I’m republishing this post from my friend, Dr Chandra Muzaffar – president of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST). Chandra has been a long-term advocate for Palestine and is one of the best-informed people on the subject that I have ever met.
The International Movement for a Just World (JUST) commends the Government of South Africa for requesting the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue an urgent order declaring that Israel is in breach of its obligations under the 1948 Geneva Convention for its massive slaughter of Palestinians living in Gaza. Israel, it is alleged, is attempting through its relentless bombardment of life and property to destroy “in whole or a part” the Palestinian community and identity. This is a clear violation of the Geneva Convention.
As of 2nd January 2024, according to various sources, 22,185 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli armed forces or by armed settlers. Of this number, 9,100 are children and 6,500 are women.
Access to food, fuel, water, electricity and medicines has been severely restricted by the Israeli authorities since the outbreak of hostilities almost three months ago. A significant segment of the population in Gaza faces the grim prospect of starvation.
Hospitals, schools, other public amenities and much of Gaza’s infrastructure have also been destroyed. Indeed, Gaza including its farmlands have been laid to waste. This tiny strip of land— 363 square kilometres — has become almost uninhabitable.
The wanton, barbaric massacre of Palestinians and the colossal destruction and devastation caused to Gaza by Israel have convinced a lot of people that what is happening in Gaza is blatant ethnic cleansing —- a continuation of a process that began with the creation of Israel in 1948. The ethnic cleansing that Israel is responsible for is nothing short of genocide. Genocide targeting Palestinians, it must be emphasized, has become routinised in the last 75 years.
Even before this recent tragedy linked to 7th October, Gaza was under Israeli siege — from land, sea and air. The siege which began in 2006 was Israel’s way of punishing both the voter in Occupied Palestine (Gaza and the West Bank) and the election winner, namely Hamas. Incidentally, the 2006 general election was certified by observers from the US and the European as free, fair and truly democratic. But it was an outcome which Israel did not want. The Israeli response exposed Israel which the West regards as the only genuine democracy in the region for what it really is: a sham attempt at governance bereft of even an iota of commitment to democratic principles. The Palestinian election not only unmasked Israel. It also revealed the hidden ugliness in the democratic face of the US and the European Union. Because Hamas had won, these two so-called democratic entities decided to impose sanctions upon Gaza.
That is not the end of the story. Starting from 2008-9, Gaza has been subjected to a series of assaults by Israel. The present assault is the sixth. Any attempt by the people of Gaza to assert their basic rights is met with fierce suppression. Gaza has never been allowed to develop its own economic strength. This explains why there is massive poverty in the strip with youth unemployment exceeding 60%. 2.3 million people are squeezed into this small space making it one of the most congested places on earth. What exacerbates Gaza’s poignancy is the fact that the majority of its inhabitants are descendants of the refugees from the initial Israeli occupation and annexation of Palestine in 1948.
It is because more and more people have come to know the Gazan story that there is increasing sympathy and support for the beleaguered Gazan population. If anything, the cruel and heartless massacre of children and babies in the last few months has come to epitomize the on-going 75 year- long catastrophe or Nakba. The 153 nations that demanded an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the West Bank in a UN General Assembly vote on the 12th of December 2023 reflect the global concern for the plight of the Palestinian people.
South Africa has been at the forefront of this concern for many decades. The leaders of post-apartheid South Africa were among the most vocal in the Global South to denounce inhuman Israeli treatment of the Palestinians. Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu realized that Israeli discrimination and marginalization of the indigenous Palestinians was akin to apartheid. Mandela, who described the Palestinian struggle for self- determination as one of the greatest moral issues of our time, even observed that South Africans will not be truly free until the Palestinians are free.
It is partly because of their own experience with apartheid that the people and leaders of South Africa display such rapport with the Palestinian cause. Other nations in the Global South should also come forward. Indeed, since justice at the heart of the Palestinian struggle is so universal, let South Africa’s example inspire people everywhere to act!
Dr Chandra Muzaffar is the president of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST).