Today, January 11th, 2024, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) convened to deliberate on the unfolding crisis in Gaza. At the behest of South Africa, proceedings have commenced under the auspices of the United Nations Convention on Genocide, the accusation that Israel is perpetrating genocide within the Gaza Strip.
The South African delegation presented their case to the ICJ, in the first of two days of emergency hearings with an immediate aim to win a ruling later this month, or even as early as next week, ordering Israel to cease and desist in its assault of Gaza.
The South African Minister of Justice emphasised that no purported provocation can justify the egregious events transpiring in Gaza, and has underscored the gravity of the situation.
The South African legal team asserted their belief that Israel is engaging in a deliberate campaign of genocide in Gaza, and today they had an opportunity to lay out its case, and the opening statements from the team included a presentation of the list of acts that violate the Genocide Convention. Source
What follows below is a transcript where a legal representative of the post-apartheid nation, South Africa lists the Israeli acts which is argued violate the Genocide Convention.
The First Genocidal Act – The Mass Killings
The first genocidal act committed by Israel is the mass killings of Palestinians in Gaza in violation of article 2A in the Genocidal Convention. As the UN Secretary General explained five weeks ago, the level of Israels killing is so extensive that no where is safe in Gaza.
As I stand before you today, 23,210 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces during the sustained attacks over the last three months. At least 70% of whom are believed to be women and children. Some 7000 Palestinians are still missing, presumed dead under the rubble.
Palestinians in Gaza are subjected to relentless bombing wherever they go, they are killed in their homes, in places where they seek shelter, in hospitals, in schools, in mosques, in churches and as they try to find food and water for their families.
They have been killed if they fail to evacuate in the places to which they have fled and even while they attempted to flee along Israeli “safe routes”
The level of killing is so extensive that those whose bodies are found are buried in mass graves, often unidentified. In the first three weeks alone following 7th October, Israel deployed 6000 bombs per week. At least 200 times it has deployed 2000 pound bombs in southern areas of Palestine, designated as “safe.”
These bombs have also decimated the north, including refugee camps. 2000 pound bombs are some of the biggest and most destructive bombs available. They are dropped by lethal fighter jets that are used to strike targets on the ground by one of the worlds most resourced armies.
The Killing of Unparalleled and Unprecedented Number of Civilians
Israel has killed an unparalleled and unprecedented number of civilians with the full knowledge of how many civilian lives each bomb will take. More than 1800 Palestinian families in Gaza have lost multiple family members and hundreds of multigenerational families have been wiped out with no remaining survivors.
Mothers, fathers, children, siblings, grandparents, aunts, cousins, often all killed together.
This killing is nothing short of destruction of Palestinian life, it is inflicted deliberately, no one is spared, not even newborn babies.
The scale of Palestinian child killings in Gaza is such that UN chiefs have described it as a graveyard for children. The devastation, we submit, is intended to and has laid waste to Gaza beyond any acceptable, legal, let alone humane justification.
The Second Genocidal Act – Infliction of Serious Bodily or Mental Harm
The second genocidal act identified in South Africa’s application, is Israel’s infliction of serious bodily or mental harm to Palestinians in Gaza in violation of article 2B of the Genocide Convention.
Israel’s attack have left close to 60,000 Palestinians wounded and maimed again, the majority of them women and children. This in circumstances where the health care system has all but collapsed.
Large numbers of Palestinian civilians including children are arrested, blindfolded, forced to undress and loaded onto trucks and taken to unknown locations.
The suffering of the Palestinian people, physical and mental is undeniable.
Third Genocidal Act – The Imposed Conditions That Cannot Sustain Life.
Turning to the third genocidal act under article 2C. Israel has deliberately imposed conditions on Gaza that cannot sustain life and are calculated to bring about its physical destruction. Israel achieves this in at least four ways.
First, by displacement. Israel has forced the displacement of about 85% of Palestinians in Gaza. There is nowhere safe for them to flee to. Those who cannot leave or refuse to be displaced have either been killed, or at extreme risk of being killed in their homes. Many Palestinians have been displaced multiple times as families are forced to move repeatedly in search of safety.
Israels first evacuation order on 13 October required the evacuation of over one million people, including children, the elderly, the wounded, and infirm. Entire hospitals were required to evacuate, even newborn babies in intensive care.
The order required them to evacuate the north to the south within 24 hours. The order itself was genocidal. It required immediate movement, taking only what could be carried, while no humanitarian assistance was permitted and fuel, water and food and other necessities of life had deliberately been cut off. It was clearly calculated to bring about the destruction of the population.
Three Hundred and Fifty Five Thousand Homes Destroyed
For many Palestinians, the forced evacuation from their homes is inevitably permanent. Israel has now damaged or destroyed an estimated 355,000 Palestinian homes, leaving at least half a million Palestinians with no home to return to.
The special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons explains that houses and infrastructure, “have been raised to the ground frustrating any realistic prospects for displaced Gazans to return home.” Repeating a long history of mass force displacement of Palestinians by Israel.
There is no indication at all that Israel accepts responsibility for rebuilding what it has destroyed. Instead the destruction is celebrated by the Israeli army. soldier film themselves joyfully detonating entire apartment blocks and town squares, erecting the Israeli flag over the wreckage, seeking to reestablish Israeli settlements on the rubble of Palestinian homes and thus extinguishing the very basis of Palestinian life in Gaza.
