From Apartheid to Gaza: South Africa’s Moral Leadership Confronts Israel

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South Africa Israel
South Africa Emerges as Moral Giant on Gaza

South Africa Takes Israel to Top UN Court for Gaza ‘Genocide’

In a groundbreaking legal challenge, South Africa has accused Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza and petitioned the International Court of Justice to intervene urgently.

Filed in late December, South Africa’s 84-page suit alleges Israel has violated the 1948 Genocide Convention through its sustained military assault on Gaza since October 2023. It chronicles evidence of large-scale killings, destruction of homes and infrastructure, expulsions, and blockade of humanitarian aid that collectively constitute genocidal actions under international law.

Citing statements by Israeli leaders dehumanising Palestinians and calling for their destruction, it argues these demonstrate genocidal intent. South Africa contends the scale and nature of Israel’s attacks, pushing Gaza to the brink of famine, provide further proof.

The case centres on interpreting Israel’s conduct in Gaza as falling under the convention’s definition of genocide – “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” South Africa contends Israel has breached its duties as a signatory to the treaty.

Beyond seeking an urgent court order for Israel to cease its military operations, the lawsuit challenges Israel’s narrative of self-defence to justify civilian casualties. It forms part of Pretoria’s extensive efforts to rally global action against the Gaza crisis through institutions like the UN and ICC.

Israel says the filing constitutes “blood libel,” and the White House dismisses it as “meritless.”

Hamas carried out terror attacks on Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in southern Israel and taking some 240 people hostage. In response, Israel launched a military operation. That oppertion is no longer against Hamas it is a collective punishment on all Palestinians.

Facts speak louder than words…More than 22,000 Palestinians have perished since the start of Israel’s offensive on Gaza after Oct 7th 2023, Pretoria call it out for what it is…Genocide!

Children traumatised in Gaza hospital.
Children traumatised in Gaza hospital.

Israel’s ability to act with impunity stems from the moral cloak it has claimed as refuge for the Jewish people after the Holocaust. This paradoxically enables current oppression justified via past oppression. The tragic irony is the cynical weaponization of ethnic cleansing’s scars to now ethnically cleanse Palestinians.

Western appeasement and unconditional defence grant Netanyahu cover for remarkedly blunt genocidal rhetoric. He brazenly compares Palestinians to Amalekites marked for biblical destruction, while vowing to prolong attacks until Hamas’ defeat, destruction, and starvation – damning words cited in Pretoria’s lawsuit.

We would be less human if we did not fight for the freedom of Palestine
“The temptation in our situation is to speak in muffled tones about an issue such as the right of the people of Palestine…we can easily be enticed to read reconciliation and fairness as meaning parity between justice and injustice. Having achieved our own freedom, we can fall into the trap of washing our hands of difficulties that others faces…yet we would be less than human if we did so…it behoves all South Africans, themselves erstwhile beneficiaries of generous international support, to stand up and be counted among those contributing actively to the cause of freedom and justice…”

Nelson Mandela (1997)

The massive scale of bombardment and civilian body count expose the lie of “self-defence.” This is ethnonationalism’s brutal enforcement, entrenching apartheid under the banner of opposing apartheid. No contorted arguments negate the reality of bombs dropped on trapped families or whimpering, emaciated children.

Those still supporting Israel now are announcing to the world their indifferent complicity in atrocity. That they prioritise ideology over morality, power over people. Their stunted psyches cannot acknowledge innocent agony if it contradicts preconceived biases. They waste existence rationalising the impermissible. This is genocide this is a land grab this is all the evil the West claims to collectively oppose.

Gaza reduced to rubble
Gaza reduced to rubble

True justice knows no exceptionalism. If crimes against humanity unfold, as Pretoria contends, all must condemn them – or reveal their own moral bankruptcy. The reckoning South Africa demands comes late, but not too late for our humanity to awaken.

As a country that overcame apartheid, South Africa’s bold stance stands in stark contrast to the muted response of many Western nations. Its willingness to accuse Israel of genocide, despite likely backlash, demonstrates Pretoria’s emergence as a moral leader on Palestine.

The move is the latest in a long list of actions that Pretoria has taken since the start of the war on Gaza, including loudly and persistently condemning Israel’s attacks on Gaza and the West Bank, recalling the South African ambassador from Israel, referring the suffering of Palestinians to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and calling for an extraordinary meeting of BRICS countries to deliberate the conflict. The ICC takes on cases of alleged crimes committed by individuals, not states.

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said Friday that “three months since the horrific 7 October attacks, Gaza has become a place of death and despair.” 

While the ICJ lacks enforcement power, its rulings carry authority and increase pressure, especially on Israel’s main ally the US. A judgment against Israel would further tarnish its global image and undercut propaganda dismissing Palestinian claims.

But legal battles move slowly, even as violence escalates. With hearings slated for mid-January, swift emergency action seems unlikely. Yet the genocide allegation frames the debate in new terms – providing a counterpoint to Israeli impunity and offering hope that international law can still aid Gaza’s agony.

As Nelson Mandela affirmed, the quest for Palestinian freedom is intertwined with South Africa’s story. In invoking genocide, Pretoria makes a stand for conscience and justice against overwhelming force. The outcome remains murky, but the struggle takes another forceful turn on the global stage. South Africa again reminds the world that Palestine’s voice demands our solidarity and humanity.

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