Maverick Citizen


Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere — SA’s genocide case sets the tone for humanitarianism

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere — SA’s genocide case sets the tone for humanitarianism
Illustrative Image | Smoke rises following an Israeli air strike on Gaza’s al-Shuja’ia district. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Atef Safadi | From left: Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy. (Photo: Noam Galai / Getty Images) | Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi. (Photo: Gallo Images / Volksblad / Mlungisi Louw) | Advocate Adila Hassim. (Photo: Joyrene Kramer)

There is an obligation on everyone to rally and fight against human rights violations, not only in their backyard but wherever they are known to exist.

‘The world won’t get no better if we just let it be. The world won’t get no better, we gotta change it, just you and me,” sang Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes in their popular song Wake Up Everybody in 1976. This song came at a time when there was global turmoil around racial and socioeconomic tensions in the US and more specifically in South Africa, as the struggle for equal rights and an end to an unjust and violent political system raged. It became a rousing call for international solidarity and unity, a call to humanitarianism.   

Last week, South Africa set an inspiring tone of international solidarity around human rights, displaying a wealth of legal excellence mobilised towards the righteous cause of the protection of the life and dignity of the Palestinian people at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Their submissions on Israel’s intent to commit genocide against the Palestinian people, using the Genocide Convention, served not only to spotlight the injustice currently being perpetrated, but was also an act of solidarity with the Palestinian people, underscoring that the world could not be silent in the face of their demise.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Top SA legal team argues genocidal intent by Israel showing how life is being squeezed from Gaza

It bears reflection that the creation of the ICJ was necessitated by the need for a means of a settlement of disputes between states, and emanates from article 33 of the United Nations Charter. This means that all states that are signatories to the United Nations are subject to the court. The Genocide Convention is one of the treaties that was adopted by the UN, the signatories to which (South Africa and Israel are among them) are committed to ensuring that acts of genocide never happen again. 


Palestine Solidarity Committee members at a mass rally in support of the Palestinian people in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 29 December 2023, in a call to ‘stop genocide’, ‘end occupation’ and ‘free Palestine’. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Monirul Alam)

So, the question of South Africa’s interest in the matter between Israel and Palestine is one of duty as per the convention but also one of rectitude in the pursuit of the protection of human rights. With no one else coming to their defence, what would become of them? South Africa’s founding principles of Ubuntu also compel us to adopt the position we have, particularly having gone through gross human rights violations of our own.

The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Human rights are universal and inalienable. All people everywhere in the world are entitled to them.” And this is what UN secretary-general António Guterres was guided by when he said: “Nothing can justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is beyond words. Nowhere and no one is safe.”

What has been interesting is seeing which countries have chosen to be detractors of South Africa’s ICJ case and which are in support of its bid for the protection of Palestians’ human rights. The US and Germany have been the most vocal in condemning and dismissing South Africa’s case as “meritless, counterproductive and completely without any basis in fact whatsoever”

When the majority of South African people faced human rights violations under apartheid, the world rallied behind us… It’s now our turn to return the favour.

Germany, whose history includes first perpetrating genocide against Namibia’s indigenous Herero and Nama peoples between 1904 and 1908 and then Jewish people in Germany between 1941 and 1945, has also thrown its weight behind Israel, saying South Africa’s case has “no basis whatsoever”, an interesting assertion considering that it was through their acts of genocide that the Genocide Convention was proclamated.

Israeli army soldiers stand guard near the Gaza border, overlooking the Shujaiya neighbourhood in the Gaza Strip, on 29 December 2023. More than 23,600 Palestinians and at least 1,300 Israelis have been killed, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry and the Israel Defense Forces, since Hamas militants launched an attack against Israel from the Gaza Strip on 7 October 2023, and the Israeli operations in Gaza and the West Bank that followed it. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Atef Safadi)

Protesters at a demonstration by the Palestinian Student Movement demand an end to the conflict in Gaza, in Rome, Italy, on 13 January 2024. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Angelo Carconi)

A protest at the US consulate in Johannesburg formed part of a global day of action in support of a free Palestine on 13 January 2024. It was in reaction to the continued conflict in Gaza and focused on the recent claim by South Africa in the International Court of Justice that Israel is committing genocide. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Kim Ludbrook)

In response to South Africa’s detractors a quote by Cole Arthur Ray best describes the posture of these two countries: “Don’t expect abusive empires to be anything other than confounded by a beautiful resistance. If its native language is violence, it is difficult to translate dignity. The oppressor only retains imagination for a power that binds, never the power that liberates.”

Last week, Human Rights Watch warned in its world report of the increasing threats to democracy and violations of human rights the world over.

