What Israel Faces at The Hague

South Africa’s petition to stop what it alleges is Israeli genocide in Gaza has begun on Thursday in the International Court of Justice. Gareth Porter reports.

International Court of Justice in The Hague. (R Boed, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

By Gareth Porter
Special to Consortium News

When the International Court of Justice opens its consideration of the case against Israel’s genocidal policy towards Palestinians living in Gaza on Thursday it will have before it a petition from South Africa, which initiated the case. In legal terms it is a request that the court decides on “provisional measures” to protect the Gazan people from “imminent and irreparable loss,” in other words, to stop Israel’s assault on Gaza.

But in political terms the 84-page document that South Africa submitted to the Court represents the most powerful indictment of Israeli genocide that has been available to the public thus far.

It not only documents the genocidal consequences of the Israeli massive bombing and siege of Gaza, but presents a complete file of official Israeli professions of determination to carry out genocide against the Palestinians population of the Gaza strip.

The latter evidence comes directly from the mouths of Prime Benjamin Netanyahu himself, the president of Israel, the minister of defense, the minister of national security, five other government ministers and several leading Israeli military figures. 

It is a heart-rending document that can leave no one who reads it in doubt about the explicitly genocidal motive of the Israeli government in ordering indiscriminate bombing and the deliberate denial of food, water, energy and medical care and supplies to the Palestinian population with the explicit intention of making it impossible for Palestinians to sustain life in Gaza.

The Human Cost of Genocidal Policies

Palestinians inspect the damage following an Israeli airstrike on the El-Remal aera in Gaza City on October 9, 2023. (Naaman Omar apaimages/Wikimedia Commons)

The terrible human toll of the Israeli assault on the population of Gaza in terms of death and injury from Israeli bombing is well known.  What is not generally known to the U.S. public is evidence provided in the South African document that Israelis have deliberately chosen the most indiscriminate way of bombing possible.

Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas of the world, so indiscriminate weapons are far more lethal there than in normal situations. Yet despite the availability of precision guided weapons, as the South African document points out, Israel has been dropping completely unguided “dumb bombs” and 2,000 pound munitions that have a lethal radius of up to 360m and cause serious injuries for 800m in all directions. 

Primary victims of the Israeli strategy, counting for 40 percent of the casualties, are children, with more than 115 Palestinian children in Gaza killed every day.  The document cites a study by Save the Children showing that the 3,195 Palestinian children killed in the first three weeks in Gaza alone is more than total number of children killed each year since 2019 across all the world’s conflict zones.

And because of the close-knit character of Palestinian families and the prolonged war, the document reveals that this bombing strategy has taken a tragic toll on entire extended families, with mothers, fathers, children, siblings, grandparents, aunts and cousins frequently killed simultaneously with no remaining survivors. As many as 312 Palestinian families in Gaza lost over 10 members each in just the first month of the bombing alone.

The Israeli campaign has forced Palestinian families to choose between remaining in their homes and facing the very high risk of death or abandoning their homes without any idea where they can find safety. At the beginning of December, the Israelis published a map supposedly intended to advise Palestinians of areas from which they were had to move. 

But as the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) observed at the time, they provided no information about where they could move to be safe from the bombing. And given the Israeli cutoff of electricity in Gaza, few families had the means to even know they were about to be targeted. 

By destroying 355,000 homes and reducing most of Gaza’s housing stock to rubble, especially in the North, the Israelis were seeking to make the survivors’ homelessness more permanent.

For the past few weeks, however, a most serious threat to Gaza’s population has not been the direct consequence of the bombing but the “complete siege on Gaza” that Israel imposed on Oct. 9: no food, no water, no electricity, no fuel has been allowed into Gaza since then except for a few trucks that delivered paltry amounts of humanitarian aid. 

That siege, which reflects the Israeli position that the entire population of Gaza must be punished for the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, has brought massive numbers of Palestinians to the brink of starvation. 

World Food Program executive director, Carl Skau, warned in mid-December that most Gazans were already starving, and that the level was rising every day. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, a public-private project that tracks starvation across the globe, has estimated that more than a million people — half of Gaza’s population — are already in the “catastrophic” phase of starvation — a condition in which people have almost no food and are at risk of death. 

