By Craig Murray
In finding there is a plausible case against Israel, the International Court of Justice treated with contempt the argument from Israel that the case should be dismissed as it is exercising its right of self-defence.
This argument took up over half of Israel’s pleadings. Not only did the court find there is a plausible case of genocide, the court only mentioned self-defence once in its interim ruling – and that was merely to note that Israel had claimed it. Para 41:
That the ICJ has not affirmed Israel’s right to self-defence is perhaps the most important point in this interim order. It is the dog that did not bark. The argument which every western leader has been using is spurned by the ICJ.
Now the ICJ did not repeat that an occupying power has no right of self-defence. It did not need to. It simply ignored Israel’s specious assertion.
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It could do that because what it went on to iterate went way beyond any plausible assertion of self-defence. What struck me most about the ICJ ruling was that the Order went into far more detail about the evidence of genocide than it needed to. Its description was stark.
Here Para 46 is crucial
The reason this is so crucial, is that the Court is not saying that South Africa asserts this. The Court is saying these are the facts. It is a finding of fact by the Court. I cannot emphasise too strongly the importance of that description by the court of the state of affairs in Gaza.
The Court then goes on to detail accounts by the United Nations of the factual situation, quoting three different senior officials at length, including Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner General of UNRWA:
This of course explains why the immediate response to the ICJ ruling was a coordinated attack by Israel and the combined imperialist powers on UNRWA, designed to accelerate the genocide by stopping aid, to provide a propaganda counter-narrative to the ICJ judgment, and to reduce the credibility of UNRWA’s evidence before the court.
The Court works very closely with the UN and is very much an entrenched part of the UN system. It has a particularly close relationship with the UN General Assembly – many of the Court’s cases are based on requests from the UN General Assembly. In a fortnight’s time the Court will be starting its substantive hearings on the legal position in the Occupied Territories of Palestine, at the request of the UNGA. There are five specific references to the UNGA in the Order.
The Court spent a great deal of time outlining the facts of the unfolding genocide in the Gaza Strip. It did not have to do so in nearly so much detail, and far too little attention has been paid to this. I was equally surprised by how much detail the court gave on the evidence of genocidal intent by Israel.
It is especially humiliating for Israel that the Court quoted the Israeli Head of State, the President of Israel himself, as giving clear evidence of genocidal intent, along with two other government ministers.
Again, this is not the Court saying that South Africa has alleged this. It is a finding of fact by the Court. The ICJ has already found to be untrue Israel’s denial in court of incitement to genocide.
Now think of this: the very next day after President Herzog made a genocidal statement, as determined by the International Court of Justice, he was met and offered “full support” by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission and Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament.
When you take the detail of what the Court has found to be the actual facts of the case, in death and destruction and in intent, I have no doubt that this is a court which is currently minded to find Israel guilty of genocide once the substantive case comes before the Court.
All of Israel’s arguments were lost. Every one. The substantial effort Israel put into having the case dismissed on procedural grounds was brushed aside. So was self-defence. And in its findings of the facts, the Court plainly found to be untrue the Israeli lies about avoidance of civilian casualties, the responsibility of Hamas for the damage to infrastructure, and the access of relief aid to Gaza.
Those are the facts of what happened.
Do not be confused by the absence of the word “ceasefire” from the Court order. What the Court has ordered is very close to that. It has explicitly ordered the Israeli military to stop killing Palestinians.
That is absolutely clear. And while I accept it is tautologous, in the sense it is ordering Israel to obey a Convention which Israel is already bound to follow, there could be no clearer indication that the Court believes that Israel is not currently obeying it.
So what happens now?
Well, Israel has responded by killing over 180 Palestinian civilians since the Order was given from the International Court of Justice. If that continues, South Africa may return to the Court for more urgent measures even before the ordered monthly report from Israel is due. Algeria has announced it will take the Order to the UN Security Council for enforcement.
I doubt the United States will veto. There has been a schizophrenic reaction from Israel and its supporters to the ICJ Order. On the one hand, the ICJ has been denounced as antisemitic. On the other hand the official narrative has been (incredibly) to claim Israel actually won the case, while minimising the coverage in mainstream media. This has been reinforced by the massive and coordinated attack on UNRWA, to create alternative headlines.
It is difficult to both claim that Israel somehow won, and at the same time seek to block UNSC enforcement of the Order. My suspicion is that there will be a continuing dual track: pretending that there is no genocide and Israel is obeying the “unnecessary” order, while at the same time attacking and ridiculing the ICJ and the wider UN.
No matter what the ICJ said, Israel would not have stopped the genocide; that is the simple truth. The immediate reaction of the US and allies to the Order has been to try to accelerate the genocide by crippling the UN’s aid relief work. I confess I did not expect anything quite that vicious and blatant.
The wheels of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small. The ICJ having flagged up a potential genocide so strongly, it may well fall to judges in individual nations to restrain international support for the genocide. As I explained in detail, the Genocide Convention has been incorporated into UK law by the International Criminal Court Act of 2001.
There will, beyond any doubt, have been minutes issued by FCDO legal advisers warning of ministers being at risk of personal liability in UK law for complicity in genocide now, should arms shipments and other military and intelligence cooperation with the Israeli genocide continue. In the US, hearings started already in California on a genocide complicity suit brought against Joe Biden.
Of course, I wish this would all work faster. It will not. The UN General Assembly may suspend Israel from the UN. There are other useful actions to be taken. But this is a long slog, not a quick fix, and people like you and I continue to have a vital role, as everybody does, in using the power of the people to wrest control from a vicious political class of killers.
This was a good win. I am pleased that this course for which I advocated and lobbied has worked and increased pressure on the Zionists, and that my judgment that the International Court of Justice is not just a NATO tool like the corrupt International Criminal Court, has been vindicated.
It cannot help the infants killed and maimed last night or those to die in the coming few days. But it is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. – www.craigmurray.org.uk
Craig Murray is a historian, former UK ambassador and human rights activist