The Palestinian people have the right to be protected from acts of genocide

The 17 members of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered their provisional verdict on January 26, 2024. After ruling that South Africa’s application was admissible, unlike Israel’s, the Court gave its ruling. 

THE COURT, Indicates the following conservatory measures:

*The State of Israel shall, in accordance with its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, take all measures within its power to prevent the commission, against the Palestinians of Gaza, of any act falling within the scope of Article II of the Convention, in particular the following acts:

a) Murder of group members ;

b) serious harm to the physical or mental integrity of group members ;

c) intentional subjection of the group to conditions of existence likely to bring about its total or partial physical destruction; and

d) measures to prevent births within the group ;

*The State of Israel must ensure, with immediate effect, that its army does not commit any of the acts referred to in point 1 above;

*The State of Israel must take all measures in its power to prevent and punish direct and public incitement to commit genocide against members of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip;

*The State of Israel must take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian aid to alleviate the difficult living conditions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip;

*The State of Israel must take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence relating to alleged acts falling within the scope of Articles II and III of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide committed against members of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip;

*The State of Israel shall submit to the Court a report on all the measures it has taken to give effect to this Order within one month of the date thereof.

The provisional decision of the International Court of Justice, a UN body, is harsh on Israel. Some would have preferred more, but given its composition, we are faced with compromises. Indeed, the Court did not order an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Nevertheless, the foundations for a substantive judgment on the existence of genocide have been laid:

* The International Court of Justice did not reject South Africa’s application, as Israel had requested.

* In the preamble, it qualified the genocidal intent by using the expression « human animals ».

* It laid the foundations for a substantive judgment on the existence of genocide.

However, if a halt to indiscriminate bombing, the targeting of universities, schools, places of worship and journalists, etc., seems implicit in the provisional judgment (to protect the « Palestinian group » from genocide), it remains implicit and the real measure, the demand for a ceasefire, is missing.

The Court’s decision is obviously not complete, but let’s be positive: the provisional decision is exceptional. It clearly denounces Israel’s actions as potentially genocidal, and says they must stop. As such, I’m sure that this decision will be welcomed by the whole of the so-called global south, and that back home, our ruling « elites » will be half and half. They’ll get over it in no time! As for the Israeli government, it will reject this provisional decision, repeatedly citing its right to defend itself and the Shoah.

This is an important first step towards stopping this murderous madness, in which we are complicit whether we like it or not. Not that this decision will be followed by a lull — probably the opposite, with the intensification of fighting in northern Israel and the American stalemate in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. But this decision is a deep crack in the victim posture of the current Israeli government: because, before the decision, it was in short: it’s because we are victims, that we colonize you, we strip you, we kill you. This was summed up perfectly by Gideon Levy: « We are the only victims.  We are the only victims « .

For Russia, this position of victimhood makes little sense in view of the 25 million people who died to save us from Nazism, but for us it’s a different story. This decision is therefore fraught with significance and will gradually permeate our consciousness, despite the reluctance of our mainstream media — to put it mildly: victims have become executioners.

On the other hand, the echo of this provisional decision is enormous in the countries of the global South, which have suffered war, colonization, exploitation, apartheid and slaughter at our hands. It’s like a dazzling moral revenge. This provisional decision will be a landmark one, especially as it paves the way for other decisions, not only by the ICJ or other international courts, but also and probably above all by national courts, which will thereby be able to legitimize their own actions in this area.

Instead of burying our heads in the sand, we’d do better to take a good hard look at ourselves, get out of this comfortable guilt-trip and finally make the right decisions.

Christophe de Brouwer

Honorary full professor and former chair of the School of Public Health at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. (January 26, 2024)

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