The South African submission cites more than 360,000 cases of communicable diseases already reported in UNRWA shelters alone. This is the result of unsanitary conditions and lack of clean water, part of the catastrophic situation facing the Gazan population as a result of Israeli policy.

Israeli Genocidal Policy in Their Own Words

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Tel Aviv on Nov. 30, 2023. (State Department, Chuck Kennedy)

The most revealing — and most shocking part — of the South African document, however, is its complete file of the statements of senior Israeli government officials about the Zionist state’s real objective in launching the assault on Gaza. 

As it is brought before the World Court, the international community now faces the issue of whether Israel violated the Genocide Convention. Israeli officials will of course continue to deny vehemently that Israel has any such intention, and claim that harm to civilians was incidental to its need to eliminate Hamas. 

But the South African document systematically catalogues a large number of the most explicit statements of genocidal intent imaginable from the part of top officials of the Israeli government and military.

Far from being secretive about the intention, these officials were eager to tell their own people and the world that that they were going eliminate the Palestinians by force, and do so in a way that was thorough and complete. 

The Palestinians were dehumanized and demonized by Netanyahu and other top officials as enemies that could and should be dealt with as animals rather than as humans, reflecting a long-time popular Zionist theme that has surfaced increasingly in recent years. But Oct. 7 presented the opportunity for the civilian and military leadership to encourage an orgy of genocidal hatred for the Palestinians.

Most of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statements on Israeli war aims were carefully coded messages about “a struggle between the children of light and the children of darkness, between humanity and the law of the jungle”, and a “war between sons of light and sons of darkness.”
But on Oct. 28 and again on Nov. 3, he invoked the biblical story of the Israelites’ total destruction of “Amalek”, by which he was referring to an ancient nomadic tribe or group of tribes, said in the Old Testament to be longtime enemies of “Israel.”

In the first of those references Netanyahu said: “You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our holy Bible. And we do remember.” 

He again referred to Amalek in a letter to Israeli soldiers on Nov. 3. He was referring to a biblical passage that said:

“Now go, attack Amalek, and proscribe all that belongs to him. Spare no one, but kill alike men and women, infants and sucklings, oxen and sheep, camels and asses.”

The message could hardly be clearer to the Israelis: the war was not just targeting Hamas; the target was the Palestinian population.

President Isaac Herzog, on the other hand, was quite direct: on Oct. 12, he declared:

“It’s an entire nation out there, that is responsible. It’s not true this rhetoric about civilians not aware, not involved. It’s absolutely not true. … and we will fight until we break their backbone.”

Similarly, on Oct. 9, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declared, “Gaza won’t return to what it was before. We will eliminate everything. If it doesn’t take one day, it will take a week. It will take weeks or even months, we will reach all places.”

In a televised address on Nov. 10, Minister for National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir declared:

“When we say that Hamas should be destroyed, it also means those who celebrate, those who support, and those who hand out candy — they’re all terrorists, and they should also be destroyed.”

Israeli Minister of Heritage Amichai Eliyahu posted on Facebook Nov. 1:

“The north of the Gaza Strip, more beautiful than ever. Everything is blown up and flattened, simply a pleasure for the eyes ….” 

In a statement at a meeting of the Israeli Cabinet on Oct. 8, Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich declared, “We need to deal a blow that hasn’t been seen in 50 years and take down Gaza.”

The document includes half a dozen more examples of clear-cut expressions of genocidal intentions from military officials, but the message from Netanyahu and his ministers is unmistakably clear: the Israeli government intends to destroy the Palestinian society of Gaza and make it impossible for them live there. 

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian writing on U.S. national security policy. His latest book, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, was published in February of 2014. Follow him on Twitter: @GarethPorter.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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8 comments for “What Israel Faces at The Hague

  1. Sig
    January 11, 2024 at 15:08

    David Ben Gurion declared, “the Arabs must go ;what it takes will be a war”. This was well before the NAKBA in 1948, but has been the Israeli position ever since. 75 years of despicable actions towards the Palestinians has brought us to this ultimate catastrophe/. (NAKBA) The ICJ is on trial.

