The International Court of Justice’s verdict

South Africa's genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice, the Hague on Friday 12 January 2024

Israel is its own worst enemy. The more it kills, the more it destroys whatever is left of its legitimacy as a state, the further away peace and security are from its grasp. The genocide that is happening in Gaza is not fortuitous. It does not spring from mistaken policies. It stems from the very logic of the Zionist project.

Don’t take it from me. This insight came from one of the greatest Jewish intellectuals of the 20th century, Hannah Arendt. Arendt was one of the more far-sighted critics of the Zionist project. She raised three key points. One was that the Zionist project of creating a Jewish state would involve dispossessing the majority population of Palestinians, and this was not only morally wrong but also an invitation to long-term trouble. The second was that such a settler state could only be maintained by the protection afforded by a big brother state. The third was that the Zionist project was racist. Back in the early 1940s, at the height of the Second World War, Arendt was already equating Zionism to Nazi racism. At that time of Jewish persecution, that charge, which she made in public debate with Zionists, seemed to many almost indecent and certainly very unfair. But now, in the context of recent events, it was brave and prescient, for indeed, Israel is now acting like Nazi Germany, engaged in apartheid and genocide.

Israel has no one to blame but itself for the historic, near unanimous decision of the International Court of Justice’s judgment that South Africa’s charge that it is committing genocide in Gaza is plausible and that Israel must act immediately to ensure that genocide does not occur.

But let me proceed to what the world can do to contribute to the immediate halt to the genocide and the beginning of a real solution to the Israel-Palestine issue.

The ICJ ruling that there is substance to the South African charge of genocide provides global civil society with the momentum to engage in pressuring governments to more decisive acts aimed at changing Israel’s behavior and achieving a lasting solution to the Palestine-Israel issue.

Here are some examples of what grassroots civil society campaigns can do:

Following a campaign by BDS (Boycott and Divestment Campaign) Malaysia, the Malaysian government banned vessels from the deeply complicit Israeli shipping company ZIM, as well as any other vessel flying the Israeli flag from docking at Malaysian ports.

The government of South Africa’s action in bringing the charge of genocide against Israel to the Hague followed years of civil society activism. In 2021, for instance, dockworkers belonging to the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) would not offload the cargo from the Israeli vessel following a call from the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions.

On January 25, 2024, the Minneapolis City Council passed a resolution calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war. The resolution passed on a 9-3 vote with one abstention. The symbolic resolution calls for an immediate and permanent cease-fire, humanitarian aid, an end to U.S. military funding to Israel, and the release of Israeli hostages taken by Hamas and the release of Palestinians held in Israeli military prisons.

On January 30, 2024, the City Council of Chicago, the country’s third-largest city, also narrowly passed a similar resolution calling for a permanent ceasefire. Chicago and Minneapolis are the latest US cities to approve such non-binding resolutions, following Atlanta, Detroit, and San Francisco. Getting city councils to approve such resolutions, though non-binding, subverts Washington’s support for Israel’s genocidal military campaign and contributes to the discrediting of Zionism and the Tel Aviv-Washington axis.

This same energy must also be brought to bear on governments that buy military technology from Israel, thus providing the latter with the resources to commit genocide. Some 130 governments have bought weapons from Israel, which produces notably the Pegasus spyware technology as well as nearly two-thirds of global military drone exports. Most of these governments voted for the UN ceasefire resolution last October. Civil society in these countries must ensure that their governments back up their words with deeds.

Given that States Parties to the Genocide Convention have an erga omnes obligation to prevent and punish the crime of genocide, the Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Coordinating Committee (PAACC) has pointed out the way forward for civil society action to rachet up the pressure on Israel and its main accomplice in genocide, the United States. These measures include:

  1. Imposing a two-way military embargo on Israel, working to adopt a mandatory arms embargo on it at the UN, and adopting other punitive measures to prevent and suppress its acts of genocide. and end the provision of economic and diplomatic support for it.
  2. Imposing lawful and proportionate economic sanctions and other countermeasures on Israel, including canceling all free-trade and cooperation agreements, until it adheres to its obligations under international law.
  3. Taking immediate action to expel Israel from international fora including the UNGA, International Olympic Committee, FIFA, and others, as apartheid South Africa was.
  4. Pressuring the Prosecutor to swiftly advance an investigation into all war crimes, crimes against humanity, and acts of genocide carried out by Israeli perpetrators against the Palestinian people, and to immediately and without further delay issue arrest warrants for the case files before the Court since 2014. They must also ensure the Court is fully resourced to ensure the viability of the investigation into the situation in Palestine.
  5. Arresting and prosecuting, including by applying Universal Jurisdiction, Israeli nationals, including government officials, or persons present on their territory or within their jurisdiction, who have incited genocide, supported genocide, or carried out genocidal acts against the Palestinian people.
  6. Acting on their responsibility to ensure that corporate entities and institutions domiciled in their territory or under their jurisdiction will cease and desist from aiding and abetting Israel’s genocide and other crimes under international law, including the crime against humanity of apartheid, against the Palestinian people.
  7. Joining the large and increasing number of states in the Global South in supporting South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the ICJ.

It has been pointed out that after 100 days of genocide, Israel has not achieved any of its military or political objectives. It certainly has not destroyed Hamas. I interviewed the Hamas leader, Usama Hamdan, in Beirut in 2004 and asked him if he did not fear for his life given his being a high-profile leader of the organization. Here was his answer: “I am on two [assassination] lists, one with six names and another with 12 names. But I am living my own life normally. I eat breakfast with my children. I always try to do this because this is when I can talk to them and ask them about their day and their plans. I visit my friends, and my friends visit me. I just recently went out with my children to swim in the sea. You just die once, and it can be from cancer, in a car accident, or by assassination. Given these choices, I prefer assassination.”

The spirit reflected in Hamdan’s answer is, in my view, the reason why Palestinians, even in the face of genocide, will triumph in the end.

(This article is based on the statement of Walden Bello at the Emergency Conference of Global Intellectuals of Conscience, London, January 27, 2024.)

Originally published in meer: Global civil society amid S. Africa’s Israel genocide claim