It has been almost four months since Israel launched ground operations in the Gaza Strip. According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, more than 26,000 people have been killed as a result of Israeli attacks. The indiscriminate attacks by Israel are serious violations of human rights, which have been condemned by the majority of the international community. But Israel has been refusing a ceasefire till this day, insisting on the elimination of Hamas as the ultimate goal of its military operation. It completely disregards the two-state solution, which is the only solution supported by the UN Secretary-General and most nations around the world.
Against such a backdrop, on December 29, 2023, South Africa officially filed a lawsuit with the International Court of Justice in The Hague, suing Israel for violating its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) and demanding that Israel suspend its military operations in and against Gaza, stop acts of genocide and allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza. This move is a significant supplement to the efforts by many countries in the UN Security Council and the General Assembly to urge Israel to agree on a ceasefire.
The greatest significance of South Africa’s litigation lies in pressuring the ICJ to take legally binding measures on Israel so that it can agree to a ceasefire and halt its genocide against the Palestinians. Based on the previous hearing, the ICJ made a preliminary ruling on January 26, 2024, which not only confirmed its jurisdiction over the lawsuit but also ordered provisional measures requiring Israel to take all steps within its power to prevent acts of genocide and allow the provision of humanitarian assistance into Gaza.
Though the petition for ceasefire was not upheld by the ICJ, the Court’s ruling still recognized that the Israeli military shall not commit any act of genocide against the Palestinian people, thanks to the detailed evidence presented by South Africa which proved that Israel not only has the intent of genocide but also committed the act. Many public statements by Israeli political and military leaders became strong evidence against themselves. For example, citing the Bible and inciting their Israeli fellowmen to “remember what Amalek has done to you” is a clear comparison between the Palestinians and the Amalekites, a race that must be destroyed according to the Hebrew Bible. The non-stop and indiscriminate military strikes at all kinds of civil infrastructure in the past 110 days caused serious physical and mental harm to the people in Gaza; cutting off daily supplies to the Strip is deliberately inflicting starvation on the people in Gaza. Such kind of behaviour, together with the fact that forty percent of the casualties since Oct.7 are children, seems to be aimed at the physical destruction of the Palestinians in Gaza.
That is why South Africa’s indictment against Israel, based on sufficient facts and evidence, gained support from many countries. Brazil, Turkey and many Arab countries stood firmly on South Africa’s side. Even in some countries that are “old allies” of Israel, there are many voices appealing for justice. In the United States, for instance, there have been many pro-Palestinian activities and demonstrations. And people have sued the Biden administration for supporting Israel in its barbaric operation. Dr. John Mearsheimer, a well-known scholar in international relations, has written in an article supporting South Africa’s lawsuit, condemning the U.S. as an accomplice in this genocide.
But still, like some governments or entities that choose to betray their conscience and turn a blind eye to the miserable conditions of the Palestinian people, some Western media outlets, which ought to speak for truth and justice as the Fourth Estate,produced little coverage on this lawsuit. It seems that they are trying to limit the influence of such an important case with regard to human rights protection and dare not speak out on this ethically black-and-white issue. People cannot help but question their position and the values they live by.
Anyway, South Africa's action and the ICJ’s provisional ruling has given the majority of the world some hope that conscience can beat evil and justice will arrive if only people begin to take the needed action. To support the litigation by South Africa is not only to support the Palestinian people but also to support the common good of humanity.
The author is a commentator on international affairs, writing regularly for Xinhua News, Global Times, China Daily, CGTN