Free Palestine March on December 16, 2023 In Eldorado Park, South Africa. [Laird Forbes/Gallo Images via Getty Images]
The International Movement for a Just World (JUST) commends the Government of South Africa for requesting the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue an urgent order declaring that Israel is in breach of its obligations under the 1948 Geneva Convention for its massive slaughter of Palestinians living in Gaza. Israel, it is alleged, is attempting through its relentless bombardment of life and property to destroy the Palestinian community and identity “in whole or a part”. This is a clear violation of the Geneva Convention.
As of 7 January, 22,835 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli armed forces in Gaza. Of this, 10,000 were children and 7,000 were women.
Access to food, fuel, water, electricity and medicines has been severely restricted by the Israeli authorities since the outbreak of hostilities exactly three months ago. A significant segment of the population in Gaza faces the grim and unprecedented prospect of starvation.
Hospitals, schools, other public amenities and much of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure have also been destroyed. Indeed, Gaza has been largely laid to waste. This tiny strip of land — 363 square kilometres — has become basically uninhabitable.
The wanton, barbaric massacre of Palestinians and the colossal destruction and devastation caused to Gaza by Israel have convinced a lot of people that what is happening in Gaza is genocide, a continuation of the ethnic cleansing that began with the 1948 Nakba, the creation of the Zionist state of Israel. The genocide targeting Palestinians, it must be emphasised, has been ongoing for the past 75 years.
Even before events on 7 October, Gaza was under Israeli siege from land, sea and air. This began in 2006 as Israel’s way of punishing both the electorate in Occupied Palestine (Gaza and the West Bank) and the election winner, the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas. The 2006 legislative election, by the way, was certified by independent observers from the US and the European Union as free, fair and truly democratic. However, it was an outcome that Israel and its allies did not want. The response — a comprehensive and destructive siege of the Gaza Strip — exposed Israel for what it really is: not the only democracy in the region, as the West would have us believe, but a sham attempt at governance bereft of even an iota of commitment to democratic principles. The Palestinian election not only unmasked Israel, but also revealed the ugliness of the democratic facade of the US and the EU, which both joined Israel in imposing sanctions upon Gaza.
That was not the end of the story. Starting in 2008-9, Gaza has been subjected to a series of military offensives by Israel.
The latest “war” is the sixth. Any attempt by the people of Gaza to assert their basic, legitimate rights is met with fierce suppression by the apartheid state. Gaza has never been allowed to develop its own economy. This explains why there is massive poverty in the strip with youth unemployment exceeding 60 per cent, despite a large percentage of graduates and postgraduates among them.
More than two million people make Gaza one of the most congested places on earth. What exacerbates the poignancy of this is the fact that the majority of its inhabitants are refugees of their descendants from the initial Israeli occupation and theft of Palestine in 1948.
It is because more and more people have come to know the background and context of what is happening in Gaza, that there is increasing sympathy and support for the beleaguered Palestinians. Israel’s cruel and heartless massacre of babies and children in the past three months has come to epitomise the ongoing 75 year-long Nakba. The 153 nations that demanded an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the West Bank in a UN General Assembly vote on 12 December reflect the global concern for the plight of the Palestinian people. Those who voted against or abstained should be ashamed of themselves.
South Africa has been at the forefront of this concern for many decades. The leaders of the post-apartheid Rainbow Nation are among the most vocal in the Global South to denounce Israel’s inhuman treatment of the Palestinians. Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu realised that Israeli discrimination and marginalisation of the indigenous Palestinians was akin to apartheid, which is itself akin to a crime against humanity. Mandela described the Palestinian struggle for self-determination as one of the greatest moral issues of our time, and even observed that in South African, “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
It is partly because of their own experience with apartheid that the people and leaders of South Africa have such an open rapport with the Palestinian cause. Other nations in the Global South should also come forward. Indeed, since justice at the heart of the Palestinian struggle is so universal, let South Africa’s example inspire people and governments everywhere to act.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.
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