Gaza continues to be on my mind. It is totally disgusting that Israel’s daily bombardment on northern and southern Gaza and searches and arrests on the West Bank continue with little regard for civilians especially Gaza continues to be on my mind. It is totally disgusting that Israel’s daily bombardment on northern and southern Gaza and searches and arrests on the West Bank continue with little regard for civilians especially children who were killed. News just coming to hand is that Qatar in cooperation with France, has brokered a deal between Hamas and Israel that will allow medicine and humanitarian aid to be sent to Gaza in exchange for sending medicines to Israel’s hostages in Gaza. According to the official release, medicine and other humanitarian aid were to be delivered to civilians in the Gaza strip “in the most affected and vulnerable areas in exchange for delivering medication needed for Israeli captives in Gaza.” This in the long run means little but in the short run is important, especially where there is shortage of medicine and the fact that amputations are being carried out without anaesthetic.
What is definitely needed is a Ceasefire that will allow time for serious negotiations to go on and for Gaza civilians to try to sort themselves out without being exposed to Israeli bombardment. But the US has continued to oppose the demands made by a majority of members of the United Nations for a Permanent Ceasefire. The US’s position that continues to be voiced by President Biden is that Israel has a right to self-defence. This, according to experts on International law is questionable. A former UN special rapporteur for the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967 states, “Israel was not attacked by another state… It doesn’t regard Palestine as a state, and it continues to occupy Palestine. So, it was an occupying power attacked by armed forces coming from the occupied territory on Israeli soil.”
The analysts go on to say that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories is illegal under International law and Gaza therefore could not be recognised as an independent state. “The right to self defence can be invoked when the state is threatened by another state. Israel cannot claim the right of self-defence against a threat that emanates from a territory it occupies- from a territory kept under belligerent occupation.”
One major development on the Israel-Gaza issue is the case filed by South Africa to the International Court of Justice against Israel committing Genocide in Gaza. This case that was filed on December 29, 2023, is based on the Genocide Convention adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1948. Ironically that Convention was a response to the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime during the Second World War. It must be noted, however, that neither Israel nor the US recognise the authority of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Regardless of the ruling of the ICJ, only the UN Security Council is in a position to enforce whatever decisions are arrived at. This means that a US veto is likely. South Africa in its presentation before the ICJ stated that the assault by Israel was “intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group, that being the part of the Palestinian group in the Gaza strip.”
The issue of intent is critical to the charge of Genocide and South Africa has quoted from Israeli officials to strengthen their case. Israel’s Heritage minister, Amichai Eliyahu stated that there is no such thing as non-combatants in Gaza. The Israeli President, Isaac Herzog argued that everyone in Gaza is complicit in Hamas attack; meaning of course women, children, and other civilians. In fact, it was stated that the children of Gaza had brought what was happening there on to themselves. The country’s defence minister Yoav Gallant stated that they were fighting human animals. There was the call for Gaza to be erased and stripped from the face of the earth. The soldiers were urged to be triumphant and not to leave any behind. As they carried out some of the atrocities, they were videotaped celebrating. South Africa also asked for an interim measure that will halt Israel’s relentless bombing of Gaza.
The Israeli prime minister had been suggesting that the war could very well go into 2025, which means that he appears to be harbouring doubts that they could achieve their objectives before then, one of their objectives, of course, being the destruction of Hamas. As this barbaric attack continues the fear is that it could well become a regional conflict. The Houthis who occupy parts of Yemen have been targeting US and British war and cargo ships in the Red Sea. The US has been firing missiles against the Houthis and has declared them a terrorist group. Meanwhile Israel’s conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon can get out of hand as there have been exchanges of missiles with Israel. Iran meanwhile is accused of funding and arming some of the rebel groups rising to the defence of Hamas and the Palestinian people. These at the moment appear to be minor conflicts but can get out of hand the longer the invasion of Gaza continues and the failure of other countries to contain Israel. The one bright spot although it has its limitations is the continuing widespread support for the Palestinians and growing criticisms of Israel. The South African case against Israel is likely to take some time but in the short run there might be a decision on the interim measure that it requested. But the road ahead will be long with all sorts of pitfalls. Let us hope that President Biden realises that his wholehearted support for Israel and being complicit in their atrocities will affect him in the elections later this year and force him to soon make greater demands on Israel.
- Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian