Home Editors' Pick ICJ Rules Against Israel Saying Rafah Siege Must End Immediately

ICJ Rules Against Israel Saying Rafah Siege Must End Immediately

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South African lawyers have made a solid case against genocide in Palestine

International Law Analysis

In another decision at the United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ), the judges ruled 13-2 that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) must end its bombing operations and blockade in the city of Rafah.

This was the fourth hearing of the ICJ related to the lawsuit filed by the African National Congress (ANC) government in the Republic of South Africa which charged the State of Israel with violating the Genocide Convention.

The initial ruling in January stated that the claims of genocide were plausible and that the Zionist state must take action to end the siege upon Gaza. Since January, thousands more have been killed by the IDF in its ground offensive and aerial strikes against the people of Gaza. Israel is using food and water as a weapon of war where more than 35,000 have been slaughtered over the last seven months.

Since the Al-Aqsa Flood of October 7, the Israeli state has committed numerous crimes against humanity. The administration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described Palestinians as subhuman animals deserving extermination.

An 18-page ICJ ruling on May 24 notes in its concluding paragraphs that:
“The Court also considers that the catastrophic situation in Gaza confirms the need for the
immediate and effective implementation of the measures indicated in its Orders of 26 January 2024 and 28 March 2024, which are applicable throughout the Gaza Strip, including in Rafah. In these circumstances, the Court finds it necessary to reaffirm the measures indicated in those Orders. In so doing, the Court wishes to emphasize that the measure indicated in paragraph 51 (2) (a) of its Order of 28 March 2024, requiring the ‘unhindered provision at scale by all concerned of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance’, necessitates that the Respondent maintain open land crossing points and in particular the Rafah crossing.
In view of the specific provisional measures, it has decided to indicate, the Court considers
that Israel must submit a report to the Court on all measures taken to give effect to this Order, within one month as from the date of this Order. The report so provided will then be communicated to South Africa, which shall be given the opportunity to submit to the Court its comments thereon.” (https://static01.nyt.com/newsgraphics/documenttools/95964284e55d5c79/b0c539e2-full.pdf)

Even though the ruling of the ICJ in January was ridiculed and dismissed by the Israeli regime, no punitive actions have been taken by the UN body. In response to the ruling of May 24, the settler-colonial regime has accused the ICJ of antisemitism.

This ruling by the ICJ comes amid the growing opposition to the Israeli state. All over the world, there are ongoing mass demonstrations demanding a ceasefire and the opening of a political process to bring about the full independence of the State of Palestine.

Just days prior to the hearing on May 24, three European countries, Norway, Spain and Ireland, recognized Palestine as a state. After this declaration by these states, the Netanyahu administration withdrew their ambassadors.

The Israeli government has stated that they are not concerned with the policy decisions and court rulings which run counter to their interests. This same attitude prevails as well with its major supporter, U.S. imperialism. Biden has labelled the demonstrations which have wracked the college and universities campuses as “antisemitic”.

Biden has lost significant electoral support since the Israeli siege on Gaza in October. Most polls indicate the potentially close race between the incumbent and former President Donald Trump, who is also a big supporter of the Israeli regime. All the surveys of voters show the outcome of the race as being within the margins of error.

Response to ICJ Ruling in the West Asia Region

People have once again responded favorably to the ICJ ruling on the genocide in Gaza. Various organizations and governments have praised the Republic of South Africa for its legal initiatives on the current situation in Gaza.

When the South African government initially filed its legal complaints against Tel Aviv in December, the response of the regime was to say that Pretoria was acting as the “legal arm” of the Hamas Resistance movement. South African Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Naledi Pandor, who has been an outspoken critic of the IDF offensive in Gaza, emphasized that the ANC’s relations with the Palestinians did not begin on October 7.

Former ANC leader and the first democratically elected president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, said that his country could not be fully independent absent the liberation of Palestine. This poignant observation holds true today not only for South Africa but for all oppressed and struggling peoples worldwide.

An article published by Al Mayadeen television based in Lebanon said of the ruling:
“’Israel had not provided sufficient information about the safety of the population during the evacuation process, or the availability of food, water, sanitation and medicine for the 800,000 Palestinians that had already fled Rafah so far,’ Salam (the chief justice) said, adding, ‘Consequently, the court is of the view that Israel has not sufficiently addressed and dispelled the concerns raised by its military offensive in Rafah.’ The court also ordered the occupation to open the Rafah connection between Egypt and Gaza so that humanitarian supplies may enter, as well as to enable access to the besieged enclave for investigators and to report back on its progress within one month. The ruling was accepted by a panel of 15 judges from throughout the world in a 13-2 vote, with only Ugandan and Israeli justices opposing it. The ruling was issued a week after being requested by South Africa as part of ‘Israel’s’ genocide charges. Outside, a small group of pro-Palestinian protesters waved flags and protested demanding a free Palestine.” (https://english.almayadeen.net/news/politics/icj-orders–israel–to-immediately-halt-offensive-on-rafah)

The Ugandan government in response to an earlier vote by its national, disassociated itself from the actions of this individual serving on the ICJ. At present Uganda is the current Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Group of 77 plus China, both of which are staunch defenders of the rights of the Palestinians.

Israel Should Be Expelled from the United Nations

In light of this series of rulings unfavorable to the State of Israel and its ally, the U.S., there should be an effort to expel Tel Aviv from the United Nations. There is precedence for such actions which date back five to six decades.

The racist apartheid regime which ruled South Africa prior to 1994 when the ANC came to power, was stripped of its privileges within the UN in November 1974. In regard to neighboring Namibia (earlier known as Southwest Africa under apartheid rule) during 1966, it was decided by the UN General Assembly that the then “mandate” of racist South Africa in Namibia had expired.

In a New York Times article from 1974, it reported on the deliberations surrounding the status of the racist apartheid regime in the UN. This NYT report emphasized:
“The General Assembly voted today to suspend South Africa’s participation in its current session. The decision was without precedent in United Nations history, but it did not exclude the South African Government from membership in the world organization itself. It means that the delegation will not be permitted to take its seats, speak, make proposals or vote. The vote of 91 to 22 was taken to uphold a ruling by the Assembly’s President, Foreign Minister Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, suspending South African participation. The United States unsuccessfully challenged the ruling, which was also opposed by Britain, a number of Western Europeans and South Americans, and some others. Nineteen countries abstained.” (https://www.nytimes.com/1974/11/13/archives/south-africa-is-suspended-by-un-assembly-9122-un-session-barssouth.html)

Such a measure if enacted today would send a strong message to the occupation regime in Palestine along with Washington. The Biden administration has denounced the legal actions taken against Israel by the Republic of South Africa.

High-level Biden administration officials such as National Security spokesman John Kirby have declared that the lawsuit against Israel by South Africa has no legal merit. Statements of this nature have precipitated the condemnation of Washington alongside Tel Aviv among many people around the globe. (https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-lambasts-meritless-south-african-request-for-icj-to-charge-israel-with-genocide/)

Consequently, progressive mass organizations, governments and political parties have no other choice than escalating their campaigns aimed at liberating Palestinians from Zionist control. The struggle for the independence of the State of Palestine will continue to be a defining issue in international affairs.

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