Monday 24th of June 2024

the taste of genocide.....

The exhaustive 84-page brief submitted by South Africa to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) charging Israel with genocide is hard to refute. Israel’s campaign of indiscriminate killing, wholesale destruction of infrastructure, including housing, hospitals and water treatment plants, along with its use of starvation as a weapon, accompanied by genocidal rhetoric from its political and military leaders who speak of destroying Gaza and ethnically cleansing the 2.3 million Palestinians, makes a strong case against Israel for genocide. 

 

Chris Hedges: The Case for Genocide

 

Israel’s smearing of South Africa as “the legal arm” of Hamas exemplifies the bankruptcy of its defense, a smear replicated by those who claim that demonstrations held to call for a ceasefire and protect Palestinian human rights are “anti-Semitic.” Israel, its genocide live streamed to the world, has no substantial counter argument.

But that does not mean the judges on the court will rule in South Africa’s favor. The pressure the U.S. will bring – Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called the South African charges “meritless” – on the judges, drawn from the member states of the U.N., will be intense. 

A ruling of genocide is a stain that Israel – which weaponizes the Holocaust to justify its brutalization of the Palestinians – would find hard to remove. It would undercut Israel’s insistence that Jews are eternal victims. It would shatter the justification for Israel’s indiscriminate killing of unarmed Palestinians and construction of the world’s largest open air prison in Gaza, along with the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It would sweep away the immunity to criticism enjoyed by the Israel lobby and its Zionist supporters in the U.S., who have successfully equated criticisms of the “Jewish State” and support for Palestinian rights with anti-Semitism.  

Over 23,700 Palestinians, including over 10,000 children, have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, when Hamas and other resistance fighters breached the security barriers around Gaza. Some 1,200 people were killed – there is strong evidence that some of the victims were killed by Israeli tank crews and helicopter pilots that intentionally targeted the some 200 hostages along with their captors. Thousands more Palestinians are missing, presumed buried under the rubble. Israeli attacks have left over 60,000 Palestinians wounded and maimed, the majority of them women and children. Thousands more Palestinian civilians, including children, have been arrested, blindfolded, numbered, beaten, forced to strip to their underwear, loaded onto trucks and transported to unknown locations. 

A ruling by the court could be years away. But South Africa is asking for provisional measures that would demand Israel cease its military assault – in essence a permanent ceasefire. This decision could come within two or three weeks. It is a decision that is not based on the final ruling by the court, but on the merits of the case brought by South Africa. The court would not, by demanding Israel end its hostilities in Gaza, define the Israeli campaign in Gaza as genocide. It would confirm that there is the possibility of genocide, what the South African lawyers call acts that are “genocidal in character.”

The case will not be determined by the documentation of specific crimes, even those defined as war crimes. It will be determined by genocidal intent – the intent to eradicate in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group – as defined in the Genocide Convention.

These acts collectively include the targeting of refugee camps and other densely packed civilian areas with 2,000-pound bombs, the blocking of humanitarian aid, the destruction of the health care system and its effects on children and pregnant women – the U.N. estimates there are around 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza, and that more than 160 babies are delivered every day – as well as repeated genocidal statements by leading Israeli politicians and generals. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu equated Gaza with Amalek, a nation hostile to the Israelites in the Bible, and cited the Biblical injunction to kill every Amalek man, woman, child or animal. Defence Minister Yoav Gallant called Palestinians “human animals.” Israeli President Isaac Herzog stated, as the South African lawyers told the court, that everybody in Gaza is responsible for what happened on Oct. 7 because they voted for Hamas, although half the population in Gaza are children who are too young to vote. But even if the entire population of Gaza did vote for Hamas this does not make them a legitimate military target. They are still, under the rules of war, civilians, and entitled to protection. They are also entitled under international law to resist their occupation via armed struggle.  

The South African lawyers, who compared Israel’s crimes with those carried out by the apartheid regime in South Africa, showed the court a video of Israeli soldiers celebrating and calling for the death of Palestinians – they sang as they danced “There are no uninvolved civilians” – as evidence that genocidal intent descends from the top to the bottom of the Israeli war machine and political system. They provided the court with photos of mass graves where bodies were buried “often unidentified.” No one – including newborns – was spared, the South African lawyer Adila Hassim, Senior Counsel, explained to the court.

The South African lawyers told the court the “first genocidal act is mass killing of Palestinians in Gaza.” The second genocidal act, they stated, is the serious bodily or mental harm inflicted on Palestinians in Gaza in violation of Article 2B of the Genocide Convention. Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, another lawyer and legal scholar representing South Africa, argued that “Israel’s political leaders, military commanders and persons holding official positions have systematically and in explicit terms declared their genocidal intent.”

Lior Haiat, spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called Thursday’s three hour hearing one of the “greatest shows of hypocrisy in history, compounded by a series of false and baseless claims.” He accused South Africa of seeking to allow Hamas to return to Israel to “commit war crimes.” 

Israeli jurists, in their response on Friday, called the South African charges “unfounded, “absurd” and amounting to “libel.” Israel’s legal team said it had – despite U.N. reports of widespread starvation and infectious diseases from a breakdown in sanitation and shortage of clean water – not impeded humanitarian assistance. Israel defended attacks on hospitals, calling them “Hamas command centers.” It told the court it was acting in self-defense. “The inevitable fatalities and human suffering of any conflict is not of itself a pattern of conduct that plausibly shows genocidal intent,” said Christopher Staker, a barrister for Israel.

Israeli leaders accuse Hamas with carrying out genocide, although legally if you are the victims of genocide you are not permitted to commit genocide. Hamas is also not a state. It is not, therefore, a party to the Genocide Convention. The Hague, for this reason, has no jurisdiction over the organization. Israel also claims the Palestinians are warned to evacuate areas that will come under attack and provided with “safe areas,” although as the South African lawyers documented, “safe areas” are routinely bombed by Israel with numerous civilian casualties.

Israel and the Biden administration intend to prevent any temporary injunction by the court, not because the court can force Israel to halt its military assaults, but because of the optics, which are already disastrous. The ICJ’s ruling depends on the Security Council for enforcement – which given the veto power by the U.S., renders any ruling against Israel moot. The second objective of the Biden administration is to make sure Israel is not found guilty of committing genocide. It will be unrelenting in this campaign, heavily pressuring the governments that have jurists on the court not to find Israel guilty. Russia and China, who have jurists in The Hague, are battling their own charges of genocide and may decide it is not in their interests to find Israel guilty.

The Biden administration is playing a very cynical game. It insists it is trying to halt what, by its own admission, is Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Palestinians, while bypassing Congress to speed up the supply of weapons to Israel, including “dumb” bombs. It insists it wants the fighting in Gaza to end while it vetoes ceasefire resolutions at the U.N. It insists it upholds the rule of law while it subverts the legal mechanism that can halt the genocide.  

Cynicism pervades every word Biden and Blinken utter. This cynicism extends to us. Our revulsion for Donald Trump, the Biden White House believes, will impel us to keep Biden in office. On any other issue this might be the case. But it cannot be the case with genocide.

Genocide is not a political problem. It is a moral one. We cannot, no matter what the cost, support those who commit or are accomplices to genocide. Genocide is the crime of all crimes. It is the purest expression of evil. We must stand unequivocally with Palestinians and the jurists from South Africa. We must demand justice. We must hold Biden accountable for the genocide in Gaza.

NOTE TO SCHEERPOST READERS FROM CHRIS HEDGES: There is now no way left for me to continue to write a weekly column for ScheerPost and produce my weekly television show without your help. The walls are closing in, with startling rapidity, on independent journalism, with the elites, including the Democratic Party elites, clamoring for more and more censorship. Bob Scheer, who runs ScheerPost on a shoestring budget, and I will not waver in our commitment to independent and honest journalism, and we will never put ScheerPost behind a paywall, charge a subscription for it, sell your data or accept advertising. Please, if you can, sign up at chrishedges.substack.com so I can continue to post my now weekly Monday column on ScheerPost and produce my weekly television show, The Chris Hedges Report.

 

https://scheerpost.com/2024/01/12/chris-hedges-the-case-for-genocide/

 

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpMolx86Kdg

JUSTICE DELAYED - MOATS with George Galloway Ep 308

 

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a gift from the poor....

 

Israel and the U.S. Are Already Feeling the Weight of Houthi Justice  BY Hugo Dionísio

 

For better or worse, the Houthis are the only political and military force doing anything practical to demand that Israel pay for its acts. And despite the attack on their territory, we can already say with certainty, that the Ansar Allah movement and the pro-Palestinian resistance, in general, will be strengthened by this event.

Were it not for a rebel movement, made up of poor people living in great hardship, no other country in the region would do anything to bring some moral justice, however little, to this whole process. As they say, whoever has a lot, has the most to lose. Only the poor give what they need and this is a good example of that.

It is even curious that here and there, apart from a few diplomatic and commercial measures, the most serious diplomatic action for Israel has come from outside the continent and the Middle East: South Africa’s accusation at the International Court of Justice that the state of Israel should be tried for genocide. Of course, the accusation was immediately branded with the very vulgar epithet of “anti-Semitic”.

