URGENT Call from Palestine to States Parties of the Genocide Convention: Support South Africa’s ICJ Suit Against Israel over its Gaza Genocide

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2 January 2024 – The Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Coordinating Committee (PAACC), comprising the Anti-Apartheid Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the BDS Movement, the Palestinian Human Rights Organization Council (PHROC) and the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), salutes South Africa for its application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Israel for violating the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in Gaza. Affirming that “Israel has engaged in, is engaging in and risks further engaging in genocidal acts against the Palestinian people in Gaza,” South Africa has requested the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to indicate provisional measures in order to protect Palestinian rights from “further, severe and irreparable harm.” Dozens of UN experts have described the humanitarian situation in Gaza as “apocalyptic,” warning of a “genocide in the making,” as have hundreds of international law scholars, including genocide experts, and a senior UN human rights official.

We call on all States Parties to the Genocide Convention to urgently and fully support the proceedings and in particular, the request by South Africa for provisional measures. In doing so we call for an immediate suspension of military operations, and the implementation of all measures to prevent genocide, including the rescinding of military orders forcing the transfer of Palestinians in Gaza, and practices denying access to adequate food, water, fuel and humanitarian supplies. Our coalitions and networks, representing the Palestinian political leadership and every strand of Palestinian civil society, fully support the proceedings which are vital to ensure that States comply with their international obligations to end the risk of genocide and genocidal acts, and urge the adoption and implementation of all the requested provisional measures to bring the genocidal destruction of the Palestinian people to an end.

We further warn that Third States who knowingly supply arms and materials to Israel for use in atrocity crimes, including genocide, may also be held responsible for contributing to internationally wrongful acts and breaches of jus cogens norms of international law. In addition, we stress that the current genocide can only be fully brought to an end by ensuring that the root causes underpinning the destruction of the Palestinian people are addressed, including, the lifting of the 16-year siege imprisoning 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza, the ending of the illegal occupation and full withdrawal of the occupying administration and military forces, dismantling of the apartheid regime, on both sides of the Green Line, and the realization of the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people and the right of Palestinian refugees to return.

PAACC welcomes the support of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for South Africa’s suit at the ICJ and calls on the League of Arab States, the African Union, BRICS, the Non-Aligned Movement and other regional and sub-regional blocs to publicly and urgently support the proceedings. The OIC has affirmed that “the indiscriminate targeting by Israel, the occupying power, of the civilian population and the thousands of Palestinians, mostly women and children, killed, injured, forcibly displaced, and denied basic necessities and humanitarian assistance and the destruction of houses, health, educational and religious institutions, in their totality constitute mass genocide.” In November 2023, the joint summit of the OIC and the Arab League reiterated “the centrality of the Palestinian cause” and categorically opposed Israeli plans to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from Gaza. The summit called on all countries to “stop exporting weapons and ammunition to [Israel] that are used by their army and terrorist settlers to kill the Palestinian people and destroy their homes, hospitals, schools, mosques, churches and all their capabilities,” to fulfill their legal obligation under international law.  

Israel is deeply concerned that the ICJ will charge it with genocide, according to Israeli reports. Israeli military and intelligence officers have admitted that “everything is intentional” in apartheid Israel’s “factory” of mass killings of civilians and the wholescale razing and destruction in Gaza. Oxfam and Palestinian human rights organizations have condemned Israel’s use of “starvation as a weapon of war,” and according to expert reports, the extent of this induced hunger in Gaza “has eclipsed even the near-famines in Afghanistan and Yemen of recent years.” 

Nearly two million Palestinians have been forcibly displaced. Recalling Israel’s “long history of mass forced displacement of Palestinians,” the UN expert on internally displaced persons has said that Israel’s war “aims to deport the majority of the civilian [Palestinian] population en masse.” UNRWA’s Commissioner General has also warned of “forced displacement,” which human rights and political leaders alike recognize as a means to destroy the people of Gaza as a group and a fundamental objective of the ongoing genocide. Exposing Israel’s desperate propaganda attempts to promote its ethnic cleansing plans under a “humanitarian” guise, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory has warned that the architects behind the crime of Israel’s forced displacement may be investigated and prosecuted under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

The UN Secretary-General has described Gaza as a “crisis of humanity” and a “graveyard for children,” invoking Article 99 of the UN Charter to highlight the serious threat to world peace and security posed by Israel’s war on the Palestinian people in Gaza. PAACC reminds Third States that fulfilling their obligation to stop Israel’s genocide would also help save the already undermined legitimacy of international law.

While the United States and a number of European powers are arming, funding and otherwise enabling Israel’s ongoing genocide, many other states have failed to uphold their legal and moral obligations to prevent the genocide or stop it. The global domination of a number of Western hegemonic States over international organizations, including the UN Security Council, the International Criminal Court, the International Olympic Committee, FIFA, etc., has effectively led to a resounding failure to impose lawful sanctions on Israel, further exposing the hypocrisy of those Western States and entrenching the global South/North divide.

Palestinian human rights organizations have therefore staunchly welcomed South Africa’s ICJ submission as “a clarion call for the international community to prioritize accountability, reject impunity, and champion the principles of human rights.” 

PAACC reminds all States Parties of the Genocide Convention of their legal obligation not just to “take measures to prevent” but also “to punish the crime of genocide, including by enacting relevant legislation and punishing perpetrators.” This includes universal jurisdiction. This is more urgent than ever, as the world watches a live-streamed genocide, driven by decades of impunity and a “might makes right” ideology.  States must comply with their international law obligations to bring Israel’s egregious acts of genocide to an end, including through applying lawful, proportionate sanctions on apartheid Israel, starting with a two way arms embargo. We urgently call on States to fully support South Africa’s genocide proceedings to prevent Israel’s systematic erasure of the Palestinian people.

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