ICJ’s second ruling of ‘plausible’ genocide

Philippe Sands, Palestine’s representative at the Feb. 19, 2024, ICJ hearing stated, “Israel’s occupation is illegal and all U.N. member states must act to bring it to an end.  No aid, no support, no complicity.”

Philadelphia protest, Feb. 13, 2024. (WW Photo: Joe Piette)

The latest ruling — or better, the lack of a ruling — by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands, on South Africa’s second round of charges against the Israeli military’s genocidal assault on Rafah has clarified what will be required to stop Israel’s aggression.

To enforce justice, to win liberation, even to stop the most horrible crimes of genocide, requires heroic popular struggles. It requires worldwide direct action by those in solidarity with these national liberation struggles. This was required before the Court’s decision and it is required following the Court’s decision. 

No one can expect to win liberation or even to stop imperialist crimes based solely on a decision by an international court, even if that decision is a clear condemnation of the criminals.

It remains valuable for the workers’ and peoples’ movements to absorb the experience provided by the ICJ, to learn from the experience and to determine how, and if, events like the ICJ ruling can be used to advance the people’s struggle.

The rulings provide at least two important lessons for the working-class movement.

The first and negative lesson is that the imperialist regimes — the U.S., its historic NATO allies, plus Japan and Australia — still dominate the existing international institutions like the United Nations and its international courts. What was significant in this case is that the ICJ seemed to slip out of this ironclad control, at least temporarily.

The second and positive lesson is that tens of millions of people around the world have demonstrated their revulsion at the Israeli war crimes in Gaza. They have protested U.S. and European Union complicity in these crimes. Their mobilization has been so strong that, despite the imperialist domination of the ICJ, this court first found South Africa’s charges of genocide by Israel “plausible.” 

The Israeli and U.S. regimes objected to the decision, but not because they feared any U.N. action. No, it was because the decision implied international condemnation of Israel and its arms suppliers. If Israel is committing genocide, it means that every state, every organization and every individual not only has the right to disrupt the Israeli war machine, they have the duty to disrupt it.

The Yemeni Ansarullah’s disruption of shipping in the Red Sea should qualify as carrying out the ICJ ruling. Students who demand their universities boycott, divest and sanction Israel also qualify.

The ruling upset Israeli officials enough that, according to South Africa Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor, Israeli agents and intelligence officers threatened her over the case South Africa brought to the ICJ, and her family was threatened on social media. (Hindustan Times, Feb. 10)

The Israeli regime has doubled down and continued its genocidal attack. Israel is starving the civilian population of Gaza. The ICJ’s response was simply to stand by its earlier ruling demanding that the Israeli Occupation Force take all measures to avoid genocide. The ICJ left the genocide “plausible,” although to many in the movement of solidarity with Palestine, the genocide is obvious and requires immediate action against the Israeli state.

If someone believes, falsely, that the ICJ can somehow end the occupation of Palestine, or end the assault on Gaza, then the movement can explain the limitations of the ICJ and the need for street demonstrations, strikes, boycotts and the legitimacy of armed struggle for oppressed peoples.

If, however, bringing up the ICJ ruling can help win more forces to solidarity with Palestine or win support to defend the rights of pro-Palestine activists, then the movement can employ the ruling to do this. Every weapon in the struggle for liberation is legitimate.

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