But the Houthis’ role in the Red Sea has produced absolutely unpredictable and — perhaps unexpected — results for the West. The Red Sea trade route accounts for 12% of global maritime trade and 12% of all oil trade. An important part of the commercial ships that travel between the Indian Ocean and Europe pass through the Red Sea.

Moreover, the importance of this route for Israel is truly decisive. The Port of Eilat essentially lives off this sea route. Disconnecting the port of Eilat from the international routes to Asia not only means that many of the goods that Israel receives from Asia will become more expensive and risk perishing, with all the economic burdens that this entails. But it also means cutting tourism, since the city of Eilat is an important tourist destination in the Middle East, and losing the competitiveness of its exports to the Asian continent.

But in the end, the financial damage might even be surmountable. What would be difficult to overcome would be the fragility in which an effective blockade of the Red Sea crossing would leave Israel.

Let’s imagine a likely scenario in which the war fronts multiply and the conflict spreads to other regions (Lebanon, Syria and Yemen). Just as Oman has closed its airspace to military planes to bomb Yemen, a country like Egypt could, in a situation of great pressure and popular pressure, consider closing the Suez Canal to boats that are linked to Israel. It wouldn’t be unheard of, as we know. Oman itself has prevented U.S. military aircraft from passing through, for various reasons. One of them has to do with a certain neutrality that the sultanate is assuming on the international stage. However, this “neutrality” is also due to the ethnic tensions it has in its territory, which borders Yemen. In any case, leaving the port of Eilat open only to boats coming from the Suez Canal would be strategically fragile.

So, while it cannot be denied that the Houthi naval blockade may be a burden for the other Arab nations that receive their ships at Red Sea ports, the fact is that for none of them the situation is as dramatic as it is for Israel. Since the goods that Israel receives by sea and from Asia can come from the Red Sea without having to go through the Suez Canal, the port of Eilat is absolutely strategic for the country’s economic stability. And without economic stability, wars can’t be won. Even against those who arm themselves with little more than stones and sticks and a few handmade rockets.

In this sense, and in the face of the danger, it didn’t take long for the U.S. to try to defend its spearhead in the Middle East, trying to organize an international coalition that they called the “Operation Prosperity Guardian”.

The attempt to mask this initiative as something intended to defend the world and the global economy will not have had the intended propaganda effects. The fact is that, as has been widely reported, many nations did not want to join in — some directly, others directly and indirectly. If, on the one hand, this was a call from the U.S., on the other, at the time, the primacy established by the Houthi for the blockade still resonated in minds: only Israeli ships or those in any way linked to that country’s interests are affected.

The refusal of some may have been due to the fear of being associated with defending the interests of the state of Israel, whose image on the international stage was increasingly linked to the bombing of civilians, the bulldozing of cities, the deportation and displacement of entire families from their homes and the summary execution of human beings.

With effort, the U.S. managed to get its team together. We couldn’t have expected anything other than what happened on January 12th, namely the attack on Yemen and in particular on the Houthi forces.

The event was widely reported in the corporate media as if it were a real victory. An attack, by world powers, one of them one of the biggest military powers on the planet, perpetrated against a depleted people, scarred by hunger and war, is sung about as a historic victory.

But the truth is that the Houthi had already won. We all remember the messages from Blinken or Biden during their frequent visits to the Zionist state: we can’t let the conflict spread to the Middle East, they said. Well, although this attack avoids the worst, which is to ensure that Israel doesn’t get involved on several fronts, so that it can carry out its plan for Gaza with impunity and calmly, the fact is that, at the moment, a new front of conflict has just been opened, which adds to the other fires that the U.S. already has in hand, and it is not yet clear how it will end.

The unpredictability of this conflict doesn’t stop there. No matter how much propaganda Uncle Sam can buy, everyone has already realized that the U.S. and its vassals will go to any lengths to defend Israel, even when it finds itself in an absolutely marginal situation in the face of international law and compliance with the most basic human rights.

With all this, the Houthi have not only managed to make Israel pay a price — still very low — for its campaign against Gaza and for the apartheid it maintains over the Palestinian people, but they have also managed to show the world that for the U.S., when it comes to democracy, human rights, crimes against humanity and war crimes, the scales always tip in favor of its hegemonic interests. What they demand and punish some for, they excuse and reward others for.

We can now only hope that The Hague tribunal does its job and avoids being instrumentalized by hegemonic interests, as happened at the International Criminal Court with Putin, Milosevic and many other Africans and Asians, for whom that court is nothing more than a tentacle of the empire. Let’s hope that some justice is done.

For the time being, the Houthi have already given us something, demanding a higher price from Israel for their actions, unmasking the nature of American support for Zionism and showing the world, once again, that Western nations arrogate to themselves the right to attack wherever and whenever they want, without any backing in international law, without the mantle of the UN, without even having been provoked. Since it was Israel that was provoked.

At least we can see their faces!

https://strategic-culture.su/news/2024/01/14/israel-and-us-already-feeling-weight-of-houthi-justice/

 

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stop it....

MANY COMMENTATORS ON THE US MAINSTREAM MEDIA MAKE THE POINT THAT "IRAN CAN MAKE THE HOUTHIS STOP THEIR 'MISSILING' OF SHIPS IN THE RED SEA"... POSSIBLY, BUT WE DON'T KNOW IF THE HOUTHIS LISTEN TO IRAN... ON THE OTHER HAND WE COULD SAY THAT "AMERICA CAN MAKE ISRAEL STOP ITS ASSAULT ON GAZA". FOR SURE, BUT ISRAEL WOULDN'T LISTEN UNLESS THE AMERICANS THREATEN TO STOP DELIVERY OF WEAPONS... AND EVEN THEN, ISRAEL MIGHT NOT AS ISRAEL (NETANYAHU) IS ON A ROLL TO GET RID OF THE PALESTINIANS, COMPLETELY MAD LIKE A DOG DEFENDING A BONE (WHICH ISN'T ITS OWN)...

 

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at the palace of peace....

 

Your Man in the Hague (in a Good Way)

BY CRAIG MURRAY

 

I attended the hearing on Thursday of South Africa’s case against Israel for genocide at the International Court of Justice. I was able to sit in the public gallery and watch all the proceedings. I was, however, handicapped in reporting by the fact that we were not allowed pens or pencils (though we were allowed paper). I asked the Head of Security at the ICJ why pens were not allowed in the public gallery. He told me, with a perfectly straight face, that they could be used as a weapon. So bereft of my deadly ballpoint, this account is less detailed and more impressionistic than I would wish to give you.

I had arrived at the Hague early Wednesday morning on 10 January, having flown in from Indonesia. This had involved four flights, to Singapore, Milan, Copenhagen and finally Schiphol. Wednesday was spent in a frantic search of the charity shops of the Hague for warm clothing, as I had only beach clothes with me apart from a friends’ old ski jacket. I called first at the ICJ to get information on how to attend Thursday morning’s session. 

A young lady informed me that I had to queue outside the small arched gate in the wall. It would open at 6am and the first 15 members of the public would be admitted to the gallery. I asked where I should queue exactly. She said she doubted it was necessary, it should be fine to arrive at 6am on Thursday.

I am staying in a hotel just five minutes’ walk away, so at 10pm on Wednesday evening, with the temperature already at -4°C, I went to check if a queue had formed. Nobody was there. I returned to the hotel, but every hour went to check for a queue I should join. Nobody was there at midnight or 1am, but at 2am there were already 8 people, sat around in three very cold little groups. Everybody looked extremely cold, but everybody was friendly and talkative. 

The first group, right next to the gate, consisted of three young Dutch women, who sat on a blanket and were well provided with flasks of hot coffee and boxes of baklava. The second group were three young students of international law, all of them Arabs, who had attended other cases and knew the ropes here. The third group were two young women, one Dutch and one Arab, sitting on a bench, looking cold and miserable. 

We were soon all talking together and it was plain that every one of us was motivated by support for the Palestinians in their struggle against the relentless occupation. Shortly afterwards, another Arab gentleman arrived, older and authoritative, who rather incongruously had been schooled in Scotland at Gordonstoun. A tall Tunisian man kept walking back and forth making phone calls; he appeared pre-occupied and rather shy.

We had all been given similar information about the number of people who would be admitted, though some had been told 15, some 14 and some 13. Our numbers were stable at 12 for several hours. Then about 4.30am a car drew up and out jumped Varsha Gandikota-Nellutla of Progressive International. She had come as a place-keeper for Jeremy Corbyn and Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Others of her organisation arrived bit by bit. Then as 6am approached, there started a small flood of people arriving, many with Palestinian flags and wearing keffiyehs.

It really was seriously cold. After four hours my toes had gone from very painful to having no feeling, and my fingers were becoming unresponsive. As so often, from 5am the cold grew more and more invasive. Mélenchon and Corbyn had arrived at 5.30am to take their places in the queue, Mélenchon as voluble as ever, wide awake, delighted to meet everybody, and lecturing on economics and the organisation of society to anybody who would listen. As my brain had by now frozen, that did not really include me. Jeremy was equally typically Jeremy, concerned that he did not want to take anybody’s position in the queue.

