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For Palestine the doubts, and for Israel the certainty

The West does not consider that 27,000 deaths are sufficient proof of genocide, yet the mere suspicion of an alleged collaboration by UNRWA officials with Hamas was enough for them to halt funding to this U.N. agency

Bombardeo en Rafah, Gaza
An area destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza, on February 12.HAITHAM IMAD (EFE)

For some Western governments, the 27,000 human beings that Israel has murdered in Gaza are not sufficient proof of genocide. However, a single element of doubt sown by Israel about the alleged collaboration by UNRWA officials with Hamas was enough for them to suspend funding to this United Nations agency — on which six million Palestinian refugees depend — bringing more death and desolation to the already practically uninhabitable Palestinian enclave.

By declaring itself competent to investigate the accusation presented by South Africa, the International Court of Justice has made history, not exactly because of the forcefulness of its provisional measures that several weeks later have proven to be merely symbolic, but by challenging the governments of the great powers that are staunch defenders of the Zionist state — which is allowed everything, it seems — and daring to judge Israel for acts of genocide in Gaza.

When South Africa presented its case before the high court, Germany was the first European government to rush to condemn the move, alleging a risk of “political instrumentation” of international law. “The German government firmly and explicitly rejects the accusation of genocide now brought against Israel before the International Court of Justice. This accusation has no basis whatsoever,” declared Chancellor Olaf Scholz, for whom the evidence contained in dozens of reports from United Nations organizations is not enough to alter the tradition of German governments of attempting to atone for the guilt of the Holocaust by blindly supporting Israel’s colonial project, even if this amounts to exterminating the Palestinians. Hence, the harsh criticism issued by the president of Namibia when he stated that Germany is incapable of “learning from the lessons of its own cruel history,” alluding to the genocide of the Herero and Nama peoples by the German Empire between 1904 and 1908. “Germany cannot morally express its commitment to the United Nations Convention against Genocide, including reparation for the genocide in Namibia, and at the same time support the equivalent of a holocaust and genocide in Gaza,” Hage Geingob concluded.

After a compelling list of considerations, including the recognition of the vulnerability of the Gaza population, the tens of thousands of murdered civilians, the destroyed homes, schools and hospitals, and the massive displacement of the majority of the population, the court ordered Israel “to take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of any act within the scope of Article II of this Convention. In particular: killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm, deliberately imposing living conditions intended to cause their total or partial physical destruction, and imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.”

In contrast with the vehemence with which the Court ordered Russia to enact a ceasefire in Ukraine in March 2022, these measures err by leaving the fate of their victims in the hands of the perpetrator; although a more decisive tone would have been no guarantee that Israel, which holds international legality in disdain, would stop the massacre. “The ICJ decision alone cannot put an end to the atrocities and devastation Gazans are witnessing. Alarming signs of genocide in Gaza, and Israel’s flagrant disregard for international law highlight the urgent need for effective, unified pressure on Israel to stop its onslaught against Palestinians,” said Amnesty International Secretary General Agnès Callamard on the day of the ICJ ruling. The human rights defender noted that “all states — including those who were critical of or opposed South Africa’s submission of the genocide case — have a clear duty to ensure these measures are implemented. World leaders from the U.S., U.K., Germany and other EU states must signal their respect for the Court’s legally binding decision and do everything in their power to uphold their obligation to prevent genocide.”

Netanyahu rejected the decision, but welcomed that the court did not order an immediate cessation of hostilities. Twenty-four hours later, Israel killed 170 civilians and injured another 310 by intensifying its bombing in southern Gaza and accused, without disclosing any evidence, 12 UNRWA employees of being Hamas collaborators. The United Nations, in a radical measure to protect the agency and its 30,000 workers, canceled the contracts of those allegedly involved and initiated an investigation. Germany, Australia, Canada, the United States, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Switzerland were weighed down more by the doubts that had been raised and, without waiting for the results of the investigations, immediately announced the suspension of their contributions. It was a way, without going against the court ruling, to show support for their ally, even if this amounts to causing even more damage to the population, which would go against the court’s provisional measures.

With UNRWA being the backbone of the entire humanitarian operation in Gaza, the possibility of being forced to cease its operation at the end of February due to lack of funding, just as Israel is preparing a ground incursion into Rafah — where there are about a million displaced people from the north — puts the existence of life in the besieged Gaza Strip on the brink of a precipice and brings Israel closer to its intention of committing genocide.

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