On January 26, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued provisional measures in response to South Africa’s case against Israel, accusing it of violating the Genocide Convention in its actions in Gaza.
Despite not being implemented, the ICJ’s orders hold significance. They challenge Israel’s rhetoric and deem the evidence presented for committing genocide as plausible. It represents a symbolic victory, considering support given from the West to Israel in the case and the siege.
However, it increasingly reveals the sheer hypocrisy of the Western imperialist powers. Even after the ICJ’s orders, the siege has intensified, expanding collective punishment to Palestinians beyond the borders of Palestine. The “bastions of democracy” are the first ones to scrap “international law” when it does not suit their interests.
The people of the world should continue and intensify their struggle against the genocide of Palestinians. It’s the pressure from the movement that compelled the ICJ to issue these measures, and it’s only this pressure that can put a break to the Israeli war machine.
The order of the ICJ
The ICJ’s orders dictate that Israel must ensure compliance with Article 2 of the convention, involving measures to prevent genocidal acts, ensure military restraint, punish incitement, provide essential services and humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, preserve evidence related to South Africa’s allegations, and submit a compliance report within a month.
While the ICJ didn’t order exactly what South Africa asked for and didn’t call for a ceasefire, it was a symbolic victory for the movement against Israel. The ICJ accepted the case and acknowledged the plausibility of genocide and ongoing genocidal acts in Gaza. This was a huge blow to the Israeli establishment.
Did they “forget” to call for a ceasefire?
The ICJ preliminary decision was met with considerable disappointment among Palestinians and many in the solidarity movement due to the absence of a call for a ceasefire, as seen in the case of Russia vs. Ukraine.
In an attempt to paint a brighter picture, the South African Foreign Minister, Naledi Pandor, stated,
“I believe that in exercising the order there would have to be a ceasefire, without it the order doesn’t actually work.”
However, Israel could theoretically find loopholes to even appear to implement some parts of the order without a ceasefire.
The ICJ did not “forget” to call for a ceasefire. The evidence was so compelling and the pressure so big that the ICJ could not avoid ordering preliminary measures. But, not wanting to go against the main imperialist powers that established it, made a “middle ground’ decision.
“Hague shmague” – Israel is defying the orders of the ICJ
was the reaction of the far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir on X, who tried to mock the decision of the ICJ.
The reality is that the ICJ doesn’t have the power to force Israel to implement its orders and Israel is not willing to do so.
In the 48 hours following the order, Israel intensified their terror campaign. They continued the attack on health facilities by targeting hospitals in Khan Yunis, where 373 Palestinians were killed and over 634 injured, and no Hamas facility was found. Israeli special forces even invaded the Ibn Sina Hospital in Jenin dressed as doctors and killed 3 patients!
They also blocked the aid -only 87 aid trucks entered Gaza on Friday and Saturday and this is less than half of what was entering before the ICJ hearing- and they mobilised settlers to demonstrate outside of Gaza to block themselves the aid trucks!
At the same time, prominent politicians -like the National Security Minister mentioned above- continued their genocidal propaganda. Ben-Gvir was filmed dancing and celebrating in a settlers’ conference that called for the expansion of the Israeli settlements to Gaza.
Retaliation from the Western powers
Like the above was not enough, Israel and the West have started to defund UNRWA – the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East.
UNRWA was established as a subsidiary organ of the United Nations General Assembly on December 8th, 1949, after Nakba, in order to provide shelter, welfare and health services for hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees in all the Middle East. It operates schools, health clinics, infrastructure projects and aid programs in refugee camps that now resemble dense urban neighborhoods. It recognizes facilities in 58 designated refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and it also provides facilities in other areas where large numbers of registered Palestinian refugees live outside of recognized camps.
It has over 30.000 employees, 13,000 of them in Gaza alone, the vast majority of them Palestinians.
Following the accusation from Israel that 12 workers of UNRWA took part to the October 7th Hamas attack, the Israeli state defunded UNRWA and called their western allies to do the same, exactly on the day that the decision of the ICJ became public. Israel’s call was responded to by 11 countries over the weekend and from the EU on Monday.
This means that UNRWA will be seriously defunded, as the contributions of the UN member states comprise 89% of its funding!
UNRWA does not provide services only to the Palestinians in Gaza. Therefore, by defunding it, the collective punishment is expanded to the rest of the Palestinians all around the Middle East! By doing this, the western governments, the US, the UK, the EU etc, are directly complicit to the Israeli genocidal acts and are indeed violating directly the orders of the ICJ!
No illusions – continue the pressure
We cannot expect that the ICJ will stop the massacre, as such capitalist institutions, while trying to present themselves as “impartial”, are nothing of the kind. At best, they make decisions that try to balance between different forces. In general, they will no go directly against the main imperialist powers.
But the fact that the ICJ ordered interim measures now, and recognised the plausability of genocidal acts is something the movements internationally can use to mount even more pressure. The decision can play a role in debunking the rhetoric of Israel internationally, and at home. More Israelis are protesting for ceasefire, and demand elections. On January 27, thousands protested in Jerusalem, Haifa, Caesarea, Kefar Sava, Rehovot and Beersheba. They were attacked by the Israeli police in a brutal way. With the Israeli government calling everybody who is against the war a terrorist, these are very important mobilisations that show the way.
The anti-war movement must continue the pressure, in Israel, Palestine, the Middle East and all over the world, especially inside Western countries. It must explore ways to escalate its actions, involving strikes and acts of blocking military contracts and aid to the Israeli regime. We must continue this crucial struggle!