Then as preparations to open the gate began on the other side, things took an unpleasant turn. Those of us who had been there all night knew our order of arrival, but we began to be swamped by latecomers pushing past and around us to get to the gate. I had to be assertive and try to marshal the queue. Activists in the crowd challenged this, suggesting that the criterion for entry should not be time of arrival, but that Palestinians should be given the places. 

It all became distressing. One Palestinian lady from Sweden who was just behind 14th in the queue became deeply distressed at the idea of not being admitted, and a couple of Palestinian gentlemen who had arrived after 6am started to determinedly push past the queue. I made a little counter speech explaining that we were all here to help the Palestinians, but none of us knew each other’s stories, and the question of what use someone’s attendance would be to the Palestinian cause was as important as gratifying individual feelings of the terribly aggrieved. 

The diffident Tunisian was replaced in the queue by the former Tunisian President whose place he had been keeping – a really pleasant and diffident man, but the timing did not help the situation. In the end we were admitted in groups of five and processed. One of the Dutch ladies who had been the very first to arrive gave up her place to a Palestinian. I left clutching my pass, number 9, and returned to the hotel and straight into a hot bath. The pain from my toes and fingers as they thawed was really unpleasant.

Then it was quickly back for 9am and a lot of excessive security hassle and removal of deadly wallets and pens. Then we were escorted into the public gallery.

The Palace of Peace was built by Andrew Carnegie, the extraordinarily morally complex Fifer, a vicious and incredibly successful capitalist monopolist who also wished to end all war and to improve the lives of the poor everywhere. Its fairytale appearance, with its folly of a tower perched on a tower, belies its steel frame and concrete construction, and inside it could be any grand City Chambers in Scotland, with majolica tiling and solid Armitage Shanks in the toilets. Extraordinarily, the building is still owned and managed by the Carnegie Foundation.

For a building that was built as a world court, strangely it does not appear to contain a court room. The Grand Chamber is just a large empty hall, taking up one side-wing of the building. A comparatively modern, simple and gently curved dais has been inserted across the length of the hall and held a long table and seventeen chairs for the judges, but this structure looked temporary, as if it gets taken away and the building used for weddings. The parties to the case were seated on simple stacking chairs arranged in the body of the hall beneath the dais, again looking more like a wedding than a court. Above the judges spread a mighty stained-glass window, of garish colours and rather dubious quality.

I have written of my faith in the International Court of Justice, in its history of impartial judgment and in its system of election by the UN General Assembly. The ICJ has rather unfairly been tarnished by the reputation of its much younger sister the International Criminal Court. The ICC is rightly derided as a Western tool, but that really is not true of the ICJ. On Palestine alone, it has ruled that the Israeli “wall” in the West Bank is illegal and that Israel has no right of self-defence in the territory of which it is the occupying power. It ruled that the UK must decolonise the Chagos Islands, a cause close to my own heart. 

There was every reason for those of us opposing the genocide to have travelled hopefully to the Hague.

In addition to the normal fifteen judges of the court, each of the parties to the dispute – South Africa and Israel – had exercised their right to nominate an additional judge. After the judges filed in to the court, proceedings started with these two judges taking an oath of impartiality, which gave us the first Israeli lie of the case before it had even started. 

The nomination of Aharon Barak as the Israeli judge on the International Court of Justice is extraordinary, given that as President of Israel’s Supreme Court he refused to implement the ICJ judgment on the illegality of the wall, stating that he knew the facts of the matter better than the ICJ. 

Barak has an extremely long history of accepting all forms of repression of Palestinians by the Israeli Defence Force as legal for “national security”, and in particular has repeatedly refused to rule against the longstanding Israeli programme of demolitions of Palestinian homes as collective punishment. That reads across directly to the destruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza now. 

Barak is viewed as a “liberal” in Israel in the constitutional struggle between the judiciary and executive. But that is about the ability of Netanyahu’s corruption to go unchallenged, not about Palestinian rights. By appointing his apparent opponent Barak to the ICJ, Netanyahu has exhibited typical cunning. If Barak rules against Israel, Netanyahu can claim his domestic opponents are traitors to national security. If Barak rules in favour of Israel, Netanyahu can claim Israeli liberals support the destruction of Gaza.

I expect it is the latter claim we shall be seeing.

I was seated in the public gallery, and watching the seventeen judges occupied much of my time throughout the hearing. Acres have been written about which way who will jump. There is a too-easy assumption they will be swayed by their domestic governments. That varies from judge to judge.

The President of the court, Joan Donoghue, is a US State Department, Clinton hack who has never formed an original idea in her life, and I should be astonished if she starts now. I half-expected her strings to actually be visible, emerging from holes in the hall’s magnificent deep relief-panelled wooden ceiling. But others are more puzzling. 

There has been no more rabidly anti-Palestinian national elite than that of Germany. Rather than channel feelings of inherited guilt into opposition to genocide in general, they seem to have concluded that they need to promote alternative genocides to make amends. Added to which, the German judge on the ICJ, Nolte, does not come preceded by a liberal reputation. But friends in Munich tell me that Nolte has a particular interest in the law of armed conflict, and is a stickler for intellectual rigour. Their view is that his professional self-esteem will be the key factor, and that only points one way with regard to what the Israeli Defence Force has done so blatantly to the civilian population in Gaza.

On the other hand, there is a Ugandan judge on the ICJ who you might assume would align with South Africa. But Uganda, for reasons which frankly I do not fathom, joined the United States and Israel in opposing Palestine’s membership of the International Criminal Court, on the grounds Palestine is not a real state. Similarly India you might expect to support South Africa as a key member of BRICS. But India also has a Hindu Nationalist government prone to hideous Islamophobia. I haven’t found any evidence of Judge Bhandari’s domestic record on inter-communal issues. 

But it has been suggested to me that in this case before the World Court now, the UN General Assembly may have shot itself in the foot in replacing a particular British judge with the Indian, an election viewed at the time as a triumph in the UN for the developing world. My point is this: that these questions are very complicated, and much of the analysis I have seen, including from some dear colleagues, has been simplistic mince.

Not only is the Great Hall of Justice not fitted out as a courtroom, for a World Court the public gallery is minuscule. Running along one side of the hall, high enough to kill you if you fell over the balcony edge, it is just two seats deep. Furthermore the fitted theatre-style seats are a hundred years old and in a state of near collapse. Your arse is eight inches off the ground and the seats now tilt so your thighs are four inches off the ground and the whole contraption is throwing you forward and over the edge. Rather than fix the seats, the Carnegie Foundation have fixed a strong cable from wall to wall above the balcony rail, acting in effect as a second rail giving six inches more protection.

With one third of the public gallery screened off to house the audio-visual projection and webcasting facility, there were just 24 available seats in the public gallery. There were us 14 from the queue and the rest were for representatives of key NGOs and UN organisations, such as Human Rights Watch and the World Health Organisation. They were allowed pens, obviously being judged respectable enough not to kill anybody with them. I may in fact have acquired a pen from one of them at some stage, purely of course to assist them. Or I may not – it is very difficult to know what counts as terrorism these days.

South Africa opened with statements from their Ambassador and their Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola, and they opened with a bang. I rather expected South Africa to start with some soft soap about how much they had condemned Hamas and sympathised with Israel over 7 October, but no. Within the first thirty seconds South Africa had launched both the word “Nakba” and the phrase “apartheid state” at Israel. We had to hang on to our collapsing seats. This was going to be something.

Minister of Justice Lamola came out with the first memorable phrase of the case. Palestinians had suffered “75 years of apartheid, 56 years of occupation, 13 years of blockade”. It was very well done. Before handing over to the legal team, the “agents” of the South African state, in terms of the Court’s statute, were framing the argument. This injustice, and history itself, did not start on October 7.

There was a second important point of framing. South Africa stressed that in order for the request for “provisional measures” to be granted, it did not need at this stage to be proven that Israel was committing genocide. It only had to be shown that actions of Israel were prima facie capable of falling as genocide within the terms of the Genocide Convention.

The legal team then led off with Dr. Adila Hassim. She outlined that Israel was in breach of the Genocide Convention Article II a), b), c) and d).

On a), killing of Palestinians, she outlined the simple facts without embellishment. 23,200 Palestinians were killed, 70% of them women and children. Over 7,000 were missing presumed dead under the rubble. Over 200 times, Israel had dropped 2,000lb bombs into the very residential areas in southern Gaza into which Palestinians had been ordered to evacuate. 

60,000 people were seriously wounded. 355,000 homes had been damaged or destroyed. What could be observed was a substantial pattern of conduct indicating a genocidal intent.

Dr Hassim was notably calm and measured in her words and delivery. But on occasion when detailing atrocities, particularly against children, her voice trembled a little with emotion. The judges, who were generally fidgety (on which much more to follow), looked up and paid closer attention at that.

The next lawyer, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi (only South Africa spoke today) addressed the question of genocidal intent. He had perhaps the easiest task, because he could relate numerous instances of senior Israeli ministers, senior officials and military officers referring to Palestinians as “animals” and calling for their complete destruction and that of Gaza itself, emphasising that there are no innocent Palestinian civilians.