  2. Circus Circus
    January 11, 2024 at 11:57

    The more interesting question is how this trial of the UN and its courts turns out.

    The system of “international justice” has become a laughing-stock in recent years. Made so by the corruption of the capitalist west. Various UN bodies overrule their own ‘experts’ and release political decisions upon command. Their decisions are very political, and are always aimed at the enemies of the capitalist west. All the while being unable to see the crimes of the century from their capitalist masters and mistresses.

    So, in the next few days, the ICJ and the UN and the whole system of “international justice” is on trial. Can they see the genocide that is plainly visible to everyone in the world? If no, then they won’t have any credibility. Then, if they can see it, can they stop it? Again, if they can not, then they have no credibility. If all they can do in response to the murder of tens of thousands of people is to issue a statement saying “pretty please, please stop”, then what good are they?

    In the next two days, we are seeing the UN and the ICJ and the rest of “international law” on trial. I am not optimistic about the kangaroos’ chances of survival.

    • Andrew Thomas
      January 11, 2024 at 21:28

      Yes. If the ICJ defies US pressure and rules in favor of South Africa’s submission, what would that mean in reality? The ICJ long ago ruled against the US in a suit brought by Nicaragua. The US didn’t even bother to answer or participate. The result in favor of Nicaragua was never enforced. Nothing changed. Nothing is going to change after any verdict against Israel this time, in the unlikely event it happens. There is no reality to the term ‘international law.’ The phrases ‘lipstick on a pig’ and ‘kangaroo court’ come to mind, but are in my view gross insults to porcine quadrupeds and marsupials worldwide.

  3. Em
    January 11, 2024 at 09:38

    Re: Indictment of Western Duplicity

    A hope for the Palestinian nation is that once upon a time, in more recent history, the military wing of the African National Congress, uMkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), was regarded as a terrorist organization, and its head, Nelson Mandela, was persona non grata throughout the ‘west’.

    Today, that very same African National Congress (ANC), the first truly democratically elected government of the nation of South Africa (SA) in its 300 years of abysmal colonial history is, for the first time, being lauded globally, for daring to bring suit against the genocidal Apartheid State of Israel; a proxy of that very same illegitimate western regime, and the ‘totem’ of Nelson Mandela, a fallible human being, is being added as an icon to the list of forerunner savior Saints of humanity.

  4. susan
    January 11, 2024 at 08:59

    The US government should be standing right beside Israel in this ‘genocidal policy towards Palestinians living in Gaza’ – after all, they continue to support and supply Israel with money and munitions. So sickening!!

    • Circus Circus
      January 11, 2024 at 12:17

      They are.
      In the real court, in the court of what the people of the world think and feel, they are, we are, standing right there alongside them. Looking guilty as sin, and reading a catalog of our latest in bombs in arrogant defiance of that court. As Blinkin tells off the entire world and yells that they can not dare to judge us, their exceptional masters and mistresses.

      It turns out that the old American boast about not worrying about reality because they create reality, is just hubris and ego after all. If it wasn’t always fiction, then the reality they decided to create became too revolting for the rest of the world to stomach any longer. One way or another, America will now have to live in the reality it has created for itself. The one where the rest of the world sees America as a serial genocider with a trail of bodies from ‘the Wild West’ to the Philippines to Vietnam to Iraq and now onwards, forward, always stronger together … to Gaza.

  5. Em
    January 11, 2024 at 08:16

    A hope for the Palestinian Nation is that once upon a recent time Umkonto Wi Sizwe was regarded as a terrorist organization and its head, Nelson Mandela, was persona non grata throughout the ‘West’.
    Today it is the ANC government of South Africa being lauded by that very same western regime for bringing suit against genocidal apartheid Israel.

  6. Stephen Charles
    January 11, 2024 at 07:43

    If the ICJ should fail to support the South African submission, and therefore give tacit approval to Israel’s foul and horrifying genocide it will, at the very least, drive South Africa further from the west, and further into BRICS.

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