Stopping Israel’s genocide

Apr 10, 2024
Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the Gaza Strip (South Africa v. Israel) - Reading of the Order of the Court on the request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by South Africa

The order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 28 March 2024 to stop genocide in Gaza is not a go-to-jail card for Israel. So Israel just ignored it. In so doing, it followed the example of the US which had ignored an ICJ decision against the US and in favour of Nicaragua in 1986 and, again, in 2004, in favour of Mexico.

Both Israel and the US show by conduct they believe they are above international law and the “rules-based order”. The difference here is that Israel is continuing to commit what the UN Human Rights rapporteur has called “the crime of all crimes.”

Nevertheless, the ICJ decision enables certain actions to be taken by UN members to stop Israel’s ongoing genocide. These range from putting varying pressures on Israel to stop the genocide to those that are ‘softer’ and have an indirect effect on it. For example, UN members can get the UN Security Council to demand an immediate ceasefire, they can sanction Israel and countries complicit in the genocide, and they can also sue any party complicit in the genocide as a means of getting them to stop supporting Israel’s genocide.

But, as may be seen from the following examples, for different reasons, these don’t stop the genocide:

  • On 20 February 2024, Algeria asked the UN Security Council for a resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian Gaza ceasefire. The resolution is a most powerful international way to stop the genocide. However, the US vetoed it. That’s not unexpected given US blind support for Israel as shown in how it had blocked similar resolutions since early December 2023. Indeed, from 1972 – 2010, the US used its veto power around 40 times to prevent the passing of resolutions critical of Israel.
  • On 25 March 2024, the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire for the rest of the month of Ramadan (from 11 March to 9 April). However, that was still-born. Israel disregarded it and continued attacks on Gaza, including even using military drones to murder international aid workers in three well-marked vehicles. This is not unexpected for, as pointed out by David Morrison of the Ireland Palestine Alliance, Israel actually has a history of disregarding such resolutions; it had contravened over 30 UN security Council resolutions since 1968. In other words, unknown to many, the powerful UN Security Council is no match for Israel which can behave as if it has a de facto and perpetual get-out-of-jail card enabling it to disregard international law with impunity.
  • There is much talk about the 10 BRICS countries imposing indirect pressure through trade sanctions on Israel and the US. However, this is also likely to be still-born as the US has many times in the past blocked such sanctions and given the thumbs-down to its UN Charter obligations.
  • Countries and individuals complicit in Israel’s genocide may be sued for supporting it. So, on 23 January 2024, Nicaragua sued the US, the UK, Canada, Netherlands and Germany for this crime. Also, on 4 March 2024, a group of more than 100 lawyers in Australia referred various Australian MPs to the International Criminal Court (ICC). It asked the ICC prosecutor to investigate them for complicity in genocide, failure to prevent genocide, etc. However, whilst it does send a message to those supporting genocide, the process is a legal quagmire and likely to take a very long time. In any event, it is too indirect to stop the ongoing genocide.

The ICJ decision is nevertheless not to be tossed into the rubbish bin. A little more useful juice can be squeezed out of it as the decision means the highest court in the world has endorsed worldwide condemnation of Israel. It also confers legitimacy on worldwide protests against it and effectively recognises protestors as global citizens with a real conscience doing their part to reject this evil crime to fellow human beings.

As such, there are foreseeable wider implications: Many more people will support protests against Israel’s inhumanities; it will adversely affect how the world continues to see and relate to Israel and the US; it has also increased international efforts to support the plight of the Palestinians, as in a Gallop poll in March 2024 showing 55% of Americans disapproved of Israel attacks on Gaza as compared with 45% in November 2023.

Last but not least, Israel and the US are increasingly being seen for what they are, viz two pariah states disregarding International law and the international system. Long term and serious negative consequences may flow from this. For example, Israel’s biblical-based claim to exist may be seen as an invalid excuse for genocide and the forceful and illegal taking of land lawfully inhabited and owned by others. For US hegemony, Israel’s genocide in Gaza will be another nail added to its coffin.


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