What Ngcukaitobi did particularly well was emphasise the effective transmission of these genocidal ideas from senior government to the troops on the ground, who quoted the same phrases and genocidal ideas in filming themselves committing and justifying atrocities. He emphasises that the Israeli government had ignored its obligation to prevent and act against incitement to genocide in both official and popular culture.

He concentrated particularly on Netanyahu’s invocation of the fate of Amalek and the demonstrable effect of that move on the opinions and actions of Israeli soldiers. Israeli ministers, he said, could not now deny the genocidal intent of their plain words. If they did not mean it, they should not have said it.

The venerable and eminent Professor John Dugard, a striking figure in his bright scarlet gown, then addressed questions of jurisdiction of the court and of the status of South Africa to bring the case – it is likely that Israel will rely heavily on technical argument to try to give the judges an escape route. Dugard pointed out the obligations of all state parties under the Genocide Convention to act to prevent Genocide, and the judgment of the court.

Dugard quoted Article VIII of the Genocide Convention and read out in full Paragraph 431 of the court’s judgment in Bosnia vs Serbia,

This obviously does not mean that the obligation to prevent genocide only comes into being when perpetration of genocide commences ; that would be absurd, since the whole point of the obligation is to prevent, or attempt to prevent, the occurrence of the act. In fact, a State’s obligation to prevent, and the corresponding duty to act, arise at the instant that the State learns of, or should normally have learned of, the existence of a serious risk that genocide will be committed. From that moment onwards, if the State has available to it means likely to have a deterrent effect on those suspected of preparing genocide, or reasonably suspected of harbouring specific intent (dolus specialis), it is under a duty to make such use of these means as the circumstances permit. 

I must confess I was very gratified. Dugard’s argument was precisely the same, and quoted the exact same passages and paragraphs, as my article of 7 December explaining why the Genocide Convention should be invoked. 

The judges particularly enjoyed Dugard’s points, enthusiastically rustling through documents and underlining things. Dealing with thousands of dead children was a bit difficult for them, but give them a nice jurisdictional point and they were in their element.

Next was Professor Max du Plessis, whose particularly straightforward manner and plainness of speech brought a new energy to proceedings. He said that Palestinians were asking the court to protect the most basic of their rights – they had the right to exist. 

Palestinians had suffered 50 years of oppression, and Israel had for decades considered itself above and beyond the reach of the law, ignoring both ICJ judgments and security council resolutions. That context is important. Palestinian individuals have rights to exist protected as members of a group in terms of the Genocide Convention.

South Africa’s case was founded on respect for international law and was based on law and on fact. They had taken the decision not to show the court atrocity videos and photos, of which there were many thousands. Their case was of law and fact, they did not need to introduce shock and emotion and turn the court into a theatre.

This was a shrewd blow by Du Plessis. The hearings were originally scheduled for two hours each side. The South Africans had been told, very late, that was increased to three because the Israelis insist on showing their hour long October 7 atrocity video. But in fact the court’s guidelines reflect a longstanding resistance to this sort of material which must be used “sparsely”. If 23,000 people are dead it does not add intellectual force to show the bodies, and the same is true of the 1,000 dead from 7 October.

Du Plessis concluded that the destruction of Palestine’s infrastructure that supports human life, the displacement of 85% of residents into ever smaller areas where they were still bombed – all were plain examples of genocidal intent.

But undoubtedly the highlight of the entire morning was the astonishing presentation by Irish KC Blinne Ni Ghràlaigh. Her job was to demonstrate that if the Court did not order “provisional measures”, then irreparable damage would be done.

There are times when a writer must admit defeat. I cannot adequately convey to you the impression she made in that courtroom. Like the rest of the team she eschewed atrocity porn and set out the simple facts plainly but elegantly. She adopted the ploy used by all the South African team, of not using emotional language herself but quoting at length deeply emotional language from senior UN officials. Her outline of daily deaths by type was devastating.

I simply urge you to listen to her. “Each day over ten Palestinians will have one or more limbs amputated, many without anaesthetic …”

I should write more now about the court. The South African delegation sat beside their lawyers on the right of the court, the Israeli delegation on their left, each of about 40 people. The South Africans were colourful with South African flag scarves and keffiyehs draped over shoulders. There was a mixture of South Africans and Palestinians, with Deputy Foreign Minister of the Palestinian Authority Amaar Hijazi prominent, which I was glad to see.

The South African delegation was buoyant and mutually supporting, with a lot of inclusive body language and comparative animation. The Israeli delegation was the opposite of animated. It appeared severe and disdainful – it was as though the members were all under instruction to get on with some work and not particularly notice the proceedings were happening at all. They were generally youthful, and I think cocksure would be a fair description. When Blinne was speaking they seemed particularly keen to ensure everyone could see they were not listening.

You would not think from the body language it was Israel that stands accused. In fact the only people in the court whose demeanour was particularly dodgy and guilty were the judges. They absolutely looked like they really did not want to be there. They seemed deeply uncomfortable, fidgeted and fumbled papers a lot, and seldom looked directly at the lawyers speaking.

It occurred to me that the people who really did not want to be in the Court at all were the judges, because it is in fact the judges and the Court itself on trial. The fact of genocide is incontrovertible and had been plainly set out. But several of the judges are desperate to find a way to please the USA and Israel and avoid countering the current Zionist narrative, the adoption of which is necessary to keep your feet comfortably under the table of the elite.

What counts more for them, personal comfort, the urgings of NATO, future wealthy sinecures? Are they prepared to ditch any real notion of international law for those things? 

That is the real question before the court. The International Court of Justice is on trial.

During Blinne’s talk, the President of the court suddenly took an intense interest in her startling red iPad, the colour of a particularly bright nail varnish. This came out several times during the hearing, and I could never put these iPad appearances together with what had just been discussed – it was not that cases or documents had just been cited to look up, for example.

The final speaker for the South African legal team was Vaughn Lowe, and he had the delicate task of countering Israel’s defence, which they have kept secret from the court until it is made. Countering arguments you have not seen yet is a tricky proposition, and for me this was the legal tour de force of the entire morning. Vaughn Lowe’s performance was outstanding.

He started by asserting that South Africa did have standing to bring the case, repeating Durand’s points about the duty of states to act to prevent genocide under the Genocide Convention. He said there was a dispute in the terms of the Convention, over whether or not genocide had occurred. South Africa had framed this dispute in a series of Diplomatic Notes Verbale sent to the Israeli government and not satisfactorily replied to.

Lowe said it was acknowledged that a series of individual incidents were being investigated by the International Criminal Court as war crimes, but the existence of other crimes did not preclude their being part of a wider genocide. Genocide was a crime which by its nature tends to come along with other war crimes committed in furtherance of the Genocide. 

Finally Lowe said that genocide is never justified. It is absolute, a crime in itself. No matter how appalling the atrocities committed by Hamas against Israel or Israeli citizens, a genocidal response was not appropriate and never could be.

Vaughn Lowe stated that South Africa asked for action against Israel and not against Hamas, simply because Hamas was not a state and thus not subject to the jurisdiction of the court. But the fact that the court could not act against Hamas must not prevent it from acting against Israel to prevent the current urgent danger of genocide. Nor must the court be swayed by Israeli offers of voluntary restraint. Israel’s failure to acknowledge any wrongdoing whatsoever in its actions in “grinding Gaza into the dust” showed Israel could not be trusted in any assurances to adjust behaviour, as it believed it had done no wrong.

The session ended with the South African Ambassador reiterating the provisional measures South Africa now wished the court to impose. These are: 

(1) The State of Israel shall immediately suspend its military operations in and against Gaza.

(2) The State of Israel shall ensure that any military or irregular armed units which may be directed, supported or influenced by it, as well as any organisations and persons which may be subject to its control, direction or influence, take no steps in furtherance of the military operations referred to point (1) above.

(3) The Republic of South Africa and the State of Israel shall each, in accordance with their obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, in relation to the Palestinian people, take all reasonable measures within their power to prevent genocide.

(4) The State of Israel shall, in accordance with its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, in relation to the Palestinian people as group protected by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, desist from the commission of any and all acts within the scope of Article II of the Convention, in particular:
 (a) killing members of the group;
 (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to the members of the group;
 (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; and
 (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.

(5) The State of Israel shall, pursuant to point (4)(c) above, in relation to Palestinians, desist from, and take all measures within its power including the rescinding of relevant orders, of restrictions and/or of prohibitions to prevent:
 (a) the expulsion and forced displacement from their homes;
 (b) the deprivation of:
  (i) access to adequate food and water;
  (ii) access to humanitarian assistance, including access to adequate fuel, shelter, clothes, hygiene and sanitation;
  (iii) medical supplies and assistance; and
 (c) the destruction of Palestinian life in Gaza.

