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SOUTH AFRICA BEFORE THE ICJ, not a case of sour grapes

Comment by Iqbal Jassat on Hassen Lorgat’s spat with Daily Maverick 

The Daily Maverick’s Associate Desk Editor Opinion and Analysis hid behind a number of excuses / reasons for not publishing the article below by social justice and media activist Hassen Lorgat. 

In one of his replies to Lorgat, he asks “why are you attacking Rebecca Davis” and when pushed further, in another email he replied that DM Opeds are “accurate, fact-checked and opinions well argued” but that the rejected article was not. 

Interestingly, the article in question by Lorgat that DM refused to publish, makes a compelling argument to challenge the bias and fabrication of lies, in particular the so-called “fact” that Iran has paid for the ICJ case; and that the case was an ANC case and not that of the SA government and so on.

Upon reading Lorgat’s detailed analysis below, you will find that the “fact-checking” exercise which he challenged, contributed to misinformation and not truthfully finding inaccuracies. 

In addition, Lorgat accused the DM of seeking to run opinion pieces that were subject to  “ideological framing and approved facts. How many Palestinians have been killed to date, was the figure wrong?” he questions. 

His email to DM ended with this challenge:

 “I hope to debate you on these issues in a public forum”. 

Since this challenge was not met, we ask  readers to either point out any factual errors  or the facts that Tony Weaver did not approve of in what we believe is Lorgat’s valuable contribution to ongoing debates on the concept of media freedom including the unfettered power editors possess to unfairly spike readers’ contributions. 

Iqbal Jassat 

Executive Member

Media Review Network

Johannesburg

South Africa.

SOUTH AFRICA BEFORE THE ICJ, not a case of sour grapes

         Hassen Lorgat

The response from supporters of Israel to the ICJ’s ruling has been something to behold. It confirms Chomsky’s assertion that propaganda is the threat to democracies as violence is to dictatorships. Both Netanyahu and Genocide Joe (Biden) were “effectively” on trial, if not at the Hague, but in the court of public opinion.

Israel apologists were angry about South Africa’s 84-page charge sheet against the state of Israel for violating the 1948 Genocide Convention, which was drawn up in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust. The charge sheet lists the atrocities and horrendous details of the wanton killings of, at this point, over 27 000 people, the destruction of property, homes, schools, hospitals, and places of worship. A genocide was happening or about to happen and it had to be stopped, the International Court of Justice, heard in the Hague.

The state of Israel has a reputation for ignoring courts and investigations of its conduct, particularly from UN and other experts, but it could not miss this date as they were hauled before a justice tribunal charged with crimes against humanity and genocide.

After the ruling an infuriated Netanyahu called the ICJ case anti-Semitic whilst his defence minister Yoav Gallant added that Israel “does not need to be lectured on morality to distinguish between terrorists and civilian population in Gaza.” Despite their defiant rejection, later they had to adapt their approach to see how they could undermine the provisional ruling.

In South Africa, some opposition political parties and the chief Rabbi tried to rally support for Israel and against the ICJ ruling but the latter was sharply rebuked by the SA Jews for a Free Palestine (SAJFP). They stated that the rabbi was unelected and did not speak for them  has since October 2023 recorded “regular diatribes defending Israel’s genocide in Gaza.”  But I think the Daily Maverick in two articles did a more sterling job in that direction.

Ray Hartley and Greg Mills’ SA’s ICJ Action — The Critical Problem of a Populist Foreign Policy and Rebecca Davis’s Fact Check — Did Iran fund South Africa’s approach to the ICJ over Israel? The latter is a masterclass in propaganda in a democracy when read alongside the Youtube video. Its intention is clearly to undermine the ICJ ruling. Both articles and the video continue the same negative narrative that downplays any talk of a genocide and, importantly, a victory for South Africa-Palestine and international human rights as evidence in the court case.

The use of photographs / images is astute

The Hartley-Mills article uses a photograph of the South African legal team whereupon the logo of the African National Congress is superimposed. The message is clear, confirming the content of the article: this is an ANC case and not the SA government. They argued that the ICJ case “has exposed the African National Congress. The ruling party is clearly no friend of liberal values.”

Misinformation or fact checking?

In the Fact Checking electronic article, they show pro-Palestinian protesters and whether it was relevant or not is not useful here, but it was not harmful. The video opens up sharply and briefly with an image of the Ayatollah leader. The signal is clear, IRAN has paid for the case. Needless to say, there is no factual basis for these claims as I will discuss hereunder.

Political fact-checking is not easy but what Davis has done is not it. The  video reveals, under the guise of “fact checking”, advanced and propagated  rumour mongering. Davis opens with the assertion that the DM has been inundated with concerns about the matter. She ends up arguing that:

“The major person who spread this claim appears to have been Frans Cronje, the former CEO of the Institute of Race Relations, in an interview with the Johannesburg radio station ChaiFM. A similar claim was made by advocate Paul Hoffman from Accountability Now in an interview with BizNews editor Alec Hogg.”

The video runs for some 5 min 14 seconds and covers essentially the same assertions discussed above. In the video, we see two white men quoted in active voice whilst the black persons who refute these allegations are shown in still photos and scripted responses on screen, read out by Davis, lasting around 30 seconds. Spokesperson for the Justice Department Crispen Phiri responded that it was “very disappointing” that those making spurious and conspiratorial claims “do so without any evidence.  Instead it’s the government who has the burden to rebut these spurious claims.”  The claim was that Iran funded the ICJ case by giving funds to the ANC. And it became news but in reality was misinformation and or disinformation.

