South Africa has had enough of the world’s deafening silence on apartheid Israel’s ongoing genocide of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
The unprecedented number of war crimes and crimes against humanity Israel committed in the besieged coastal enclave in the past three months with complete impunity has put the credibility of international law at stake and sprung South Africa into action. Its top legal minds compiled a 84-page document detailing evidence of these crimes and launched a landmark case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Israel of committing genocide in contravention of the 1948 Genocide Convention.
This is music to Palestinian ears. No other country, Arab or Muslim, has ever dared cross this “red line” before. After all, this is Israel, the colonial West’s spoiled baby – the one project it insisted on keeping alive after the end of the era of colonialism, camouflaging it with slogans of the Enlightenment and arming it with its best weapons. Every state on Earth is undoubtedly aware of Israel’s crimes, but none dares hold it to account in fear of what its colonial patrons may do in response.
Thankfully, post-apartheid South Africa eventually said “enough is enough” and took Israel to the top court of the United Nations. The nation that defeated a ruthless apartheid regime and built a multiracial, democratic state in its place recognised how the international community’s silence is paving the way for Israel’s deadly excesses, and it took an important step to put an end to it.
Indeed, charging Israel with the crime of genocide at the ICJ could bring an end to Israel’s impunity, create the conditions for a much needed military embargo and leave Israel isolated on the world stage. Even more importantly, South Africa’s case could lead to provisional measures that include an immediate ceasefire and the entry of sufficient humanitarian aid into Gaza. These measures are urgently needed because every day people are dying in their thousands in the strip. More than 23,000 people have already perished, and thousands more are missing under the rubble. About 70 percent of the victims of this horror have been women and children.
I happen to be both Palestinian and South African and a survivor of the Gaza genocide. I’ve lost many relatives, friends, colleagues, students and neighbours to Israel’s violence over the years.
In Gaza, I survived five attacks or, more accurately, massacres by apartheid Israel from 2008 to 2023. I’ve also experienced first hand the consequences of the deadly siege it has imposed on the strip since 2006. My entire neighbourhood was flattened by air strikes in the first week of the ongoing genocide. And I’ve been displaced four times since then.
Like every other inhabitant of this coastal enclave, I lived through the same dark scenario with every massacre: Israel decided to “mow the lawn”, the so-called international community conveniently looked the other way and, for many long days and nights, we faced the world’s most immoral army alone – an army that has hundreds of nuclear warheads and thousands of trigger-happy soldiers armed with Merkava tanks, F-16s, Apache helicopters, naval gunships and phosphorous bombs. Once the massacre was over, everything returned to “normal”, and Israel continued to kill us slowly with a suffocating siege that keeps our children malnourished, water contaminated and nights dark. And in the many iterations of this deadly cycle that we lived through, at no point did we receive a single word of sympathy or support from the Bidens, Sunaks, Macrons, and von der Leyens of this world.
All these massacres committed with impunity made it glaringly obvious that apartheid Israel has the unequivocal backing of the white, “liberal” West to do as it pleases with Gaza and its people. These massacres were the dress rehearsals for the genocide that is under way today. They showed Israel that it can commit war crimes and crimes against humanity without receiving any sanction or condemnation from the international community. After all, no one said anything in 2008, 2012, 2014 and 2021, so why should it be any different now? This is the logic that has allowed Israel’s leaders to be so open in the past few months about their intentions to “exterminate” Palestinians in Gaza.
Indeed, since the beginning of this latest massacre, this genocide, a wide range of Israeli officials from the president and the prime minister to prominent members of the government, media and civil society have clearly voiced their intent for genocide. Just last week, Israeli Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu, who had previously said dropping a nuclear bomb on the Gaza Strip is “an option”, urged Israel to find ways that are “more painful than death” to force Palestinians to leave the strip.
Israel’s intent to commit genocide in Gaza may be more clear today than ever before, but it is in no way new. Back in 2004, Arnon Soffer, head of the National Defense College of the Israeli Offensive Forces and an adviser to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, had already spelled out the desired results of Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post: “When 1.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today. … The pressure at the border will be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day. … If we don’t kill, we will cease to exist. … Unilateral separation doesn’t guarantee “peace”. It guarantees a Zionist-Jewish state with an overwhelming majority of Jews.”
Now, 20 years after Soffer revealed Israel’s intention to “kill and kill and kill” in the strip, Gaza is truly dying. People are being killed, maimed, starved and displaced en masse before the eyes of the world’s nations, in what tragically has become the first globally watched genocide in history.
We, Palestinians, will not forget the sickening cowardice of the so-called international community, which has allowed and enabled this genocide. We will not forget how the nations of the world stood idly by as Israel’s racist leaders openly claimed that we, the Indigenous people of Palestine, are the “Amalek” – the foe that, according to the Torah, God ordered the ancient Israelites to commit genocide against – and embarked on a racist, inhuman quest to “annihilate” all of us.
But we will never forget what South Africa did for us either. We will not forget how it showed us unwavering support and bravely took a stand for us at the world court when even our own brothers have turned their backs on us in fear. We will always remember how it linked our struggle, our most basic human rights, to global justice and reminded the international community of our humanity.
Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza, being committed out in the open and with impunity, has ushered in the end of the Western-led, rules-based international order. By bravely standing up for what is right and taking Israel to the ICJ, however, South Africa showed us that another world is possible: a world where no state is above the law, most heinous crimes like genocide and apartheid are never accepted and the peoples of the world stand together shoulder to shoulder against injustice.
Thank you, South Africa!
- Haidar Eid is an associate Professor at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.
Stay informed with The Namibian – your source for credible journalism. Get in-depth reporting and opinions for only N$85 a month. Invest in journalism, invest in democracy –