OPINION: South Africa charges Israel with genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza

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Although it is no longer news, there are people who do not realize that South Africa has launched the charge of genocide against the state of Israel. The argument was presented three weeks ago to the International Court of Justice and is now being considered. 

The International Court of Justice is an organ of the United Nations (UN), made up of 15 judges, who were elected by the UN to hear cases from all such parties and two additional ones appointed by the opposing parties. The already sitting judges are from Brazil, Australia, Germany, Japan, Lebanon, Jamaica, India, Uganda, China, Somalia, Morocco, France, Slovakia, Russia, and the United States. The two additional judges, selected by South Africa and Israel, are from those respective countries. The court has the authority to hear cases such as the one charging Israel with genocide against the Palestinians of Gaza. After hearing all of the arguments, they will render a decision. 

In making its charge, South Africa used the UN’s definition of genocide which was adopted in 1948. It states that genocide is “a crime committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, or religious group, in whole or in part.” It has been used on the other occasions wherein such cases were brought. In order to substantiate its charge, South Africa pointed to (1) the more than 23,000 Palestinians civilians who have been killed; (2) massive bombings, rendering a substantial part of Gaza as uninhabitable; (3) and the prevention of the civilians having access to food, water, medical care, and general humanitarian assistance. In addition to that, South Africa uses the rhetoric from Israeli political and military leaders who urged wholesale bombing, otherwise causing the destruction of the inhabitants of Gaza, in order to establish the intent of genocide on the part of the Israelis. 

To South Africa, this is not just overkill. It is genocide in the classic sense. As a result, it seeks to have the court order an immediate cease fire on the part of Israel.

Many experts feel that even if Israel is determined to be guilty, not much will be done to correct the situation. They reach that conclusion because the U.S. supports Israel. They reach that conclusion because past findings of genocide have not resulted in punishments of the guilty parties because, among other things, Britain, China, France, Russia, and the U.S.A. can and have on occasion used their veto powers on the Security Council to block any punishing actions.

Nevertheless, it is important for South Africa to prosecute the case because of the publicity that it brings to the issue, which is one of colonialism/imperialism. Many people are unaware that colonialism and imperialism are alive and well and exist clearly in the Zionist policies of Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud Party. It is important for the case to be prosecuted because of the pressure that can be brought to bear on Israel and their supporters, including the U.S.A., to change how the problem is resolved.

It is particularly important that the case of Israeli genocide is being brought by South Africa because of its long and recent history as a victim of the colonizing European settlers, whose apartheid policies kept native South Africans oppressed for generations. The action of South Africa in this case also helps reveal the predicament of the Palestinians wherein they have no state of their own to speak for them in the UN. They are at the complete mercy of their Israeli oppressors both locally and internationally. It is reminiscent of the Native Americans when the Europeans and Americans were committing genocide against them. It is reminiscent of the days when African Americans were trying to get other countries to present their case against the U.S.A. for its genocidal actions against them.

America’s reluctance to put pressure on Israel to not only declare a ceasefire, but to also support a separate state for the Palestinians, is at the heart of the problem. It was clear under President Barack Obama, and at one point under Joe Biden, that there was opposition to the extreme right-wing policies of Netanyahu and his party. 

The current expressed American position does not reflect the same. Many Jewish citizens in Israel were and still are opposed to what Netanyahu is doing in Gaza and to the Palestinians. That should help the Biden administration to move to a more progressive, humanitarian position.

Meanwhile, as American citizens, we need to secure the necessary wisdom and will to help bring an end to the genocidal actions against the Palestinian people. We do not have to wait to become “experts” on the matter. We can see the historical parallels of this case with that of the Native Americans, that of the South Africans, and even that of African Americans. We can also see the moral dimensions of the case. This should surely help us to know where to stand. 

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OPINION: South Africa charges Israel with genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza

By Dr. Ivory Phillips
January 25, 2024