Davis’ conclusion to this narrative came too late in the video as the damage was done. She confirms that there was no need for conspiracy as the ANC led government and the movement had always supported Palestine, and hence there is no need for conspiracy theories.

Cronje is quoted by Davis based on his interview on ChaiFM saying that the ICJ case was “a brilliant display of stigmatisation and propaganda,” where winning or losing is not the issue. The South African lawyers were useful idiots and the ANC was fronting for Iranian policy. They were also waging an ideological war on it, whilst Hamas was waging the physical war. The Vietnamese guerrilla leader General Giap – an expert of public opinion manipulation which resulted in the defeat of the USA – also advised the ANC. These allegations in the Fact Check article were nestled in the Hartley – Mills piece where Iran was their target. They argued that instead of the country investing in the productive economy, the Iranians were “lenders¨and — if the rumours are to be believed — sponsors of the party.”

Punishing the victims

The most brutal response to the ICJ came with the complicity of Western countries, including the US, UK and Germany, who have swiftly suspended funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees  (UNRWA). They stopped funding on the basis of untested Israeli allegations that 12 of the 30 000 UNRWA employees were allegedly involved in 7 October 2023 attacks. They failed to muster any courage when over 150 of UNRWA staff were killed. The loss of revenue for the agency amounts to US $ 672.2 million.

The defunding of UNRWA is an attack on the very existence of Palestinians as the organisation’s work is a reminder of over 700 000 Palestinians who were refugized in 1948 to make way for the state of Israel. UNRWA provides humanitarian relief (education, housing, health and so on) to Palestinians in Gaza and wider communities of Palestinians.

Whereas the illiberal critics have labelled the ICJ case as nothing but a continuation of war by other means or electioneering, I believe otherwise. The South African constitution was inspired by the struggle against apartheid and today it cherishes the right to life, the right to human dignity and human rights for all.

If the critics of South AFrica are law-abiding liberals, I ask, why have the USA and Israel failed to become members of the International Criminal Court? Palestine became a member in 2015 and South Africa in 2000.

The ICJ case represents a significant victory for freedom loving peoples in advancing an end to the war on Palestinians and justice for their cause.  It also represents a significant political victory for the Global South in transforming this multilateral body in the interests of the colonised. I can only hope that all such bodies, including the UN – and the Security Council in particular -, WTO, IMF and others will be fully transformed to serve all the world’s peoples and not some.

Palestinians live

The ICJ ensured that Palestinians are at the centre of the conversation. Their lives and sufferings, and hopefully their aspirations, were on full display before and in the case. By so doing, the ICJ case then undermined the US inspired normalisation with other Arab states by expressly excluding Palestinians. This is no more and once again the talk of a just solution for Palestinians and national sovereignty is on the international  agenda.

Media

In addition, the ICJ case has exposed the mass mainstream media, particularly Western like BBC, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, Sky News, and their printed counterparts New York Times, Wall Street Journal and at times even The Guardian. This mainstream Western media has been unashamedly slavish to their masters avoiding to even report on the massive resistance in the streets of their capitals.

IHRA – antisemitism

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) is the vehicle for weaponizing antisemitism which it defines as: “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, eg, by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour”. IHRA has been weaponized against progressives by declaring any criticism of Israel as antisemitic. Palestinians and their allies campaigning for rights and justice are vilified and harassed on US campuses and wider society.

Western democracies have repeatedly tried to ban the BDS movement for their non-violent campaigning. By so doing, they have ignored real anti-semism, and the nefarious role AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israeli public affairs committee, plays to undermine American institutions and systems that were set up to ensure checks on government. The  immense funds they pour into the US body politic would be illegal in any democracy. Their financial support of candidates who toe the Israeli line turns the US democracy into a casino. You get the politicians elected and they in turn vote for large amounts – said to be over $3B USD, per annum- in military assistance to the state of Israel.

What is clear is that the ICJ case, with meagre resources in comparison, has undermined the false allegations of antisemitism and the impunity that Israel has enjoyed up to then.

Raphael Lemkin

South Africa and Israel’s inputs at the ICJ drew on the inspiration of Raphael Lemkin. Adv Tal Becker for Israel, in his response, argued that Lemkin helped the world recognize that the existing legal lexicon was simply inadequate to capture the devastating evil that the Nazi Holocaust unleashed and that South Africa sought to ‘invoke the term in a war it did not start and did not want.” But October was not the beginning of history as the war against Palestinians. To think otherwise would be to ignore not only the Nakba of 1948 but also those who carry forward Lemkin’s ideas.

Lemkin was clear that there was no exceptionalism as to which states would carry out genocides. It was thus not surprising that ten days after the 7 October, The Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention in their SOS Alert – #2 Gaza, Palestine warned that they were: “absolutely disgusted by the response of Western nations to the crisis in Israel/Palestine. Western nations have given Israel a greenlight to commit genocide, have offered direct military support to Israel in its war on Gaza, and have clamped down on freedom of expression in their own countries. That greenlight has led to the horrific scenes of genocide in Gaza since the October 7, 2023 attack on Israel by Hamas. Just today Israel struck the al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City as well as a UN school.”

More recently they spoke out at the coordinated “financial attacks” against UNRWA and warned “several nations about their direct involvement in the intensification of genocidal acts against the Palestinian people. We urge a reversal of course, preventative measures from global populations, and action from international legal bodies.”

The DM must decide if it is on the side of the victims of the aggressors in all conflicts and wars or if there is an Israel exceptionalism for them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hassen Lorgat
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