International Court of Justice and the Global court of Public Opinion

Jan 14, 2024
Silhouette of soldiers with Israel flag against the sunrise Image:iStock

South Africa has presented an overwhelming brief to the international Court of Justice, accusing Israel of genocidal motivation and demanding immediate cessation of such activity. The decision of the court will soon be known, but the opinion of millions, probably billons of the worlds citizens is known. Israel has crossed an uncrossable line.

A community of Ethiopian nomads are gathered for their evening meal. The mood is melancholy. Ironically the conversation is not about their shortage of food, the malnutrition that stalks their children, the outbreaks of cholera, or the impact of on-going tribal rivalry and civil war. The conversation is about Gaza.

A mixed group of middle class, mostly Caucasian Australians gather in a hall on the NSW South Coast. They have not gathered to talk about the housing crisis, or the escalating cost of living, or a creaking health system, they have gathered to talk about Gaza and their concern about unspeakable suffering of the Gazan people.

In Sydney and Melbourne groups of progressive young Jews gather, not to talk about escalating antisemitism from which many have suffered, but to talk about Gaza. Their overriding anxiety is that the government of Israel is doing immense harm to Judaism, to what it means to be a Jew, to the holding of humanitarian values and what it means to be a Jewish global citizen.

These conversations and thousands like them need be borne in mind by those tempted to dismiss criticism of Israel as uninformed predictability from Islamic or Arab sources alone. All Chrsitians, all Churches, should be deeply alarmed.

In Australia, as in many other places of the world, governments that supposedly represent the mind of people, do not. Empathy for the plight of Palestinians runs at least at two-thirds of the Australian population. That Australia has not supported South Africa’s case at the ICJ is utterly predictable, given a history of partisan Israeli support. It is not surprising that South Africa has stood tall. Both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu held the view that apartheid in Palestine/Israel was every bit as serious as that which had prevailed in South Africa.

What happened on October 7 was shocking and the perpetrators should be brought to account. At that point virtually the whole world was, or should have been, with Israel. What has happened since has not been about a calling to account, but an irrational, unrequited and out of control rage. Perhaps some of it fuelled by Netanyahu’s failure to admit his utter incompetence, even face the almost impossible admission that the IDF’s contribution at the eleventh hour contributed to terrible suffering in the kibbutz.

Since then:

It is not ok to reference Amalek and include all Gazans as a terrorist collective.

It is not ok for IDF members to chant racist slogans against all Palestinians.

It is not ok for Israel’s president to sign a missile as a Christmas gift to the people of Gaza.

It is not ok for Hamas’ statement on Israel’s illegitimacy to be given more weight than the Israeli government’s statement that not one inch of land will ever be ceded to Palestinians. Hamas has zero capacity to seriously threaten Israel, Israel has total capacity to erase the name of Palestine.

It is not ok for hundreds probably thousands of non-precision missiles to have been launched against Gazans and Gazan infrastructure, falling indiscriminately, causing mayhem.

It is not ok for thousands and thousands of Gazans to be herded into so called safe zones and then still to have lost their lives.

It is not ok for West Bank illegal settlers to be armed and for many hundreds of West Bank Palestinian residents to have been killed since October 7.

It is not ok for the IDF to indiscriminately shoot anyone carrying a white flag, even if they speak Hebrew.

It is not ok for Israel’s defence Minister to call for the death and or forced migration of Palestinians.

It is not ok for members of the Knesset to claim there is no such place as Palestine and there are no Palestinians.

It is not ok for an Israeli developer to advertise land in Gaza as a future leisure development.

It is not ok for 25,000+ people to have lost their lives, a high percentage being women and children.

It is not ok for aid to have been restricted, and for countless thousands to be on the edge of starvation.

It is not ok for the children of Gaza, in unconfirmed numbers, to have faced amputations without anaesthetic to save their lives.

Israel has crossed an uncrossable line. The Israel of 1947/48 was born out of the need to give Jewish people a safe place not just in the aftermath of the holocaust but in the aftermath of decades/centuries of discrimination and antisemitism. The world rightly saw many, but not all Jews as victims of unspeakable suffering. (Many love, and are loved members of the societies to which they belong and will always remain.)

If there was any residual reason to perceive Israel as a victim, that has been completely erased. Through its Zionistic expansionist policies and through military support from the US, Israel has been making victims of Palestinians and causing terrible suffering. Now in Gaza, this victimisation has reached a terrible threshold.

Of course, the Court of Justice must decree that Israel desist and make reparation.

There can be no going back. Palestinians must receive the independence that most countries in the world recognise as their right.

Israelis must remove the immoral crusader-like leadership with which they are blighted, and they must demand full disclosure of what has been done to others in their name.

We do not need the whole human history to be reminded that victory is never won through military conflict. Conflicts in our life-time are enough for that truth to sink in. Triumph is won through higher, not lower standards of morality and decency. It is won with the establishment of freedoms, justice, restoration, accords, treaties, respect and good will. When Israel awakens to the reality that Palestinians are a necessary part of their salvation, not their enemy, or simply a stumbling block to their colonial ambition, a path to lasting peace will have been forged.

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