(6) The State of Israel shall, in relation to Palestinians, ensure that its military, as well as any irregular armed units or individuals which may be directed, supported or otherwise influenced by it and any organizations and persons which may be subject to its control, direction or influence, do not commit any acts described in (4) and (5) above, or engage in direct and public incitement to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, attempt to commit genocide, or complicity in genocide, and insofar as they do engage therein, that steps are taken towards their punishment pursuant to Articles I, II, III and IV of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

(7) The State of Israel shall take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence related to allegations of acts within the scope of Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide; to that end, the State of Israel shall not act to deny or otherwise restrict access by fact-finding missions, international mandates and other bodies to Gaza to assist in ensuring the preservation and retention of said evidence.

(8) The State of Israel shall submit a report to the Court on all measures taken to give effect to this Order within one week, as from the date of this Order, and thereafter at such regular intervals as the Court shall order, until a final decision on the case is rendered by the Court.

(9) The State of Israel shall refrain from any action and shall ensure that no action is taken which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve it.

With that, we closed the argument. Next, Israel responds. 

 

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https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2024/01/your-man-in-the-hague-in-a-good-way/

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There was a very good feel at the end of the South African presentation on day one. Everyone felt it had gone extremely well, and left very little room for the court to wriggle away from provisional measures. We left the public gallery, and I went with Corbyn and Mélenchon to meet the South African delegation. This caused some concern to the security officials, who told us that members of the public had to leave immediately and not meet delegates or speak to the media, who were grouped outside the court but still within the precincts.

This was fairly impractical as the media very much wanted to speak with Corbyn and Mélenchon. There was a lot of flapping of arms and waving. All my friends of the queue had left, while I stayed sticking close to Jeremy, partly because I didn’t like to leave him unsupported, but mostly because his wife Laura was somewhere looking after my phone. The ICJ staff seemed scared to tell off Corbyn and Mélenchon, so kept getting pretty shirty with me as a proxy, saying we must leave.

It was quite strange. The situation was very friendly; there was no tension. There were about sixty delegates and about the same number of journalists, who were all supposed to be there. Then there were Corbyn, Mélenchon and me, who were apparently supposed to have left, but whose presence made no actual difference to events. People being in slightly the wrong place entirely peacefully after proceedings had finished, seemed to me an unnecessary source of anger. But a succession of female officials arrived, getting increasingly cross.

At this stage the South African delegation returned to their allocated office inside the building to finalise the formal press statement. We went with them. I was chatting to Amaar Hijazi, Palestine’s Deputy Foreign Minister, who I know a bit. One of the ICJ ladies came in with a clipboard, asked for silence, and then asked the assembled group in the manner of a public proclamation: “is this a legal meeting or a political meeting?”

Nobody seemed inclined to answer. So I replied “That’s rather a philosophical question. I am not sure if you can make that simple binary distinction”. Rather more usefully, Varsha [Gandikota-Nellutla of Progressive International] assured her it was a legal meeting, and the official said “good, political meetings off the premises”, waving her clipboard for no apparent reason. After a bit of a conflab we went out again. 

I was enjoying Mélenchon enormously; he seemed to have unlimited stores of bonhomie and was unstoppably voluble with everyone. Whether the security guards wanted a lecture on workers’ cooperatives I am not sure, but they certainly got one.

We wandered back out the front door again and back into interviews. Two ladies came up to me looking very stern and said I must leave. Jeremy was giving an interview to Israeli TV and Mélenchon had bustled back into the building. One of the ladies said to me, “I am asking you to leave and you are refusing to do what I say”. I replied, “Oh no, certainly not. Of course I am doing what you say. Just very slowly”.

By now I had three enormous security officers with me, as I tried to keep an eye on Jeremy as he drifted through the milling journalists, while I kept running in to people I knew. I have to say the security people were very friendly, and seemed unsure why they were shadowing me too. Shortly a fourth turned up, a mountain of a man with a bald head and beard, who said, “Here you are; we’ve been looking for you everywhere”, which seemed strange. Possibly they couldn’t see me surrounded by their massive bouncers.

Laura had somehow got in, and gave me back my phone. Jeremy was slowly heading for the gates, but he is incapable of being impolite and not having a friendly word with anybody who addresses him, whoever they are. Once we were outside the gates he showed no sign of stopping with the much larger crowd outside, so I said my farewells and headed back to the hotel. My toes had gone very painful again and I was keen for another warm bath.

After the bath I went down to look for some food. I felt exhausted and drained. It was not just the cold night standing in the queue with no sleep, it was the immediately preceding 40 hour, four economy-flight journey from Bali, with virtually no sleep either, to get here. I hadn’t been in a bed, I calculated, for 85 hours. 

I was also feeling a bit unappreciated. I had in fact played a role in this happening at all. Copies of my initial articleson invoking the Genocide Convention had been physically in front of South African cabinet ministers when they took the initial decision on 8 December to ask their excellent legal services to prepare a case. It was not me that arranged that and I cannot break confidence by telling you how it came about. I didn’t expect any acknowledgement, but it seemed an unfair twist of fate that had me standing all night in the cold trying to get in.

I was, dear reader, simply wallowing in exhaustion and self-pity, and in a kind of ridiculous teenage sulk. My tired brain was fogged and I was seriously worried about finding the energy to write up day one, which I had to do immediately. I wasn’t sure that my body was physically capable of another night of no sleep and standing in the freezing cold. I was fed up with being in exile over this laughable terrorism investigation, and I was missing my children. 

I made up my mind – I could not do another night. I would have to explain to readers that I had done what I could. A great feeling of relief came over me, and I decided to go to bed.

That very second, out of the lift walked the eminent British lawyer Tayab Ali, with a short, unassuming bearded Arab gentleman.
“Hello Craig, how’s it going”, he asked, but they were evidently in a hurry, going somewhere: “This is Ghassan”.
We shook hands briefly and then the realisation struck me.
“Are you the surgeon?”
Ghassan looked diffident, slightly abashed.
“The surgeon from Gaza?”.
“Yes, I am Ghassan Abu SItta.”
“I am honoured, sir. Greatly honoured”.
He looked slightly embarrassed, and they dashed off to their meeting.

I felt even more embarrassed. I had just met the man who had stayed operating in Shifa hospital while Israel bombs and missiles struck it and Israeli snipers fired through the windows. He had continued to operate with no electricity, with no bandages, with no antiseptic, with no anaesthetic. He had worked 20 hours a day, amputating the limbs of children or trying to piece them back together. He stayed and stayed and stayed through weeks under fire. He did this for love: he is a top British plastic surgeon and could have been in the UK making millions.

I felt deeply ashamed. This man had endured so much, and done so much, and seen so much suffering. Here was I giving up over sore toes and lack of sleep, and over wanting to be important. I had an epiphany; I realised I can be a dreadful egoist, and I hated myself for it. Nothing stopped hurting, but I had a new surge of adrenaline and decided to get on with it. Perhaps nothing I did would help prevent genocide, but we all have to do that which is within our power to try.

I accept you may wish to scoff, but for me that encounter with Mr Abu Sitta revealed an important element of greatness – the ability to inspire others to do more that they believed they could, to transmit will. Even without actually saying anything.

I did, however, retain the sense to know that I had to prepare, so I got a taxi to a camping shop. There I bought the warmest sleeping bag I could afford, a reflective groundsheet, thermal socks and a flask. 

I then took a taxi back, went straight to my room and started to write. The first three paragraphs flowed very easily. Then suddenly I was opening my very groggy eyes with my head on the keyboard, not sideways but leaning on my forehead. I had been asleep like that for three hours.

After that it was like wading through treacle. The phrases still rushed into my head as always, but there was a strange disconnect to my fingers and what they typed, which often was a phrase that sounded a bit like the one I was trying to get down. I recall typing “to assist them” as “his big cyst hen”. It was slow going. 

At 11pm I went to see if there was a queue yet for the public gallery the next day. Nobody was there. I was worried that after the arguments at the gate the previous morning, with many people disappointed, the queue would start to form much earlier for Day 2. I decided to just publish what I had written so far, with an explanatory first paragraph, and check the queue regularly. The cold walk woke me up. It was notably warmer than the previous night – plus 2 rather than minus 5 – but the ground was all wet with a heavy dew and there was a lot more wind chill. 

I checked again at 1.30am, still nobody had come. But at 3am there were eight people in the queue. I rushed back to the hotel, picked up my sleeping bag and groundsheet and published the now almost finished Day 1 article. I joined the queue as number 9 of the 14 who would be let in. I met a wonderful Dutch lady who had joined the queue with the intention of giving me her place if I arrived too late. I am ashamed to say I forget her name.

I was disappointed that not one of my new friends from the previous night’s queue was there again. I felt we had bonded through a pretty tough experience and a mutual cause. Almost all had said they intended to do both nights, and I presume the cold and exhaustion just got to people. This second night was much more jolly, I think because it was not quite so cold. 

The reflective groundsheet was a big success, dry and surprisingly effective at stopping the cold seeping up. The mummy sleeping bag proved more of a problem. I am not as slender as I used to be, and with several layers of clothing and my ski jacket all on, it was a very tight fit. I got the zip up pretty well, but I couldn’t do the last bit that would bring the cowl over my head, not least because by that stage the bag had immobilised my arms. 

