On the healthcare workers for Palestine rally in London last year (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Israel’s “genocidal acts” and “destruction of Palestinian life” was exposed in devastating detail at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Thursday. South Africa launched a case against Israel for violating the 1948 Genocide Convention at the ICJ.

Its lawyers detailed the scale of Israeli terror, recognising “the ongoing Nakba of the Palestinian people”. 

“Hundreds of multigenerational families have been wiped out with no remaining survivors,” argued South African lawyer Adila Hassim. “This killing is the destruction of Palestinian life.” 

“The scale of child killings” have led Gaza to be “a graveyard for children”. “Israel has deliberately imposed conditions on Gaza that cannot sustain life, and are calculated to bring about its physical destruction,” said Hassim. 

South Africa is initially seeking the ICJ, the United Nation’s highest judicial body, to order emergency measures to protect the Palestinian people. They include the suspension of Israeli military operations in Gaza and the stopping of any genocidal acts.

South Africa argues the context is Israel’s “75-year-long apartheid, its 56-year-long belligerent occupation of Palestinian territory and its 16-year-long blockade of Gaza”. “The destruction of the Palestinians did not begin on 7 October,” said Ronald Lamola, South Africa’s justice minister.

Hassim detailed Israeli measures intended to prevent Palestinians being born, such as the blocking of “essential medical kits for delivering babies”. She described attacks “specifically targeting Palestinians in Gaza, using weaponry that causes large scale homicidal destruction as well as targeted sniping of civilians”. 

Other examples include “designating safe zones and then bombing them” and “depriving Palestinians the basic needs of food, water, healthcare, fuel, sanitation and communications”. 

And Israel has destroyed “social infrastructure, homes, schools, mosques, churches, hospitals.”

Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, a South African lawyer, detailed all the times senior Israeli politicians and officials have publicly called for genocide. He provided examples where members of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, have repeatedly called for Palestinians to be “wiped out”, “flattened”, “erased”. 

Israeli MPs have stated that “there are no innocents in Gaza” and “the children of Gaza have brought this up themselves”. Media broadcasts have said of the Gaza population, “There are 2.5 million terrorists”. 

Israel’s agriculture minister confirmed, “We are now actually rolling out the Gaza Nakba.” The deputy speaker of the Israeli parliament wrote, “Now we have one common goal—erasing the Gaza strip from the face of the earth. Those who are unable will be replaced.”

The Israeli state is murdering Palestinians on a mass scale and denying those in Gaza access to the essentials for survival. Huge swathes of Gaza, entire towns, villages and refugee camps are being wiped off the map.

The same Western states that have backed Israeli war crimes tried to dismiss South Africa’s case at the ICJ. David Cameron, British foreign secretary, said, “I don’t think it is helpful. I don’t agree with it. I don’t think it is right.”

A US State Department spokesperson claimed that the US had not “at this point seen acts that constitute genocide”.

The ICJ cannot implement judgements itself—it remains reliant on states themselves to enforce or comply with its orders. While an ICJ order would be legally binding, there aren’t mechanisms to force Israel to stop. There is a long history of states simply ignoring ICJ rulings.

But the power for change lies in the hands of Palestinians fighting back and ordinary people rising up in the surrounding Arab states against their own rulers and imperialism. And people mobilising in Britain against Israel’s imperialist backers in Downing Street remains vitally important.  

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