“Civil society, courts and human rights commissions are increasingly under threat by governments that want to exercise power without constraints, and governments are increasingly using technology platforms to silence and censor critics.
“These threats underline that governments should urgently respect, protect and defend human rights to build thriving and inclusive societies, upholding human rights consistently, across the board no matter who the victims are or where rights violations are being committed. It is the only way to build the world we want to live in, where everyone’s dignity is respected and protected,” executive director of Human Rights Watch Tirana Hassan said


Martin Luther King III, son of legendary civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jnr. (Photo: Patrick Riviere / Getty Images).

The report specifically highlights Palestine’s plight, with the organisation stating it is deeply concerned by the silence of a number of countries on the continent and across the world.

As I write this editorial it is a day after the commemoration of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr Martin Luther King Jnr’s birthday – a man who was himself a committed humanitarian and internationalist. In fact it was King’s ideological philosophy that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, an assertion that, in my mind, places an obligation on everyone to rally and fight against human rights violations, not only in their backyard but wherever they are known to exist. 

When the majority of South African people faced human rights violations under apartheid, the world rallied behind us, placing pressure on the government of the time to relinquish its oppression of the country’s majority, ushering in freedom and democracy. It’s now our turn to return the favour; this is the mark of true humanitarianism and internationalism. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Chris Skinner says:

    Unfortunately the injustices that are focussed on and made a fuss of are cherry picked for political and personal expedience.

    • Ian Bloom says:

      Problem with that .Truth and justice should not be a whim. Hypocrisy wins.

      • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

        Bottom line is we get caught in expecting a uniform approach on similar issues with different dynamics.
        It will also help to isolate Hamas from Palestinians civilians, citizens of Johannesburg can not be all criminals because there are criminals there and some locals who support and get a reward through criminal activities.

      • Richard Blake says:

        “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. Well then they should have started in South Africa first, and then Zimbabwe and the rest of the African continent.

    • JP K says:

      The politicisation of the law is no doubt a problem and I fully expect this to be the case with the ICJ. I fully expect that eith the ICJ will rule in Israel’s favour (assuming the justices side vote politically and it’s easy to guess which way it will go looking at the makeup) or, failing that, if they do make an initial ruling against Israel, Israel will simply ignore the order (based on statements made by Netenyahu e.g.).

      But what is being “made a fuss of”, as you rather odly put it, is potential unfolding genocide of which there is a plausible case not least because of the statements made by senior government officials, the destruction being meted out on Palestinians (not Hamas) and Israel’s history as an occupying power practicing Apartheid.

      So yeah. No justice. Look how long the world turned its back on the struggle of black people against apartheid. And where are those apartheid supporters now? Nowhere to be found (though I have sneaking suspicion they post frequently talking about fairness).

  • Lisa T says:

    The hypocrisy of this one sided and ignorant piece is laughable. Badly written, arrogant, gutter journalism.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      They should get you to write for them ! BUT then maybe …. they have ‘standards’ or ‘criteria’ you would not be able to meet ? BUT then … your preposterous comment says it all ! Ignorance is bliss … someone said !

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    The usual gush.I’d be more convinced if the ANC was concerned with Ubuntu whatever it is needed included and in particular in its own back yard.
    Closer to the mark is the analysis “South Africa’s case as “meritless, counterproductive and completely without any basis in fact”.
    I think the ICJ will have to agree with that exposing South Africa’s political stunt.

    • JP K says:

      The claim that the case is “meritless, counterproductive and completely without any basis in fact” – as John Kirby makes – patently is a riduculous one to make.

      First, since so many are concerned about hypocracy, I suppose it’s worth mentioning how the US undermined international law by invading Iraq leaving a trail of devastation. And so and so forth. The hypocracy of undermining international law is, according to Normal Finkelstein, an important method of self-preservation. After all, if you have a functional ICC/ICJ, you may find yourself at the Hague (just kidding. Doesn’t apply if you or your friends have veto power).

      Secondly, that the case is not obviously baseless etc. is supported by the fact that Bliken and Biden are being sued for failing to prevent genocide.

      Third, while the Israel spokeman may feel the court finding against Israel is an “absurd hypothetical”, it’s not so easily dismissed. John Dugard is a renowned expert and has sat on the bench of the ICJ and been a rapporteur. Speaking of which… 30+ UN special rapporteurs (including on the OPT and Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism), in a statement said: “We commend South Africa for bringing this case to the ICJ at a time when the rights of Palestinians in Gaza are being violated with impunity.” And so and so forth.