Thankfully several wonderful young ladies came to help and zipped me up tight. This involved a lot of laughing. We could have invented a whole new genre of internet porn, in which fully clothed old men get zipped into bags. Although it probably already exists. I am not going to google for it, given the frequency with which the security services seize or steal my electronic devices. It might be misunderstood.

So at 3.30am I lay down my head, and did in fact sleep until about 5.30am. It was not comfortable, but it was not cold. I then wandered off to find a bush for a pee. When I returned, three women had taken over my groundsheet and were using my sleeping bag as a blanket. They joked that they had occupied my sleeping bag. I said I perfectly understood – surely their ancestors had a sleeping bag there 3,000 years ago. It was not brilliant repartee, but this kind of thing kept us going. The 14 of us who made the public gallery took group pictures.

There were some changes from the day before. We are to be allowed pens. But in view of “people wandering around” the day before, they said huffily, we were to be escorted in via a back door and leave the same way, and strictly forbidden from talking or interacting with anybody not in our group. So we entered the tiny public gallery. It has only two rows, and I now discovered that if you sit in the second row you cannot see anything. From the hall you can’t even tell there is a second row to the gallery. Once again, I marveled at the lack of attention to the dreadful design of the courtroom.

 

Luckily for me, a young man who apparently should not have been there was ejected from a front row seat, and finally I got to watch the Israeli presentation.

As with the South African case, according to court procedure the Israeli case was introduced by their “agent”, permanently accredited to the court, Tal Becker of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He opened with the standard formula “it is an honour to appear before you again on behalf of the state of Israel”, managing to imply purely through phrasing and tone of voice that the honour lay in representing Israel, not in appearing before the judges.

Becker opened by going straight to the Holocaust, saying that nobody knew more than Israel why the Genocide Convention existed. 6 million Jewish people had been killed. The Convention was not to be used to cover the normal brutality of war.

The South African case aimed at the delegitimisation of the state of Israel. On 7 October Hamas had committed massacre, mutilation, rape and abduction. 1,200 had been killed and 5,500 maimed. He related several hideous individual atrocity stories and played a recording he stated to be a Hamas fighter boasting on WhatsApp to his parents about committing mass murder, rape and mutilation.

The only genocide in this case was being committed against Israel. Hamas continued to attack Israel, and for the court to take provisional measures would be to deny Israel the right to self-defence. Provisional measures should rather be taken against South Africa and its attempt by legal means to further genocide by its relationship with Hamas. Gaza was not under occupation: Israel had left it with great potential to be a political and economic success. Instead Hamas had chosen to make it a terrorist base.

Hamas was embedded in the civilian population and therefore responsible for the civilian deaths. Hamas had tunnels under schools, hospitals, mosques and UN facilities and tunnel entrances within them. It commandeered medical vehicles for military use.

South Africa had talked of civilian buildings destroyed, but did not tell you they had been destroyed by Hamas booby traps and Hamas missile misfires. 

The casualty figures South Africa gave were from Hamas sources and not reliable. They did not say how many were fighters? How many of the children were child soldiers? The application by South Africa was ill-founded and ill-motivated. It was a libel.

This certainly was a hardline and uncompromising start. The judges appeared to be paying very close attention when he opened with the 7 October self-defence argument, but very definitely some of them started to fidget and become uncomfortable when he talked of Hamas operating from ambulances and UN facilities. In short, he went too far and I believe he lost his audience at that point.

Next up was Professor Malcolm Shaw KC. Shaw is regarded as an authority on the procedure of international law and is editor of the standard tome on the subject. This is an interesting facet of the legal profession, where standard reference books on particular topics are regularly updated to include key extracts from recent judges, and passages added or amended to explain the impact of these judgments. Being an editor in this field provides a route to prominence for the plodding and pedantic.

I had come across Shaw in his capacity as a co-founder of the Centre for Human Rights at Essex University. I had given a couple of talks there some twenty years ago on the attacks on human rights of the “War on Terror” and my own whistleblower experience over torture and extraordinary rendition. For an alleged human rights expert, Shaw seemed extraordinarily prone to support the national security interests of the state over individual liberty.

I do not pretend I gave it a great deal of thought. I did not know at that time of Shaw’s commitment as an extreme Zionist and in particular his long term interest in suppressing the rights of the Palestinian people. After 139 states have recognised Palestine as a state, Shaw led for Israel the legal opposition to Palestine’s membership of international institutions, including the International Criminal Court. Shaw’s rather uninspired reliance on the Montevideo Convention of 1933 is hardly a legal tour de force, and it didn’t work. 

Every criminal deserves a defence, and nobody should hold it against a barrister that they defend a murderer or rapist, as it is important that guilt or innocence is tested by a court. But I think it is fair to state that defence lawyers do not in general defend those accused of murder because they agree with murder and want a murderer to go on murdering. That however is the case here: Malcolm Shaw speaks for Israel because he actually wants Israel to be able to continue killing Palestinian women and children to improve the security of Israel, in his view.

That is the difference between this and other cases, including at the ICJ. Generally the lead lawyers would happily swap sides, if the other side had hired them first. But this is entirely different. Here the lawyers (with the possible exception of Straker) believe profoundly in the case they are supporting and would never appear for the other side. That is just one more way that this is such an extraordinary case, with so much drama and such vital consequences, not least for the future of international law.

For the reason I have just explained, Shaw’s role here is not that of a simple barrister plying his trade. His attempt to extend the killing should see him viewed as a pariah by decent people everywhere, for the rest of his doubtless highly-paid existence.

Shaw opened up by saying that the South African case continually spoke of context. They talked of the 75 years of the existence of the state of Israel. Why stop there? Why not go back to the Balfour Declaration or the British Mandate over Palestine? No, the context of these events was the massacre of 7 October, and Israel’s subsequent right of self-defence. He produced and read a long quote from mid-October by European Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen, stating that Israel had suffered a terrorist atrocity and had the right of self-defence.

The truth is that this is not genocide but armed conflict, which state has existed since 7 October. That was brutal, and urban warfare always involved terrible civilian casualties, but it was not genocide.

He then turned to the question of genocide. He argued that South Africa could not bring this case and the ICJ had no jurisdiction, because there was no dispute between Israel and South Africa on which the ICJ could rule, at the time the case was filed. South Africa had communicated its views to Israel, but Israel had given no substantial reply. Therefore a dispute did not yet exist at time of filing. A dispute must involve interaction between parties and the argument had been on one side only.

This very much interested the judges. As I noted on day one, this got them more active than anything else when Professor John Dugard addressed the same point for South Africa. As I reported:

The judges particularly enjoyed Dugard’s points, enthusiastically rustling through documents and underlining things. Dealing with thousands of dead children was a bit difficult for them, but give them a nice jurisdictional point and they were in their element.

They were even more excited when Shaw tackled the same point. This gave them a way out! The case could be technically invalid, and then they would neither have to upset the major Western powers nor make fools of themselves by pretending that a genocide the whole world had seen was not happening. For a while, they looked visibly relieved.

Shaw should have given up while he was ahead, but he ploughed on for an hour, with some relief when he continually muddled his notes. A senior KC with zero ability to extemporise and recover was an interesting sight, as he kept stopping and shuffling paper.

Shaw argued that the bar for judging whether South Africa had a prima facie case must be significantly higher because of the high military and political cost to Israel if the court adopted provisional measures. It was also necessary to show genocidal intent even at this stage. Otherwise the genocide was a “car without an engine”. If any illegal actions had taken place within Israel’s carefully targeted military action, Israel’s own military courts would investigate and act on them.

Random Israeli ministers and officials making emotional statements was not important. Official policy to protect civilians would be found in the minutes of the Israeli war cabinet and national security council. Israel’s strenuous attempts to move civilians out of harm’s way was an accepted measure in international human law and should not be viewed as mass displacement. 

It was South Africa which was guilty of complicity in genocide in cooperation with Hamas. South Africa’s allegations against Israel “verge on the outrageous”.

Israel’s next lawyer was a lady called Galit Raguan from the Israeli Ministry of Justice. She said the reality on the ground was that Israel had done everything possible to minimise civilian deaths and to aid humanitarian relief. Urban warfare always resulted in civilian deaths. It was Hamas who were responsible for destruction of buildings and infrastructure.

There was overwhelming evidence of Hamas’ military use of hospitals. In every single hospital in Gaza that IDF had evidence of military use by Hamas. Mass evacuation of civilians was a humanitarian and legal measure. Israel had supplied food, water and medicine into Gaza but supplies had come under Hamas fire. Hamas steals the aid for its fighters.

Next up was lawyer Omri Sender. He stated that more food trucks per day now entered Gaza than before October 7. The number had increased from 70 food trucks to 109 food trucks per day. Fuel, gas and electricity were all being supplied and Israel had repaired the sewage systems.

At this stage Israel had again lost the judges. One or two were looking at this man in a highly quizzical manner. A couple had definitely fallen asleep – there are only so many lies you can absorb, I suppose. Nobody was making notes about this guff. The judges may find a way not to condemn Israel, but could not be expected to go along with this extraordinary nonsense. Sender continued that the scope and intensity of the fighting was now decreasing as the operation entered a new phase. 