Second, together with the forced displacement, Israel’s conduct has been deliberately calculated to cause widespread hunger, dehydration and starvation. Israel’s campaign has pushed Gazans to the brink of famine.
An unprecedented 93% of the population in Gaza is facing crisis levels of hunger.
Of all the people in the world currently suffering catastrophic hunger, more than 80% are in Gaza.
Deaths From Disease and Starvation
The situation is such that the experts are now predicting that more Palestinians in Gaza may die from starvation and disease than airstrikes, and yet Israel continues to impede the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance to Palestinians, not only refusing to allow sufficient aid in, but removing the ability to distribute it through constant bombardment and obstruction.
Just three days ago, on 8 January, a planned mission by UN agencies to deliver urgent medical supplies and vital fuel to a hospital and medical supply centre was denied by Israel authorities. This marked the fifth denial of a mission to the centre since 26th December leaving five hospitals in northern Gaza without access to life saving medical supplies and equipment.
Aid trucks that are allowed in are seized upon by the hungry and what is supplied is simply not enough. (10.48).
Members of the court were shown images of an aid truck arriving in Gaza.
Third Israel has deliberately inflicted conditions in which Palestinians in Gaza are denied adequate shelter, clothes or sanitation. For weeks there have been acute shortages of clothes, bedding blankets and critical non food items.
Clean water is all but gone, leaving far below the amount required to safely drink, clean and cook. Accordingly the WHI has stated tat Gaza is experiencing soaring rates of infectious disease outbreaks. Cases of diarrhoea in children under five years of age have increased 2000%. since hostilities began. When combined and left untreated malnutrition and disease create a deadly cycle.
The Forth Genocidal Act – Assault of Gaza’s Healthcare System Renders Life Unsustainable
The Fourth genocidal act under article 2B is Israels assault under Gazas health care system which renders life unsustainable. Even by 7 December the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to health noted that the healthcare of the infrastructure of the Gaza strip had been completely obliterated.
Those wounded by Israel in Gaza are being deprived of life saving medical care, Gaza’s healthcare system already crippled by years of blockade and prior attacks by Israel is unable to cope with the sheer scale of the injuries.
Finally the UN’s special rapporteur on violence against women and girls has pointed to the acts committed by Israel that would fall under the fourth category of genocidal acts in article 2D of the Convention.
On 22 November she expressly warned that “the that the reproductive violence inflicted by Israel on Palestinian women, new born babies, infants and children could be qualified as acts of genocide under article 2 of the Genocide Convention, including imposing measures intended to prevent births within a group.”
Israel is blocking the delivery of life saving aid, including essential medical kits for delivering babies in circumstances where an estimated 180 women who are giving birth in Gaza each day. Of these 180 women the WHO warns that 15% are likely to experience pregnancy or birth related complications and need additional medical care.
That care is simply not available.
Summing Up – Genocidal Intent
In sum madam president.
All of these act, individually and collectively form and calculated pattern of conduct by Israel indicating genocidal intent.
This intent is evident from Israel’s conduct in specially targeting Palestinians living in Gaza, using weaponry that causes large scale homicidal destruction, as well as targeted sniping of civilians, designating safe zones for Palestinians to seek refuge and then bombing these, depriving Palestinians in Gaza of basic need, food, water, healthcare, fuel, sanitation and communications, destroying social infrastructure, hones, schools, mosques churches, hospitals. Seriously injuring and leaving large numbers of children orphaned.
Genocides are never declared in advance, but this court has the benefit of the past 13 weeks of evidence that shows incontrovertibly a pattern of conduct and related intention that justifies a plausible claim of genocidal acts.
In the Gambian Myanmar case this court did not hesitate to impose provisional measures in relation to allegations that Myanmar was committing genocidal acts against the Rohingya within the Rakhine state, the facts before the court today are sadly even more stark and like the Gambian Myanmar case deserve and demand this court’s intervention.
Every day there is mounting irreparable loss of life, property and humanity for the Palestinian people. Our newsfeeds show graphic images of suffering that has become unbearable to watch. Nothing will stop the suffering except an order from this court.
Without an indication of provisional measures, the atrocities will continue with the Israeli Defence Force indicating that it intends pursuing this course of action for a year.
In the words of the UN Undersecretary General on 5 January, 2024, quote –
“You think getting aid into Gaza is easy, think again. Three layers of inspections before trucks can even enter. Confusion and long queues, a growing list of rejected items. A crossing point meant for pedestrians, not trucks. Another crossing point where trucks have been blocked by desperate hungry communities, a destroyed commercial sector, constant bombardments, poor communications, damaged roads, convoys shot at, delays at checkpoints, a traumatised and exhausted population crammed into a smaller and smaller sliver of land. Shelters which have long exceeded their full capacity. Aid workers themselves, displaced, killed. This is an impossible situation for the people of Gaza and for those trying to help them. The fighting must stop.”
The video of the legal representative presenting the list of acts violating the Genocide Convention can be seen on the X post below.
At the International Court of Justice, South Africa lists Israeli acts that violate the Genoc*de Convention pic.twitter.com/WHUhMAhOEW
— COMBATE |🇵🇷 (@upholdreality) January 11, 2024
Israel will have the opportunity to respond tomorrow.