Posted on January 26, 2024, by & filed under News.

26 January 2024

I applaud the decision of the ICJ to accept South Africa’s claim that Israel was engaged in “plausible genocide” and that Israel’s actions in Gaza fall into the provisions of the Genocide Convention. I also applaud the Provisional Measures the Court did impose as it ordered Israel to:

  • take all measures to ensure that acts deemed genocidal under the Genocide Convention do not take place in Gaza
  • ensure that its military does not commit genocidal acts
  • prevent and punish incitement to genocide
  • enable and facilitate the provision of basic services and humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza
  • prevent destruction of and preserve evidence of genocide in its military operations
  • report to the Court within one month of its compliance.

All these measures, plus the Court’s detailed explanation of why Israel is in fact engaged in “plausible” and ongoing genocide, gives us all the legal backing to press for an actual end to Israeli genocide, most immediately in Gaza but not forgetting the ongoing genocide being committed against the entire Palestinian people, whether in historic Palestine or in the continued existence of Palestinians as refugees.

The Weakness of the Decision

I deplore, however, the Court’s decision not to issue a Provisional Measure ordering a ceasefire. From the point of view of the people of Gaza, only an imposed ceasefire, together with proscriptions on all acts of genocide, can ensure that Israel does not actually engage in such acts. Instead, by ordering Israel “to take all measures within its power to not violate the provisions of the Geneva Convention” and to ensure that its military forces not violate it represents a non-operational measure. As long as Israel refrains from overtly genocidal acts – which it has already committed and can now moderate – the orders do little to prevent the genuine end of the effects of the war crimes, crimes against humanity and, yes, genocide, that the ongoing military operations perpetuate. In fact, the sub-text of the ICJ ruling seems to be: We give you, Israel, permission to continue your military campaign in Gaza (with its genocidal consequences, even if no new genocidal acts are committed) as long as from now on you refrain from acts that may be interpreted as genocidal. In Israel you can hear the collective sigh of relief all the way to The Hague.

The ICJ ruling highlights the fatal flaw in the international system of law: wonderful, thought-out, powerful covenants and laws like the UN Charter, the Genocide Convention and the Fourth Geneva Convention -- any of which, if actually enforced, would have caused the collapse of Israel's illegal occupation, protected the Palestinian people and given us the instruments to dismantle Israel's colonial regime. Instead, we have a legal system saddled with an extremely weak system of implementation that essentially nullifies the laws themselves.


The Ball is in Our Court

The ICJ gave us a strong legal and moral case for pressing our campaign against genocide in Gaza, if not beyond. However, in terms of actual protection of the people of Gaza and holding Israel accountable for its crime of genocide, the ICJ passed the ball to us. The ball should be in the court of our governments, of course. They are the ones charged with the responsibility for enforcing international law – a responsibility they never genuinely accepted, and which they violate with impunity.

It is up to us to take the Court's judgement that genocide is being plausibly conducted before our eyes and do what the ICJ could have done and didn't: force our governments to impose an immediate ceasefire. We must be the watchdogs that call out not only the crime of genocide that is Israel’s assault on Gaza, but all the war crimes and crimes against humanity that Israel will continue to commit, that are embedded in the very process of military pacification. We must create public pressure on our governments – especially the United States and Germany – to end their massive arms transfers and to impose economic sanctions on Israel.

And we must be aware that the genocide is ongoing. Beyond calling for a ceasefire, beyond calling for an end to Israeli genocide, we must hold Israel accountable for the genocidal situation it is constructing, that will continue even after the end of hostilities.