Perhaps noting that nobody believed him, Sender stated that the court could not institute provisional measures but rather was obliged to accept the word of Israel on its good intentions because of the Law of the Unilateral Declarations of States. 

Now I have to confess that was a bit of international law I did not know existed. But it does, specifically in relation to ICJ proceedings. On first reading, it makes a unilateral declaration of intent to the ICJ binding on the state that makes it. I cannot see that it forces the ICJ to accept it as sufficient or to believe in its sincerity. It seems rather a reach, and I wondered if Israel was running out of things to say.

That appeared to be true, because the next speaker, Christopher Straker KC, now took the floor and just ran through all the same Hamas stuff yet again, only with added theatrical indignation. Straker is the lawyer I suspect would happily have appeared for either side, because he was plainly just acting anyway. And not very well.

Straker said that it was astounding this case could be brought. It was intended to stop Israel from defending itself while Israel would still be subject to Hamas attacks. Hamas has said it will continue attacks.

If you look at the operation as a whole including relief efforts, it was plain there was no genocidal intent. Israel was in incredible danger. The proposed provisional measures were out of proportion to their effect. Can you imagine if in the Second World War, a court had ordered the Allies to stop fighting because of civilian deaths, and allowed the Axis powers to keep on killing?

The final speaker was Gilad Noam, Israel’s deputy attorney-general. He said that the bulk of the proposed provisional measures should be refused because they exposed Israel to further Hamas attack. Three more should be refused because they referred to Palestine outside Gaza. There was no genocidal intent in Israel. Ministerial and official statements made in the heat of the moment were rather examples of the tradition of democracy and freedom of speech. Prosecutions for incitement to genocide were under consideration.

The court must not conflate genocide and self-defence. The South African case devalues genocide and encourages terrorism. The Holocaust illustrated why Israel was always under existential threat. It was Hamas who were committing genocide.

And that was it. Israel had in the end not been allowed to show its contentious atrocity video, and it felt like their presentation had become repetitive and was padded to fill the time. 

It is important to realise this. Israel is hoping to win on their procedural points about existence of dispute, unilateral assurances and jurisdiction. The obvious nonsense they spoke about the damage to homes and infrastructure being caused by Hamas, trucks entering Gaza and casualty figures, was not serious. They did not expect the judges to believe any of this. The procedural points were for the court. The rest was mass propaganda for the media.

In the UK, the BBC and Sky both ran almost all the Israeli case live, having not run any of the South African case live. I believe something similar was true in the USA, Australia and Germany too. 

While the court was in session, Germany has announced it will intervene in the substantial case to support Israel. They argue explicitly that, as the world’s greatest perpetrator of genocide, they are uniquely placed to judge. It is in effect a copyright claim. They are protecting Germany’s intellectual property in the art of genocide. Perhaps they might in future license genocide, or allow Israel to continue genocide on a franchise basis.

I am sure the judges want to get out of this and they may go for the procedural points. But there is a real problem with Israel’s “no dispute” argument. If accepted, it would mean that a country committing genocide can simply not reply to a challenge, and then legal action will not be possible because no reply means “no dispute”. I hope that absurdity is obvious to the judges. But they may of course wish not to notice it…

What do I think will happen? Some sort of “compromise”. The judges will issue provisional measures different to South Africa’s request, asking Israel to continue to take measures to protect the civilian population, or some such guff. Doubtless the State Department have drafted something like this for President of the court Donoghoe already. 

I hope I am wrong. I would hate to give up on international law. One thing I do know for certain. These two days in the Hague were absolutely crucial for deciding if there is any meaning left in notions of international law and human rights. I still believe action by the court could cause the US and UK to back off and provide some measure of relief. For now, let us all pray or wish, each in our way, for the children of Gaza.

 

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https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2024/01/your-man-in-the-hague-in-a-good-way-part-2/

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As with the South African case, according to court procedure the Israeli case was introduced on Friday by their “agent”, permanently accredited to the court, Tal Becker of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He opened with the standard formula “it is an honour to appear before you again on behalf of the state of Israel”, managing to imply purely through phrasing and tone of voice that the honour lay in representing Israel, not in appearing before the judges.

Becker opened by going straight to the Holocaust, saying that nobody knew more than Israel why the Genocide Convention existed. Six million Jewish people had been killed. The Convention was not to be used to cover the normal brutality of war.

The South African case aimed at the delegitimisation of the state of Israel, he said. On Oct. 7 Hamas had committed massacre, mutilation, rape and abduction. 1,200 had been killed and 5,500 maimed. He related several hideous individual atrocity stories and played a recording he stated to be a Hamas fighter boasting on WhatsApp to his parents about committing mass murder, rape and mutilation.

The only genocide in this case was being committed against Israel. Hamas continued to attack Israel, and for the court to take provisional measures would be to deny Israel the right to self-defence. 

Provisional measures should rather be taken against South Africa and its attempt by legal means to further genocide by its relationship with Hamas. Gaza was not under occupation: Israel had left it with great potential to be a political and economic success. Instead Hamas had chosen to make it a terrorist base.

Hamas was embedded in the civilian population and therefore responsible for the civilian deaths. Hamas had tunnels under schools, hospitals, mosques and U.N. facilities and tunnel entrances within them. It commandeered medical vehicles for military use.

South Africa had talked of civilian buildings destroyed, but did not tell you they had been destroyed by Hamas booby traps and Hamas missile misfires.

The casualty figures South Africa gave were from Hamas sources and not reliable. They did not say how many were fighters? How many of the children were child soldiers? The application by South Africa was ill-founded and ill-motivated. It was a libel.

This certainly was a hardline and uncompromising start. The judges appeared to be paying very close attention when he opened with the Oct. 7 self-defence argument, but very definitely some of them started to fidget and become uncomfortable when he talked of Hamas operating from ambulances and U.N. facilities. In short, he went too far and I believe he lost his audience at that point.

Next up was Professor Malcolm Shaw KC. Shaw is regarded as an authority on the procedure of international law and is editor of the standard tome on the subject. This is an interesting facet of the legal profession, where standard reference books on particular topics are regularly updated to include key extracts from recent judges, and passages added or amended to explain the impact of these judgments. Being an editor in this field provides a route to prominence for the plodding and pedantic.

I had come across Shaw in his capacity as a co-founder of the Centre for Human Rights at Essex University. I had given a couple of talks there some twenty years ago on the attacks on human rights of the “War on Terror” and my own whistleblower experience over torture and extraordinary rendition. For an alleged human rights expert, Shaw seemed extraordinarily prone to support the national security interests of the state over individual liberty.

I do not pretend I gave it a great deal of thought. I did not know at that time of Shaw’s commitment as an extreme Zionist and in particular his long term interest in suppressing the rights of the Palestinian people. 

After 139 states have recognised Palestine as a state, Shaw led for Israel the legal opposition to Palestine’s membership of international institutions, including the International Criminal Court. Shaw’s rather uninspired reliance on the Montevideo Convention of 1933 is hardly a legal tour de force, and it didn’t work.

Every criminal deserves a defence, and nobody should hold it against a barrister that they defend a murderer or rapist, as it is important that guilt or innocence is tested by a court. But I think it is fair to state that defence lawyers do not in general defend those accused of murder because they agree with murder and want a murderer to go on murdering. 

That however is the case here: Malcolm Shaw speaks for Israel because he actually wants Israel to be able to continue killing Palestinian women and children to improve the security of Israel, in his view.

That is the difference between this and other cases, including at the ICJ. Generally the lead lawyers would happily swap sides, if the other side had hired them first. But this is entirely different. 

Here the lawyers (with the possible exception of Christopher Straker KC, an other attorney who represented Israel on Friday) believe profoundly in the case they are supporting and would never appear for the other side. That is just one more way that this is such an extraordinary case, with so much drama and such vital consequences, not least for the future of international law.

For the reason I have just explained, Shaw’s role here is not that of a simple barrister plying his trade. His attempt to extend the killing should see him viewed as a pariah by decent people everywhere, for the rest of his doubtless highly-paid existence.

 

READ MORE:

https://consortiumnews.com/2024/01/15/craig-murray-your-man-in-the-hague-day-2/

 

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stopping genocide....

Whoever does not try to stop a genocide, has lost his humanity.” Mohammed Al-Bukhaiti, Houthi spokesman

 

Are the Houthis Being Punished for 'Doing the Right Thing'?      

 

Events in the Middle East are spinning out of control. In the last week, the United States has attacked Houthi positions on the Yemeni mainland 7 times while the Houthis have launched 5 attacks on commercial vessels and US warships in the Red Sea. At the same time, Iran has launched multiple attacks on sites in Syria, Iraq and Pakistan, while Israel has hit targets in both Lebanon and Damascus. Adding more fuel to the fire, the IDF has continued its relentless assault on Palestinians living in Gaza resulting in scores of new deaths and injuries. In short, there’s been a sharp uptick in military activity across the Middle East that is steadily increasing. This suggests that the low-intensity conflict we have seen for the last few weeks is about to explode into something much more violent, far-reaching and unpredictable. Many analysts believe we are on the brink of full-blown regional war which—in view of recent developments—may be unavoidable. This is from an article at the Washington Post:

The Biden administration is crafting plans for a sustained military campaign targeting the Houthis in Yemen after 10 days of strikes failed to halt the group’s attacks on maritime commerce…

Officials say they don’t expect that the operation will stretch on for years like previous U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria. At the same time they acknowledge they can identify no end date or provide an estimate for when the Yemenis’ military capability will be adequately diminished…..

