.

  • Allan Howard

    I just went onto Al Jazeera’s website and, as such, came across this summary of today’s proceedings at the ICJ in which it says the following:

    Israel’s legal representatives on Friday claimed South Africa’s case was “unfounded”, “absurd” and amounting to “libel”, and said Israel sought not to destroy a people but to protect its people.

    The reality is that BN and Co knew that Hamas were planning and training for an attack long before it happened, and almost definitely knew the date of the attack once it was decided on by Hamas, and they chose to let it happen so that they could then justify destroying Gaza and killing and maiming tens of thousands of Gazans (and hundreds more in the West Bank). The very least they could have done is evacuate people from the kibbutzim and told the organisers of the Nova music festival to cancel it and, of course, been ready with a surprise counter attack. But they chose not to because the likelyhood is that just a few dozen IDF would have been killed and maimed in such a scenario, if that. In other words, BN and Co are responsible for all that happened on October 7th, and hopefully, one day, in the not too distant future, every Israeli will know it, along with every single Jew on the rest of the planet, and everyone else.

    Brilliant reporting by Craig, as per usual!

    • glenn_nl

      AH: “Israel’s legal representatives on Friday claimed South Africa’s case was “unfounded”, “absurd” and amounting to “libel”, […]”

      As the old saying goes – well they would say that, wouldn’t they?

      • Tom Welsh

        Well, in their world saying anything bad about a Jew – whether it is true or not – is “libel”. Or “blood libel”. Or “urine libel” or “bile libel” or whatever.

    • tonyopmoc

      Gonzalo Lira – oh shit.

      very brave man – used to watch his videos in The Ukraine

      “Gonzalo Ángel Quintilio Lira López (born February 29, 1968) is a Chilean-American novelist,[4] film director,[5] financial blogger, YouTuber, and commentator in the manosphere known as Coach Red Pill. A resident of Kharkiv, Ukraine, he started vlogging about the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine from a pro-Kremlin perspective, which has been described as mirroring Russian propaganda”

  • AG

    re: ICJ

    “South Africa is here before this court, in the Peace Palace. It has done what it could. It is doing what it can.”

  • Anne

    “On Palestine alone, it has ruled that the Israeli “wall” in the West Bank is illegal and that Israel has no right of self-defence in the territory of which it is the occupying power”.
    Right. And since Gaza is still occupied today (that is what most states and the UN say), the invocation of self-defence by Israel’s attorneys today was simply rubbish. I hope the ICJ still remembers what it said in 2004!

  • Nevermind

    Thank you Craig from all my heart, for the personal sacrifices, the freezing ravages you endure to enlighten us with the applied rigmarole of the ICJ, the clamouring for access to this historic occurrence at the lCJ at the last minute, and the various judges speaking for this case of genocide.
    I will share your report with as many people as possible, as there is no equivalent anywhere in our rotten and collaborating media.

    I hope that you will not face any repressive measures from the war mongers in future. It is vital that people can access historic reality reports such as yours. Good luck tomorrow and take a strong drink to counteract the sick feeling you might have to endure.

  • husq

    Google translation of headline from Ynet. 11th Jan 2024

    The order: prevent terrorists from returning to Gaza “at all costs”, even if they have hostages with them Investigating the chaos in the early hours of October 7: confused orders, pilots who had no one to direct them to attack terrorists, and an order to shoot at all vehicles returning to Gaza – despite the fear that they may contain hostages. The full investigation, which outlines minute by minute the morning of the attack, will be published tomorrow in the “7 Days” supplement of “Yediot Ahronoth”

    All English

    Israeli army ordered mass Hannibal Directive on 7 Oct: Media
    An investigation from Israel’s leading newspaper indicates Israel deliberately killed many of its own civilians and soldiers during Hamas’ Operation Al-Aqsa Flood to prevent them being taken captive back to Gaza.

  • harry law

    The US/UK have now entered the war alongside Israel by attacking the Houthis. By attacking the Houthis they are also attacking an important member of the ‘arc of resistance’. All members of this group are allied with Iran; Hezbollah are the largest and by far the best equipped, with over 100,000 battle-hardened troops and over 130.000 missiles, many precision ones. They and the Houthis can receive as many missiles from Iran as they want, and it is known that Hezbollah have many Russian anti ship missiles received from Syria [Yakhont], and others similar to the one that struck the Israeli warship Hanit in 2006.
    Then the question which must be asked is if the Iranians can supply Hezbollah with everything they need, why can’t they Supply the Houthis with whatever they need, including this….

    « The Hoot is an Iranian supercavitation torpedo claimed to travel at approximately 360 km/h (220 mph), several times faster than a conventional torpedo.[2] It was claimed to have been successfully test-fired[3] from a surface ship against a dummy submarine during the Iranian military exercise “Great Prophet” (پيامبر اعظم) on 2 April 2006 and 3 April 2006. Iran test-fired the torpedo within its territorial waters in the Strait of Hormuz in May 2017.[1]

    The official Iranian news agency IRNA claims the torpedo was produced and developed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (سپاه پاسداران انقلاب اسلامی). Most military and industry analysts have concluded that the Hoot is reverse engineered from the Russian VA-111 Shkval supercavitation torpedo which travels at the same speed.[4][5][6]. »

    Have the US/UK thought this through, or are they determined to fight these groups to their last warship and possibly widen the war?

    • Pears Morgaine

      Do the Houthis have any means of launching one? They’re much heavier than a normal torpedo and the maximum range is about 6 miles so they’d have to get within visual range.

    • Tom Welsh

      If they are not very careful indeed, they will find the “arc of resistance” standing up to be counted, and rolling out Russian defensive weaponry. Already there is very little real difference between the “arc of resistance” and the entire continents of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. That’s a lot of the world to antagonise.

  • Rosemary MacKenzie

    I got up very early to watch the South African presentation – 5am here in Atlantic Canada. I’m glad I did. I was very lucky with coffee, toast, a nice fire and comforting cats as the South African lawyers brilliantly outlined their case describing the horrors of the Israeli genocide on Gaza. They were very, very impressive. I watched this on the UN site which doesn’t give one the opportunity to read body language etc. I did think the Israeli sitting beside the speakers, Tal Becker I think his name is, looked very uncomfortable. Thanks to Craig’s description from his eyrie in the gallery, especially regarding the demeanour of the judges. The few shots I saw showed some of them listening intently. They’d better not get this one wrong!

    Hope you get some well earned sleep Craig and keep warm! Thanks for this.

  • Victoria Markos

    Thank God for your article and coverage Craig, and to the passionate eloquence of the Irish Barrister. That there is no widespread international outrage at the continuous not merely Nakba, but genocide being perpetrated against the innocent civilians of Gaza is incomprehensible. As an Australian I am deeply ashamed of our governments pitiful acquiescence with the US and UK!!! As we chant at our rallies FREE FREE PALESTINE!!!!!!!!

    • AG

      In the above video at TC 43:00 Finkelstein speaks about how he expects the verdict to turn out.
      He argues the way SA does in the Forum (I already cited ):

      The least relevant are facts and the law.
      Then comes the credibility of the court, which he thinks will lead the court to accept South Africa´s case formally, however…
      Top are the national governments the judges belong to which will pressure the judges who therefore won´t demand serious consequences and their verdict will be littered with caveats.
      Which Israel will regard as a success.

      Finkelstein quotes a few other ICJ verdicts to illustrate his point.
      Eventually he and Rabbani are pessimistic.

      • Squeeth

        They’ll wish that they never let you out of the pokey. ;O) 😜
        I hear that Italy and the south of France are good at this time of year.

      • DunGroanin

        I am looking forward to the description of the sneering, fast talking, resting b***h faced lawyer, – and the other creeps , “someone ‘shuffled’ my speech” toe rag , lucky that someone didn’t have a pen to scribble out all the words ! Also were they ALL white btw? Seriously? The illegal Apartheid entity showing its ‘True Color‘ eh?
        It hurt my eyes watching them never mind listening to every single lie.

        Please take care of your health sir. It seems our unelected leaders have decided that ratcheting up is the only thing they know, surrender in war is the only thing they will accept. When does mass mobilisation begin across ‘Yurp’? Media is already curtailed.
        Looks like the global south will be happy to oblige. And Medvedev as usual, has clearly stated that he is ready to oblige over there too.

        We are going to need a BIGGER court to put the Collective Wastes War Criminal’s through and plenty of comfy chairs for journalists. With free pencils as pens are so lethal. There are a lot of presstitutes for the gallows queue that will be formed.

        • will moon

          “When does mass mobilisation begin….”

          Don’t worry Dungroanin – It is the war to end all war, a holy crusade and we will be home before the leaves fall, sorry I mean sprout – in short, a short glorious war – even a refusnik such as yourself should be able to manage a few months of patriotic fervour in the light of such a noble enterprise?

  • Hussain ali

    Thank you for the wonderful blog. It is very engaging, informative and reflects your emotional attachment for the great cause of humanity. May God bless you. Our thanks are not sufficient. You are doing a job which cannot be reciprocated in any manner. You are the true custodian of humanity. May you shine and rise always.

  • TFS

    On ‘intent’, do we not also have

    1. The original Likud party Charter
    2. Maps displayed in public, even before the UN, showing Israel (absent Palestine) and even maps of ‘Greater Israel’ by Israeli ministers.
    3. Intent for new build settlements on Gaza
    4. Ongoing discussion between Israel/BP and the like for theft of Gaza Oil/Gas

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