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Red Eyes On Weak Knees

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South Africa has taken Israel to the International Court of Justice, a toothless organisation that can issue a rebuke. And then it has to be proven that Israel is actually carrying out a pogrom, as if all television footage sold lies. This is a farce.

By Sujit Bhar

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is a highly opinionated court—otherwise, a court which can only offer an opinion, not a true-blue “judgement”. All its “judgements”, so to say, are actually recommendations. It seems to be what the world expects in a somewhat “neutral” observer in a viciously bipartisan eco-system, while the United Nations itself seems to have lost this pre-eminent position.

Within this edifice of falsehood—the UN court is based in The Hague in the Netherlands—South Africa has taken Israel to “court” accusing Binyamin Netanyahu’s goons of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. South Africa’s submission also wants the court to order Israel to stop military operations there.

One has to be clear of the fact that the ICJ will deliver only an opinion on the genocide allegation as the case is not a criminal trial. For that one has to approach the International Criminal Court, whose realm of influence extends to all those who care to listen, no more. The ICJ is basically a court of arbitration.

However, in this world of debated opinions—lacking action, unless you have the military wherewithal to enforce a “democratic” solution—the ICJ’s utterances will be watched keenly. It makes for good media, on either side.

Of course, Israel has vehemently rejected the accusation as “baseless”—quite like George Bush & Co would do about WMDs in Iraq—but when South Africa says that Israel intends “to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnic group”, a horrible apartheid stench emanates.

The South African lawyers have drafted well. The submission says Israel’s actions include “killing Palestinians in Gaza, causing them serious bodily and mental harm, and inflicting on them conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction.”

On a prompt note, Israeli President Isaac Herzog said the accusations were “atrocious and preposterous”. “We will be in the International Court of Justice and we will present proudly our case of using self-defence… under humanitarian law,” he said. One isn’t sure what he is talking about when he includes the word ‘humanitarian’.

He sounded like a caricature from the Third Reich, saying with a straight face that the Israeli army was “doing its utmost under extremely complicated circumstances on the ground to make sure that there will be no unintended consequences and no civilian casualties.”

As of January 9, the 95th day of the “war”, including the claim of the death of four Hezbollah action squad men, at least 23,210 people have been killed and more than 59,100 wounded in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7. Meanwhile, the revised death toll in Israel from the October 7 attack stands at 1,139. Many of those dead in Gaza have been children, women and old people. And if they do not fall in the “unintended consequences” category, what does is a mystery.

If one considers the power of the judiciary, one has to salute the Supreme Court of Israel for standing up against the marauding force of Netanyahu and declaring his judicial reforms as illegal and unethical. Courts in many countries, including the courts of the beleaguered Pakistan, have shown immense spine in speaking for justice and seeing to it that their orders are carried out (the reinstatement of Pakistan’s chief justice, for example).

When this is the encouraging backdrop, the ICJ presents itself as a pliable old boys’ club, intent on post lunch debates that affects none, creates no new benchmark.

It is necessary to develop a machinery by which the pronouncements of such “courts”; can actually be called “judgements” and such judgements can be enforced.

Meanwhile, another major war is just about waiting to happen, specifically on the northern border of Israel. That will involve the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group based in Lebanon. That will be a far more disastrous deal, something the world does not want. Hezbollah, with the help of Iran, is basically Hamas on steroids, and the military equipment this group is said to possess will create major devastation in the region.

This is worrying even the United States, which is scrambling to try to prevent it. However, with Israel’s headstrong action in decimating an entire ethnic population, the situation can quickly get out of hand. There have been Russian and Chinese involvements to an extent, but with the US refusing to talk to either power—even while deciding to no more support the Ukraine “war”—the deadlock can result in immense bloodshed and a complete blockade of critical trade routes that have already made commodities dearer.

All this makes it imperative that this academic exercise before the ICJ be done away with and a realistic solution be found. Lawyers say that a lot will depend on if South Africa can make the ICJ believe that there is a pogrom or genocide on in the Gaza Strip. Such obtuse observations are typical of a toothless organisation that has no more than words to offer. If you want to know if it is raining, you just need to open a window and look outside. If you want to know the extent of the atrocities that Israeli forces are committing in the Gaza Strip, you simply need to switch on a television news channel that is not Israeli or American. How difficult is that?

In this midst, the ICJ circus could well have been avoided, saving time, money and face.

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