The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has told Israel to stop killing Palestinians. It ruled on Friday that Israel must “take all measures within its power” to prevent acts of genocide.
It said Israel should also take steps to “prevent and punish” incitement to genocide, as well as to ensure basic services and humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza.
The judges did not grant South Africa’s request that Israel should be ordered to “immediately suspend” its military operations. But it declined to throw the case out, as the Zionist state had demanded.
Even the limited finding, which admitted there is a plausible case that genocide is going on, is a political defeat for Israel.
And it also says they will later have to answer the accusations of committing barbaric acts. Friday’s decision relates only to the South African government’s request for emergency measures to be applied while the case is heard.
A final ruling on the overwhelming evidence that Israel is committing genocide will probably take years.
A central reason the court did not call for a ceasefire is that it would then have gone to the UN security council for implementation. There the US and perhaps Britain would again have had to oppose and veto an end to Israel’s assault.
The stain of genocide would have spread from Israel’s government to its Western backers. This was too much for the judges.
But this week’s verdict will enrage and humiliate Israel and its backers. It tells the millions of pro-Palestine protesters across the world that they are right. But it leaves Israel free to continue with its massacres.
Israeli leader Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel is fighting a “just war like no other” and will “continue to defend itself”—by which he means redoubling the slaughter and ethnic cleansing.
Hani Mahmoud, reporting from Rafah in southern Gaza for Al Jazeera news said, “There is a great deal of frustration and resentment. The one element that every single Palestinian across the Gaza Strip, including children, were waiting for is an end to this horror.
“They were waiting for that one statement that could have relieved an entire population largely displaced and, more profoundly, traumatised as the bombing continues across the Gaza Strip.
“People just want this to end because they are tired, exhausted and want to go back to their homes and remaining family members. They want to go back to a normal life. But the statement did not give them that.”
Lubna Farhat, member of Ramallah city council, said, “We are very grateful to South Africa for filing this case, but what Palestinians aspired for was an immediate ceasefire.”
She said the ruling would only “escalate” settler attacks in the occupied West Bank and increase the attackers’ sense of impunity.
In its application to the court, South Africa had requested nine emergency measures. The court applied six, including instructions for Israel to preserve evidence relating to the case and submit a report to the tribunal on the measures it is taking to comply within one month.
The court’s decisions on emergency measures are supposed to be legally binding, but it cannot enforce them itself.
The key struggle will be to raise the level of support for Palestine on the streets and in the workplaces.
Walkouts, strikes, disruption, mass marches and occupations are the key methods—not relying on the myth of a fair international law. The reality is that whatever the court had decided, Israel would have ignored it and the West would have continued to deliver weapons, funds and diplomatic backing.
And the fight for Palestinian freedom goes beyond a ceasefire. It needs to address the very existence of a state founded on murder and dispossession that acts as an imperialist outpost in a crucial part of the world for capitalism.
What the court demanded
“By 15 votes to two—Israel and Uganda against—the State of Israel shall, in accordance with its obligations in relation to the Palestinians in Gaza, take all measures within its power to prevent 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.”
“By 15 votes to 2, the State of Israel shall ensure, with immediate effect, that its military does not commit any acts described in the point above.”
“By 16 votes to one—Israel against—the State of Israel shall take all measures within its power to prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide in relation to members of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip.”
“By 16 votes to one, the State of Israel shall take immediate and effective measures to ensure the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”
“By 15 votes to two, the State of Israel shall take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence related to allegations of acts against members of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip.”
“By 15 votes to two, the State of Israel shall submit a report to the court on all measures taken to give effect to this order within one month as from the date of the order.”