Why The UK & US Can't Support South Africa's ICJ Genocide Case
They are on trial too.
You’ve probably heard by now that South Africa has raised a searing, watertight case against Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing them of genocide in Gaza. If you haven’t, you might need to get out of the house a bit more. Not only is this a seminal case that is arguably one of the most important of the century (at least, so far), but it has caused a considerable stir in the West with it being branded as “baseless” and “unhelpful” by many high-ranking officials in US and UK politics. I can assure you though, there is nothing unhelpful or baseless about the 80-page case, as it is utterly packed with clear, cohesive and credible evidence to support South Africa’s position (read it for yourself here). So, why the silence and resistance to the case from those in the West? Aren’t we supposed to be the good guys who hold up international law? Well, we are supposed to be…
Let’s start with the case. Because of the nature of the evidence, and how well it is presented by South Africa, it would be nigh on impossible to argue against their interpretation of the evidence and data. As such, if you want to defend against their claim, you will have to prove their evidence is incorrect. However, as their evidence comes from numerous independent, credible and cohesive (i.e. multiple sources to back up a single point and overlapping in narrative) sources, this defence approach is equally challenging. In other words, this isn’t a spurious or alternatively motivated case. It is solid and watertight and has been written by some of the most respected legal minds in the world.
As such, it should be of no surprise that it has had massive support on the global stage. The Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) (The 57-member bloc, which includes Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and Morocco), Malaysia, Turkey, Jordan, Bolivia, The Maldives, Namibia and Pakistan, along with a plethora of advocacy and civil society groups have publicly and formally supported the case, which should have started by the time this article is published.
But, notice how no Western countries are supporting South Africa. Why is that? There is no support from North America, and Turkey is the only European country on the list, though it identifies as both a Middle Eastern and European country.
The US, UK, Europe and their NATO alliance boast of being the torch-bearers of justice and leaders in human rights. So why aren’t they supporting this trial? After all, if Israel hasn’t committed genocide or ethnic cleansing, then it should be easy for them to defend themselves. Especially as the ICJ has a solid history of impartiality and only handing out genocide charges when it is beyond doubt. What’s more, the argument that such a trial opens Israel up to the risk of a Hamas attack by reducing the IDF’s (Israeli Defence Force) capacity is also moot. The Gaza Strip has been accurately described as an “open-air prison” numerous times, and the IDF has more than enough personnel and equipment to adequately patrol its perimeter and protect itself from any Hamas attack, even before they destroyed vast swathes of Gaza. They do not need to eradicate Hamas right now, especially if doing so is tantamount to genocide. So why have the UK, US and EU countries remained silent or even tried to discredit this case? It makes no sense!
Well, for now, I will gloss over how the US, UK and EU use Israel as a tool to exert pressure on the Middle East to “protect their interests in the area.” There is a far more straightforward and provable reason for our deafening silence. The 1948 Genocide Convention.
The convention solidified genocide as a crime in international law. But it also detailed how signatory nations (The US, UK, EU and Israel are all signatories) should act when genocide is taking place and what constitutes supporting or being complicit in a genocide, which itself was made a crime by the convention. This is the crucial part of the convention that explains our lack of support for South Africa. You see, the UN states that signatory states have an obligation to not commit genocide and to prevent genocide, which, according to the ICJ, has an extraterritorial scope. In other words, according to international law, the US, UK and EU are obligated to take action to ensure Israel isn’t committing genocide, even past their borders, and that they aren’t supporting it in any way.
Sadly, they are doing the opposite. European countries send vast quantities of military equipment to Israel, such as tank engines, crucial weapons, submarines, helicopters and millions of rounds of munition. This arms supply is worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually, and the EU has kept this flow of military equipment through the conflict. The UK is also a huge part of Israel’s arms supply chain, giving them over £474 million in licence arms per year, and again has continued to do so through the conflict. The US is even worse, giving Israel $3.3 billion in military aid (i.e. actually funding the IDF) per year! Again, this aid has continued throughout the conflict. Sadly, though, it gets worse. The US has vetoed a landslide UN vote to force a ceasefire on Israel, which would have stopped any potential genocide. This isn’t new; the US has used its UN Security Council veto power 42 times (by 2011) against resolutions condemning Israel. Likewise, the UK has blocked the ICC from investigating Israel numerous times and continues to do so.
In other words, the US, UK and EU are actually enabling the IDF to conduct a potential genocide and are even giving Israel diplomatic immunity from any international court that could hold them to account.
This is a blatant violation of the 1948 Convention by the West on two counts. Firstly, we are actively undermining our obligations to prevent genocide. Arguably, the fact that we aren’t supporting South Africa’s case violates this obligation. I remind you that if Israel isn’t committing genocide, the ICJ will rule in their favour and that the only way we can stop genocide is if it is recognised in an international court. So, this case is crucial to upholding our obligations, and therefore, we should support it. Secondly, our vast arms exports and diplomatic efforts to defend Israel make us utterly complicit in its potential genocide.
But Western leaders know that this case has far from a non-zero chance of accusing them or even charging them with both these violations. No wonder Biden, Sunak, Scholz, Macron and other leaders are staying pin-drop quiet on this case, and their underlings are desperately trying to discredit it. They know they are on trial here too, and it could find them complicit in one of the most heinous of crimes imaginable.
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