SA’s ICJ application is a challenge to West’s “rules based order”

Iqbal Jassat

Iqbal Jassat

Published Jan 18, 2024


Iqbal Jassat

All eyes are fixed on the International Court of Justice (ICJ), as it begins its deliberations to decide whether South Africa’s application to halt Israel's genocide in Gaza is compelling enough to succeed.

South Africa’s monumental submission to the UN’s highest judicial institution, positions its case as a defining moment in the history of international relations post World War 11.

The decision awaited by the world to either uphold the provision of the Convention on Genocide by instructing the settler colonial entity to halt its savage slaughter in Gaza, or to reject South Africa’s case, will inform the global population whether trust in international institutions of justice is valid or not.

In the court of public opinion there is no doubt that the arguments advanced by Pretoria’s highly professional team of lawyers led by the world-renowned doyen of international law, Professor John Dugard, makes it extremely difficult for the ICJ not to grant the order.

In a remarkable display of solidarity for Palestine and in keeping with its international obligation to prevent the ongoing butchery of innocent lives resulting from Israel’s relentless bombardments in the besieged Gaza, the South African government filed an application to the UN’s highest judicial arm.

Reports indicate that the three-hour long submission by South Africa’s legal team kept the world enthralled by the sheer sophistication, detailed research, and classic articulation by each one of the dignified 6-member team. Undoubtedly it kept a global audience in awe of the compelling arguments.

The world learnt that instituting genocide proceedings against Israel was for “acts threatened, adopted, condoned, taken, and being taken by the government and military of the State of Israel against the Palestinian people”.

In his opening argument for South Africa, Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi drew attention to Israel’s genocidal intent by making it known that South Africa is not alone in doing so.

“Fifteen UN Special Rapporteurs and 21 members of the UN Working Groups have warned that what is happening in Gaza reflects ‘a genocide in the making’ and an overt intent to ‘destroy the Palestinian people under occupation’.”

Prior to the hearing at The Hague, South Africa released its 84-page document. In graphic and heart-wrenching detail, the document points to a comprehensively researched compilation that describes a litany of Israeli actions as “genocidal in character, as they are committed with the requisite specific intent… to destroy Palestinians in Gaza as a part of the broader Palestinian national, racial, and ethnical group”.

As expected, much of the public discourse that followed the release of the 84-pager, centred on the definition of genocide.

Though it became apparent that South Africa’s watertight case and its interpretation of the concept of genocide was in conformity with the legal requisites of the Convention on Genocide, spoilers from the Netanyahu camp sought to discredit and malign it.

Their hangers-on within South Africa’s Zionist establishment that includes a handful of political parties, right-wing analysts and a few prejudiced journalists, sought to not only question the veracity of the content, but also to profile it as biased in favour of Hamas.

However, an overwhelming number of media platforms such as The Intercept.Com proclaim it as being meticulous. “It offers an overview of a murderous campaign waged against a civilian population under the fraudulent cover of self-defence.”

It goes on to describe it as laying out the horrifying scope of Israel’s destruction in Gaza of human life, civilian infrastructure, history, and culture, and paints a devastating picture of the grave conditions faced by those Palestinians who have managed to survive.

But to cloud and confound the public discourse, Israel’s Hasbara (propaganda) outfits keep injecting a red-herring by insisting that South Africa’s ICJ filing fell short on the question of genocide.

Nevertheless, as explained by legal experts, the definition of genocide is unambiguous and straightforward.

“To qualify as genocide or attempted genocide, two things are required. First, the specific intent of the perpetrator to destroy all or part of an identified national, ethnical, racial, or religious group. Second, commission of at least one of five specified acts designed to make that happen.”

As it turned out, South Africa’s petition to the ICJ as described by an overwhelming number of objective analysts and legal minds was that it was “filled with clear and horrifically compelling examples, identifying Israeli actions that match at least three of the five acts that constitute genocide when linked to specific intent”.

Those include killing members of the group, causing serious physical or mental harm to members of the group, and, perhaps most indicative of genocidal purpose, creating “conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction”.

When South Africa’s ambassador to the Netherlands Vusimuzi Madonsela opened the proceedings at the Hague, his memorable opening statement “South Africa has recognised the ongoing Nakba against the Palestinian people”, set the tone for the hearing.

What is awaited now is the possibility that Benjamin Netanyahu’s invoking of the biblical Amalek, may come back to bite him.

Iqbal Jassat is the executive member of the Media Review Network in Johannesburg.

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