The International Court of Justice has responded rather toothlessly to South Africa’s appeal to the Genocide Convention. In less than a month, a similar result can be expected when Britain’s Royal Courts of Justice hear for Julian Assange’s last appeal against extradition to the United States.
One case seeks to protect the lives and well-being of more than two million Palestinians against generations of Israelis who have, since 1948, progressively taken over their homeland and have often confined them in Gaza since 2007. The other case concerns the life and well-being of a solitary Australian citizen who was pursued by governments since 2010, and has been confined for most of that time.
The two cases appear to have little in common, apart from their predictable results. Yet they replicate each other, and both involve the US, the UK, and Australia.
All three nations are supporters of Israel, historically and currently, politically and militarily. None has denounced the Netanyahu government’s intentions as genocidal, nor demanded a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. US leaders have accused Assange of espionage, conspiracy and terrorism, and UK officials have pressured their legal counterparts in Sweden to pursue him for alleged rape. British magistrates and media have declared him a narcissist. As the situation worsens both for the people in virtual imprisonment in Gaza and for the lone prisoner In Belmarsh high security, political leaders elsewhere make empty statements calling on Israel for restraint, and on the US and UK to agree to Assange’s release.
The system is biased against both him and the Palestinians. A two-state arrangement favoured Israel from the start, while the 1947-49 Nakba massacre is now, as Israeli leaders themselves say, being repeated without restraint. The ICJ’s decision on the genocide allegations will take years, and cannot be enforced. Hence Israel can do as it likes for as long as it takes. So can the US when it extradites Assange. The UK justice arrangements for Assange’s case always favoured the Americans, allowing them to bring new indictments at short notice, and failing to hear objections from Assange’s lawyers. After so long, no reverse judgment is likely.
Challenges from outside the biassed system are resisted in both cases. Israel has a month to report to the ICJ on its compliance in preventing acts of genocide against the Palestinians, and it has wasted no time in launching further attacks and producing allegations against UNRWA personnel, to which the US has not objected. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture appealed to the US and UK about Assange’s treatment, as have his family, and the public. All are ignored by political leaders and much of the mainstream media.
Instead, the system accepts lies, fails to challenge them, and thus perpetuates them. Israelis’ skills in deploying hasbara have been honed over many years, particularly the assertion that Israel has a right to defend itself (which Gaza doesn’t). Israel’s representatives, straight-faced, told the ICJ the Israel Defence Force makes ‘the utmost efforts’ to avoid civilian casualties. Three presidents of US universities were forced to resign in the face of Zionist (McCarthyist) onslaughts in Congress. Meanwhile the great supporter of Assange and exposer of official lies, John Pilger, has died, leaving a handful of Australian politicians, supporters, and independent media to fight on.
Under the system, independent observers can enter Gaza only when there’s a ceasefire, so nothing Israel says can be verified. Palestinian journalists are targeted and killed, and only a few Israeli reporters criticise the Netanyahu government’s line. CNN in Israel clears its reports with an official agency. In Assange’s case, a series of books, films, and thousands of articles by jealous and hostile colleagues turned the WikiLeaks founder, once seen as a hero, into a ‘high-tech terrorist’ (Senator Joe Biden). That more or less seals his fate in a presidential election year, unless Trump repeats his offer of a plea-bargain (which Assange may not accept) and his exclamation ‘I love WikiLeaks!’
The system allows the strong to treat the weak with contempt. Israel assassinates successive Hamas leaders, while not one Israeli politician was among the 1200 Israelis who died on 7 October. For the 120 or so Israeli hostages still held by Hamas, more than 26,000 Palestinians have since died and many more are injured, ill, or starving. In its latest offer, Hamas hasn’t mentioned the release of some 5000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, many without charge, yet the ICJ called for all Israeli hostages to be released. As for Assange, who is physically and mentally ill, his release from either a British or American jail is as unlikely as Israel ever letting Palestinians out of their Gaza confinement.
Australia under Labor has inched towards supporting Palestinian statehood, and Penny Wong wants a humanitarian pause in Gaza. But like the ICJ, she doesn’t call for a permanent ceasefire, or urge Australia’s allies to stop delivering arms to Israel. She says Australia hasn’t done so since November, perhaps because the government could be accused of war crimes (as it could in Yemen). She deplores the Palestinians’ situation, but wants the hostages released, and asserts Australia’s ‘solidarity with Israel’. Anthony Albanese, who once said ‘Enough is enough’ for Assange, has achieved nothing in Washington or London.
The two-faced system operates in Australia, Israel, and the US – all settler colonies that should know better, as South Africa does. The system is hostile to those who expose its faults. In a British court, Assange was told that ‘nobody is above the law’. Now in Gaza, a senior Hamas official has said the ICJ decision showed that ‘no state is above the law’. Let’s wait and see.