Groups intensify global push for Gaza cease-fire after ICJ ruling

Jan 27, 2024
Khan Yunis, Palestinian Territories. 21st Nov, 2023. A member of the International Committee of the Red Cross sits next to an injured child at the European Hospital in Khan Yunis, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The delegation is conducting surgeries for the injured children who were transferred from hospitals in northern Gaza Strip to the south. Image: Alamy/ Mohammed Talatene/dpa/Alamy Live News

“An immediate cease-fire by all parties remains essential and—although not ordered by the court—is the most effective condition to implement the provisional measures and end unprecedented civilian suffering.”

While welcoming the International Court of Justice’s initial ruling in the South African-led case accusing Israel of genocide in the Gaza Strip, rights groups around the world on Friday renewed calls for a cease-fire.

The United Nations’ top judicial body ordered Israel to “take all measures within its power” to uphold its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide but stopped short of demanding an immediate cease-fire. The ICJ proceedings that could find Israel guilty of genocide are expected to take years—time that the people of Gaza don’t have.

“Today’s decision is an authoritative reminder of the crucial role of international law in preventing genocide and protecting all victims of atrocity crimes,” said Amnesty International secretary general Agnès Callamard. “It sends a clear message that the world will not stand by in silence as Israel pursues a ruthless military campaign to decimate the population of the Gaza Strip and unleash death, horror, and suffering against Palestinians on an unprecedented scale.”

“However, the ICJ decision alone cannot put an end to the atrocities and devastation Gazans are witnessing,” she continued. “Alarming signs of genocide in Gaza, and Israel’s flagrant disregard for international law highlight the urgent need for effective, unified pressure on Israel to stop its onslaught against Palestinians. An immediate cease-fire by all parties remains essential and—although not ordered by the court—is the most effective condition to implement the provisional measures and end unprecedented civilian suffering.”

As of Friday, Israel’s retaliation for the Hamas-led attack on October 7 has killed at least 26,083 Palestinians—including 11,500 children—and wounded over 64,400 others, according to Gaza officials. The Israeli blockade and bombardment have also devastated civilian infrastructure, displaced most of the enclave’s 2.3 million residents, and deprived them of much-needed commercial goods and humanitarian aid.

Stressing that “the stakes could not be higher,” Callamard called on leaders from the United States—which gives Israel billions of dollars in military support—along with the United Kingdom, Germany, and other European Union members to “signal their respect for the court’s legally binding decision and do everything in their power to uphold their obligation to prevent genocide.”

Balkees Jarrah, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch, also demanded that Israel and its allies immediately comply with the court’s order on provisional measures, declaring that “lives hang in the balance, and governments need to urgently use their leverage to ensure that the order is enforced.”

“The ICJ’s speedy ruling is recognition of the dire situation in Gaza, where civilians face starvation and are being killed daily at levels unprecedented in the recent history of Israel and Palestine,” Jarrah added. “The court’s clear and binding order raises the stakes for Israel’s allies to back up their stated commitment to a global rules-based order by helping ensure compliance with this watershed ruling.”

Some governments across the world hailed the ICJ ruling as progress—even though Israeli leaders quickly made clear they have no plans to end the war. A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said in part that “we continue to believe that allegations of genocide are unfounded and note the court did not make a finding about genocide or call for a cease-fire in its ruling.”

Journalists and legal experts called the response from the United States a “mischaracterization” of the ICJ ruling intended to “justify U.S. policy instead of adjusting U.S. policy” and a signal that President Joe Biden has no plans to “stand up for justice.”

Still, in a statement Friday, the U.S.-based anti-war group CodePink praised the ruling as “a crucial step toward justice” and asserted that “the only way to ensure Israel complies with the provisional measures is through an immediate cease-fire.”

“CodePink reiterates its urgent call to the Biden administration and Congress to promptly terminate all financial support to Israel, given its perpetration of genocidal actions, and to demand an immediate cease-fire,” the group said. “We will follow this historic case as it proceeds and continue to advocate in Congress, email and call our representatives, push for city cease-fire resolutions, and, of course, protest, rally, and disrupt until the genocide in Gaza ends and Palestine is free.”

Leaders at Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which has spearheaded numerous protests across the United States demanding an end to U.S. support for Israel’s unrelenting assault of Gaza, also took aim at Biden—who is seeking reelection this year—and vowed to keep up the fight.

“For over 100 days, the Israeli and the U.S. governments have gaslit and smeared the Palestinian people, denying what the entire world was witnessing: a genocide,” noted JVP political director Beth Miller. “Now, the highest court in the world has found these claims plausible. President Biden has a choice to make: He can reject the entire system of international law and continue complicity in Israeli genocide, or he can stop arming a genocidal regime and stop attacking the people and movements struggling to build a more just and peaceful future.”

As a hearing was held in U.S. court for a case accusing the Biden administration of complicity in the genocidal violence, JVP executive director Stefanie Fox said, “We don’t need courts to tell us genocide is a moral catastrophe, but we do need courts to impose accountability when our own government has so shamefully worked to abet, fund, arm and secure impunity for the Israeli government’s genocidal attack on Palestinians in Gaza.”

“From here, the next step is clear: an immediate, permanent cease-fire,” she added. “We’re not stopping until Palestinians, like everyone else, live in justice, safety, and freedom.”

Original article published by Common Dreams on 26 January, 2024

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