Rafah massacre confirms: Israel refuses ICJ order to halt genocide

Israel’s murderous May 26 airstrike targeting Palestinians living in tents in Rafah killed nearly 50 people, with many being burnt alive or decapitated. This massacre underlines the Israeli regime’s defiance of the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) May 24 ruling that Israel must suspend its military campaign in Rafah in southern Gaza.

Despite pouring rain, thousands in Manhattan protest Israeli massacre of displaced Palestinians in Rafah camp, May 27, 2024. (WW Photo: Brenda Ryan)

The Rafah massacre shows that Israel’s warmakers also flout the charges the International Criminal Court (ICC) brought earlier against Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Galant for the genocide they have ordered against the people of Gaza. 

An airstrike against a civilian population living in tents is one more egregious crime in Israel’s ongoing genocidal war on Palestinians in Gaza.

The Israeli pariah state has chosen to again display its arrogance and contempt for international institutions. What is new since last October, however, is that these United Nations institutions have finally charged Israeli officials and the Israeli state itself with serious war crimes. 

Have no illusions regarding these courts. Neither the ICJ nor the ICC on their own can stop the genocide or arrest Israeli leaders. They have no apparatus to enforce their decisions. That the courts declared these rulings, however, indicates a change in the world’s attitude toward Israel. 

The ICJ, also called the World Court, was established in 1945 as the U.N. was being set up and the U.S. was dominant worldwide economically and militarily; the ICJ adjudicates general disputes between nations, which all U.N. members recognize. 

In 2001 the Rome Statute, which has been ratified by 124 nations, but not by the U.S., Israel, India, China or Russia, established the ICC. The ICC can investigate and charge individuals with crimes like genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression, like the charges brought against Netanyahu and Galant. To date nearly all such cases have been brought against political leaders in Africa or of other less powerful or rich states.

The ICC also charged three leaders of Hamas with war crimes regarding the events of October 7. This charge has no basis, as the October 7 uprising was the legitimate response of a colonial population to 76 years of oppression, which is a right under the U.N. Charter. The charges are thus a travesty, as Hamas, along with other resistance forces, had a right to take up arms against the occupation.

Despite these spurious charges against Hamas leaders, that Israeli government officials might face arrest in world capitals is an unexpected defeat, not only for Israel, but also for U.S. imperialist interests. 

That these cases were decided in the two international courts is important not because they resolve Israeli aggression − nor do they punish U.S. imperialism for backing and arming this aggression − but as a symptom that mass worldwide anger against the Israeli regime has reached new levels. The popular anger against Israel is so strong and widespread that it has pushed governments to react. 

Remember that last summer Israel was on the verge of normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia. Now masses of people take the streets and occupy universities in solidarity with Palestine. Instead of recognizing Israel and normalizing relations, nations have been disrupting their relations with Israel to protest the genocide in Gaza. Jordan, Bahrain, Türkiye, Colombia, Honduras, Chile, Belize, South Africa and Chad have recalled their ambassadors to Israel or severed ties altogether. 

On May 27, Israeli occupation forces killed two Egyptian troops at the Rafah border, another crime that could ignite a mass reaction among the tens of millions of Egyptians who are in solidarity with Palestine.  

Imperialist regimes, often long-term allies of Israel, even those continuing to arm Israel like France’s, have criticized Israeli policy of attacking Rafah. Spain, Norway and Ireland have recognized the Palestinian state.

Despite their shortcomings, the courts’ statements are symptoms of the growing worldwide solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. They signal an opening for anti-imperialists to help build an even more massive movement for the liberation of Palestine. 

The courts won’t resolve the Palestinian liberation struggle, but the movement can use whatever truth they bring to the world to mobilize for Palestine’s freedom and to discredit the criminal Israeli state and its imperialist U.S. backers.

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