While the attacks have so far taken a greater toll on Europe than the United States…the Houthi campaign is already beginning to reshape the global shipping map. Some firms have chosen to reroute ships around the Cape of Good Hope off southern Africa, while major oil companies including BP and Shell suspended shipments through the area…

“It’s impossible to forecast exactly what’s going to happen, and certainly not [to predict] future operations,” the first U.S. official said. “But the principle that it simply can’t be tolerated for a terrorist organization … with these advanced capabilities to essentially shut down or control shipping through a key international choke point is one that we feel very strongly about.”…

U.S. officials also are concerned that attacking the Houthis has thrust the United States into a conflict with little exit strategy and limited support from key allies. Notably, America’s most powerful Gulf partners have withheld their backing for the American operation. The prime minister of Qatar, a key U.S. ally in the Gulf, has warned that Western strikes would not halt the violence and could fuel regional instability.  As Houthis vow to fight on, U.S. prepares for sustained campaignWashington Post

While the Washington Post article provides little new information, it does help to clarify a few important points:

  1. That the US is now embroiled in another “sustained military campaign” (War) that has not been approved by the UN Security Council, the US Congress or the American people. It’s clear that our domestic politics have deteriorated to the point where the president alone decides whether the country goes to war or not. And, not surprisingly, those wars invariably advance the interests of the billionaire elites who guide policy behind the fig leaf of representative government. In truth, all the war-making powers rest with them.
  2. Since, airstrikes alone will not “degrade” the Houthis military capability, “the operation will stretch on for years.” (So, get ready for another 20-year stint like Afghanistan)
  3. The real reason the administration has eschewed direct dialogue with the Houthis, is because “it simply can’t be tolerated for a terrorist organization …to control shipping through a key international choke point.” This is a tacit admission that Washington refuses to negotiate with people it doesn’t consider its equal. Thus, the only option available, is to “shoot first and ask questions later.”
  4. Interestingly, the Post admits that “the Houthis have thrust the United States into a conflict with little exit strategy and limited support from key allies.” What the authors should have added is that everything about the current strategy violates the so-called Powell Doctrine. There is no clearly attainable objective, nor have the risks and costs been fully analyzed, nor have all other non-violent options been exhausted, nor is there a plausible exit strategy, nor is the action supported by the American people, nor does the US have broad international support, nor is a vital national security interest threatened. All of the main precepts of the Powell Doctrine have been shrugged off by Biden’s foreign policy team. As a result, there’s no planning, no endgame, and no strategic objective, which is why the plan to wage war on Yemen is, perhaps, the most impulsive and poorly-thought out operation in recent times.

There’s also no guarantee that the plan will work at all. In fact, there is every reason to believe it will backfire spectacularly creating an even bigger crisis. Check out this clip from an article at Responsible Statecraft:

It would seem that the real threat here is the escalation from continued U.S. airstrikes, which are killing people. As RS has reported on these pages time and again, the Houthis are battle hardened and even emboldened by the reaction of the West to their provocations. … a number of realist voices are decrying the folly of once again falling into a spiral of retaliatory violencethat will likely lead to a real military crisis, even the death of U.S. service members, before it is done.

“They (strikes) won’t work. They won’t sufficiently degrade Houthi capability or will stop their attacks on shipping,” says Ben Friedman, senior fellow of Defense Priorities. “Why do something that is so evidently reckless? Restraint reminds us that no such law says we must conduct airstrikes that won’t work. We always have the option not to employ pointless violence.” US strikes Yemen again, but Houthi attacks keep coming, Responsible Statecraft

 

 

READ MORE: https://www.unz.com/mwhitney/are-the-houthis-being-punished-for-doing-the-right-thing/

 

 

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kanbra missing balls....

 

The Australian Parliament fails to uphold international law preventing genocide in Gaza    By Margaret Reynolds

 

The Australian Parliament failed to recognise its responsibilities last week when Greens Leader Adam Bandt, responding to the International Court of Justice interim ruling to prevent genocide, initiated a vote for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Australians are indebted to human rights champions Adam Bandt, Elizabeth Watson Brown, Stephen Bates, Max Chandler-Mather, Helen Haines and Andrew Wilkie, who voted in favour of this motion that should have been supported by a majority of parliamentarians, who would have reflected the opinions of many likeminded Australians expecting their parliamentarians to negotiate an end to conflict. The vote was overwhelmingly defeated as members lined up to show loyalty to their parties.

What does this say about the priorities and understanding of our national elected representatives? Neither Government nor the Coalition will ever support a Greens initiative even though it may reflect government policy or party platform. Such is the tribalism of party politics. Yet given the background and purpose of this vital motion to end the suffering in Gaza, it is reasonable to expect that a Labor Government could have put aside party politics to make a strong statement about Australia’s demand for a ceasefire, compliance with international law and respect for the International Court of Justice.

Instead, as always, the Labor machine men worry more about being wedged by the Opposition and Murdoch media than adhering to principle. The Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese could have used this occasion to clarify Australia’s response to the International Court of Justice and demand an end to all action that risks genocide.

Instead, it was left to Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts to defend the indefensible. Where were the Prime Minister and the Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus, neither of whom have yet made official statements in response to the International Court of Justice interim ruling on January 26th? Why is there absolute silence from Australia’s leader and first law maker? Eventually the Attorney General must demonstrate how this country has met its obligations as a signatory to the Genocide Convention.

The rushed and ill-informed decision of the Foreign Minister Penny Wong to pause funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has considerably damaged Australia’s reputation as a humanitarian donor country. This decision was based on propaganda deliberately created to divert attention from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling calling on Israel to prevent genocide.

Had the Department of Foreign Affairs been better informed, advisers would have known that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency has long been a target of the Israeli Government because its role is to support Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Unlike the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), UNRWA does not resettle to other countries, but provides essential services within Palestine itself. This has been rejected by some Israeli parliamentarians whose goal has been to move Palestinians from their homeland, so they have been highly critical of UNRWA for some time. Unsurprisingly some members of the US Congress have joined this chorus. making unsubstantiated claims that UNRWA has

“Longstanding connections to terrorism and promotion of anti semitism”

Within hours of the ICJ announcement the Israeli Intelligence propaganda machine was in overdrive circulating a ‘dossier’ with allegations of 12 UNRWA staff being accomplices in the Hamas attack. United States and western media immediately accepted this fake news, so funding for UNRWA was withdrawn by several countries including Australia which announced a “pause” in its funding.

However independent investigations have since revealed the plot to discredit UNRWA and further harm desperate Palestinians. An analysis of the “dossier” by Britain’s Sky News found the documents were about six not twelve individuals and concluded.

Sky News has not seen any proof of the claims, even if true, do not directly implicate UNRWA”.

Britain’s Channel 4 reached a similar conclusion, reporting “the document provides no evidence to support explosive claims that UN staff were involved in terror attacks on Israel.”

We know that truth is the first casualty of war, but the Australian media does not even bother to report these independently verified facts. Hence too many parliamentarians continue to view this ongoing tragedy from the polarised perspective that “Israel has a right to defend Itself” a dangerous mantra which simply accepts that war is the only answer to conflict,

How can Australians convince their representatives to take real action to prevent genocide in Gaza? Many parliamentarians are anxious about the way this humanitarian crisis is dividing their parties and electorates. Labor ministers like Tony Burke, Ed Husic and Anne Aly have tried to find ways to strengthen the Australian Government’s response and a number of backbenchers are privately deeply concerned about the failure of their government to show leadership in upholding international law. Fremantle MP Josh Wilson has spoken out about the “unconscionable bombardment of Gaza” condemning Israel’s rejection of a ceasefire, which will continue the suffering of the people of Gaza.

The Prime Minister is receiving a large range of correspondence about the government’s failure to clearly reject ongoing breaches of international law. Over sixty human rights and peace organisations, including the Australian Human Rights Commission, have called for urgent action to restore UNRWA funding. The Foreign Minister has admitted she did not have all the evidence before she decided to pause funding to UNRWA. Surely then an immediate resumption of UNRWA funding must be a minimum response to start rebuilding faith in the Labor Government’s capacity to make humane decisions irrespective of pressure from allies.

Furthermore, the Foreign Minister Penny Wong must implement Labor Party policy and announce long overdue recognition of Palestine. It is totally unacceptable to constantly hear of Australia’s commitment to the two-state solution, when one state, Palestine is not yet formally recognised. No doubt there will be those at the cabinet table who will find reasons to oppose such a decision, but the Prime Minister needs to remind them they are simply implementing Labor policy and finally catching up with 132 governments that already recognise the State of Palestine.

https://johnmenadue.com/the-australian-parliament-fails-to-uphold-international-law-preventing-genocide-in-gaza/

 

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