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Israel must prevent the genocide against the people of Palestine in Gaza

The ICJ noted the incitement to genocide by among others the President of Israel, Isaac Herzog, its Minister of Defence, Yoav Galant, and its Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, Israel Katz.

“Gaza has become a place of death and despair.” – United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths 

Genocide is a crime that aims to completely or partially destroy groups of people on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion, or nationality. 

On 26 January 2024, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) asserted its authority against the State of Israel. The ICJ ordered that Israel ensures with immediate effect that its military does not commit crimes under the Convention to Prevent and Punish the Crime of Genocide against the people of Palestine in Gaza. 

Israel must specifically ensure that its military does not commit the following crimes under the Genocide Convention:

  • Kill, or, cause serious bodily or mental harm to Palestinian people.

  • Deliberately inflict conditions of life calculated to bring about the partial or complete physical destruction of the people of Palestine in Gaza.

  • Impose measures intended to prevent the birth of Palestinian infants. 

There is no doubt that the ICJ took judicial notice (among other evidence placed before it) of the following UN report:

“Gaza has become a place of death and despair… Families are sleeping in the open as temperatures plummet. Areas where civilians were told to relocate for their safety have come under bombardment. Medical facilities are under relentless attack. The few hospitals that are partially functional are overwhelmed with trauma cases, critically short of all supplies, and inundated by desperate people seeking safety.  A public health disaster is unfolding. Infectious diseases are spreading in overcrowded shelters as sewers spill over. Some 180 Palestinian women are giving birth daily amidst this chaos. People are facing the highest levels of food insecurity ever recorded. Famine is around the corner.  For children in particular, the past 12 weeks have been traumatic: No food. No water. No school. Nothing but the terrifying sounds of war, day in and day out.  Gaza has simply become uninhabitable. Its people are witnessing daily threats to their very existence — while the world watches on.” (OCHA, “UN relief chief: The war in Gaza must end”. Statement by Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, 5 Jan. 2024.) 

To the people of Palestine in Gaza, victims of a continuing genocide and ethnic cleansing, the ICJ’s ruling might feel like empty words. Without the power to enforce them little changes, especially given the ICJ did not order an immediate ceasefire. As we continue our lives today, bombs provided to Israel by the United States continue to kill and cause dangerous injuries. Israel continues to deliberately kill Palestinian children, women, and men in Gaza through starvation, without mercy for the elderly, ill and those living with disabilities. Since the ruling on Friday more than 500 children, women and men have been killed.

In order to draw attention away from the ICJ ruling Israel provided information that 12 out of 30 000 staff members of the United States Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNWRA) were allegedly involved in the attacks of 7 October 2023.  Right now, the USA, Germany, European Commission, Canada, Switzerland, Netherlands, Britain, Italy, Australia and Finland have “paused” their funding to the agency. UNRWA feeds more than 5 million Palestinian refugees, provides schooling for almost 600 000 Palestinian students, and, among other efforts, it helps to build infrastructure and provides healthcare.  These “great powers'' are not only starving the people of Palestine in Gaza but also refugees in the West Bank, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. The USA and the countries that have “paused” their support for UNWRA are acting in direct violation of the ICJ order that all countries must prevent genocide and provide humanitarian aid.

At the same time, Israel has not simply rejected the ICJ ruling, its governing parties led by Netanyahu, Ben-Gvir, Smotrich, Karhi and members of the Knesset (parliament) held a mass conference with maps to occupy Gaza with right-wing Zionist settlers. Their intention to commit genocide is underwritten by further cruel colonisation of Palestinian lands. Israel is showing the ICJ that it refuses to abide by its orders, strong in their support from the USA, Canada, Germany and others in their attempts to defy international law.

No court anywhere in the world has its own army, police or budget, to enforce its rulings. Courts only have moral and legal authority. It is now up to people throughout the world to demand an immediate ceasefire, and for the immediate and effective stop of all genocidal acts of violence and deprivation. We must use our own power to defeat Israel, along with its allies the United States, Germany, most European Union governments, as well as their allies in the Arab world and elsewhere. 

Our power resides in radical, peaceful mass resistance – a global intifada against these “big” powers implicated in and sponsoring genocide by Israel against the people of Palestine in Gaza. Our actions must include resisting the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem and the West Bank, and the repression of Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel. 

Every member state of the United Nations is now under a legal duty to prevent and punish genocide in Palestine. As global citizens from Khayelitsha to Berlin, from Kampala to Calcutta, London to Windhoek and Caro to Beijing, we have the power to enforce international law and the orders of the ICJ under the Genocide Convention within the legal systems of our countries.

We now demand that our government, supported by all political parties and all countries, immediately take the following legal actions against Israel to enforce the ICJ ruling:

  • Demand that the USA and the European Union, supported by all governments, force Israel to open every possible corridor to provide unimpeded humanitarian assistance. 

  • Demand that the USA and the European Union investigate the provision of all necessary humanitarian aid through airlifts in the same way that the blockade of Berlin by the USSR was defeated.

  • Implement a full arms embargo against Israel.

  • Break off all diplomatic relations with the State of Israel.

  • Implement economic sanctions, including an arms and energy embargo.

  • Demand the expulsion of Israel from the United Nations.

  • Provide every assistance to support and protect people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories who resist occupation.

  • Provide every assistance to support and protect Palestinian citizens of Israel who face apartheid and repression along with its Jewish citizens who resist occupation, apartheid, crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide

We also demand that Hamas and Israel unconditionally:

  • Release all hostages taken during the massacres of people in Israel on 7 October 2023. 

  • Release all the Palestinian political detainees and political prisoners. 

The adoption of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide on 9 December 1948, a direct result of the Holocaust against the Jewish people of Europe, was one of the most important moments of the 20th century. 26 January 2024 now stands with it as one of the most important days in the protection of fundamental rights for all people under international law. 

The decision of the ICJ in defense of the people of Palestine would not have been possible without South Africa’s stand. We commend President Cyril Ramaphosa, Dr Naledi Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Minister of Justice, Mr Ronald Lamola, together with Directors-General Zane Dangor and Advocate Doctor Mashabane for their leadership against the Apartheid State of Israel. 

The names of Professor John Dugard (SC), our other Senior Counsel, Ms Adila Hassim, Mr Max du Plessis and Mr Thembeka Ngcukaitobi, as well as the Irish barrister Ms Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh KC and British barrister Mr Vaughn Lowe, supported by junior counsel, Advocates Tshidiso Ramogale, Sarah Pudifin-Jones and Lerato Zikala, will be forever remembered for their legal stand against genocide in Palestine.

Zackie Achmat and the activists of the Zackie2024 campaign owe a great debt of gratitude to the South African legal team who represented all people of conscience and above all the people of Palestine at the International Court of Justice. 

Issued on behalf of Zackie Achmat and the Zackie2024 campaign

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