SA celebrates historic victory for Palestine: ICJ gives Israel orders to prevent acts of genocide

Cyril Ramaphosa and the deputy ambassador of Palestine, Bassam Elhussiny, react after the International Court of Justice ruling on the emergency measures requested by South Africa against Israel over its war on the Gaza Strip, in Johannesburg yesterday. Picture: EPA-EFE/ALAISTER RUSSELL

Cyril Ramaphosa and the deputy ambassador of Palestine, Bassam Elhussiny, react after the International Court of Justice ruling on the emergency measures requested by South Africa against Israel over its war on the Gaza Strip, in Johannesburg yesterday. Picture: EPA-EFE/ALAISTER RUSSELL

Published Jan 27, 2024

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Cape Town - South Africans celebrated a historic moment when the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered its outcome yesterday in The Hague, and called on Israel to deliver a report in a month and not to destroy evidence while taking steps to prevent genocide in Gaza.

The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, sat centre stage as Judge Joan Donoghue read the order.

After the hearing, Pandor addressed the media in the Hague and said the court had sent a clear message.

“It was now a test for the government and people of Israel if they will act in a manner that says all of us must respect international law,” Pandor said.

In Cape Town, people gathered at local sites such as the Dullah Omar Centre in Athlone to watch the ruling live while President Cyril Ramaphosa, at the ANC National Executive Committee in Boksburg yesterday, donned a Palestinian scarf while following proceedings. He jovially hugged members seated next to him after the outcome.

Ramaphosa in his address said he expected Israel to abide by the verdict.

“South Africans will not be passive bystanders while crimes are perpetrated upon other people elsewhere.”

More than 1000 people followed a live broadcast organised by the Palestine Solidarity Alliance. Some spectators said they were disappointed that there was no order for a ceasefire.

In the order, the ICJ said that all humanitarian aid, such as food and water, be restored to Palestine and that all hostages captured by Hamas be freed.

Donoghue said under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, in relation to Palestinians in Gaza, Israel takes all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of Article II of this Convention, in particular: (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to 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.

The order reads: That Israel will ensure with immediate effect that its military does not commit any acts described in the first order and 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, take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, shall take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence.

Israel has been ordered to submit a report within one month to the Court on all measures taken to give effect to its orders.

Activist Mamphela Ramphele for the Archbishop Tutu Intellectual Property Trust said the outcome was one small step for humankind.

“The measures will not put an immediate stop to the bombardment of Gaza, which South Africa charges amounts to genocide, and if Israel ignores the order no mechanisms exist to force it to do so.

“The order is nonetheless critically important: It reflects the court’s consideration that there may be merit in South Africa’s charge that Israel’s onslaught on Gaza amounts to genocide.

“It is an official finding of Israeli misconduct by a court representing the entire world, unswayed by the political and/or ideological and/or economic interests of individual nations (however powerful).

“It is an indictment of the old-world structure of the United Nations that affords some nations more powers than others, and has enabled the United States to use its veto to block resolutions calling for a ceasefire.

“Most critically, it affirms that Palestinians are human beings, with human rights – and not animals, as senior Israeli officials have contended.”

Retired Western Cape Judge Siraj Desai said it was a momentous moment for the people of Palestine and South Africa.

“This is a triumphant moment for the Palestinian cause and its millions of supporters worldwide,” he said.

“We salute our government, our lawyers and the BDS movement for its continuous pressure in keeping this issue on our agenda and conscience.

“We did not get all the relief claimed but the order is sufficient to put both Israel and the USA on their back feet. If Israel continues with its murderous ways, and the USA supports it, our opposition will be intensified now backed by the instruments of international justice. In this instance the ICJ has gained in stature.

“We can only hope that it continues to play a positive role on the world stage.”

Gift of the Givers said in a statement that seventy five years of lies, deception, cover-up, occupation and the dehumanising of Palestinians had been exposed at the International Court of Justice.

“Successfully playing the victim for decades, Israel supported by the USA, UK, Germany, entities in Europe, billions of dollars of military and financial aid, veto power of the USA, Zionist controlled mainstream media that directs a pro-Israel narrative, billions of dollars of bought influence internationally, tentacles in every sector of society to cover up their punishment of all Palestinians, Muslim and Christian, the message was clear: no one dare challenge Israel, the untouchable, the invincible.

“Well South Africa just did, challenged the ultimate bully, dragged Israel to the ICJ and achieved a ruling that in essence implies a plausible case of genocide exists.”

The South African Jewish Board (SABJD) said the court’s call for hostages to be freed was fundamental.

“We are saddened by our government not playing a more constructive role in engaging both sides, as they have in every other conflict to help to bring an actual end to this war,” they said.