      So there is most certainly a case Israel has to answer for. I just wonder about its apologists…

  • Miles Japhet says:

    Massacre of 30 000 Shonas on our doorstep did not see the ANC being so virtuous!! Hypocrites all. Funny that they should try to deflect from their complete failures to govern responsibly at home with this cheap stunt.
    Also, very helpful for the election coffers if you suck up to Iran, Russia etc. Disastrous for our economy as human capital, investments and in time markets move away from SA. Playing the victim exacerbates the problem and ANC leaders neither understand this or, do not care.
    Sadly, a deliberately undereducated populace cannot respond to facts but rather to emotional fictional claims of trying to better the lot of the poor whilst sticking to a failed ideology which has put us in the failed State bracket. Well done ANC!!

  • I loved this editorial. As the schools and all the country here in Gauteng begin to start the year. It’s wonderful to see we as South Africa are anti genocide. Thanks for the uplifting voice with lovely added multimedia.

    • Ben Harper says:

      Except we are not anti-genocide, in fact the anc are PRO-GENOCIDE and brutal dictatorships as evidenced by their support of the Sudanese regime, Iran, Russia (Putin), China, Cuba, Myanmar, Venezuela, India, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia, Hezbollah, Hamas, Taliban etc, etc, etc

  • Joffie Berkowitz says:

    Nonsense. South Africa did the very opposite. Went to court to garner support for Hamas genocide against Jews and did it sneakily and by ambush and misrepresented facts in the process. What South Africa asked the court to order was for Israel to put down its arms and allow South Africa’s barbaric friends Hamas to revisit the brutal cooking of babies in ovens whilst raping their mothers and mutilating them by cutting off their breasts and breaking their pelvises before, whilst and after murdering them, that they did on 7 October and vowed to do again. How must Israel prevent another attack if not by going to war against Hamas? Wow South Africa Wow!

  • Elmarie van Jaarsveld van Jaarsveld says:

    I agree completely with the journalist regarding the humanitarian aspect, but why don’t the ANC, representing SA, fight for the poor Ukrainians being murdered by Russia? Shouldn’t they be consequent? Why is the fight for the Palestinians more important? They should fight for all the civilians being killed in wars. Or are they trying to get Russia out of the limelight?

  • Mark Jacobson says:

    I agree with the writer. Injustice on this scale must be called out no matter where it happens, and inaction in other cases does not excuse this one. The response of the Israeli regime to the Hamas attack goes far beyond self defense or even retribution. Indiscriminate bombing of hospitals, schools, apartment blocks, shopping malls, heritage sites, refugee camps, flattening entire neighbourhoods, wiping out entire families. The IDF are maiming and killing tens of thousands of civilians and sentencing countless more to death by starvation and disease, they are obliterating the infrastructure of an already blockaded and impoverished nation and rendering its land uninhabitable. Call a spade a spade. This is genocide, and I’m with team SA for calling it out at the highest levels.

    • Peter Oosthuizen says:

      Absolutely. Let’s call the civilian deaths reprisals. I have no sympathy for Hamas but for the 2 million ordinary people penned up in a concentration camp with nowhere to run, nothing to eat, very little to drink and nolwhere to hide.

      • Ben Harper says:

        Why, how come their brothers in the neighbouring countries don’t take them with open arms? Oh wait, that’s right, they don’t want terrorists in their countries

    • Ivan van Heerden says:

      Indiscriminate? Please pal, when you do not care about your people and in fact need them to die for your political agenda, you hide in schools, hospitals etc. Hamas knows the woke bleaters in the west such as yourself will puff their little sparrow chests full of indignation and twitter away. Are you that dumb?

      • Mark Jacobson says:

        Clearly not as bright as your gaslighting mate. Why don’t you say what you mean instead of hurling cheap insults? “Kill the lot of them!” It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

  • dexter m says:

    the response to greg mills op-ed ?

  • dexter m says:

    the response to Greg mills op-ed?

  • Lyle Pillay says:

    Thanks South africa once again for risking losing billions in trade.
    Just another nail in the coffin for us all.
    Jumping to other countries instead of fixing our own crisis which are endless is gonna possibly cost this country dearly in lost trade then i wonder who’s gonna rescue us from this failing state.

  • Lyle Pillay says:

    Thanks South africa once again for risking losing billions in trade.
    Just another nail in the coffin for us all.
    Jumping to other countries instead of fixing our own crisis is gonna possibly cost this country dearly in lost trade then i wonder who’s gonna rescue us from this failing state.

  • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

    Can I get an email explaining my permanent moderation status please

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      I seem to be on the naughty list too. Seems too consistent not to be an absolute. I noticed that I still have unreleased comments from first thing this morning too.

  • Iam Fedup says:

    You want to see injustice everywhere? No need to look far: it happens every day in SA. Glass houses.

  • Trenton Carr says:

    This attempt of unequal application of justice by a failed state will have no effect on the reality of the people it is supposed to protect. This mess has no end, and to expect this to be achieved by an organization that presides over the slaughter by neglect and theft of a GDP from its own people is farcical.

  • Vincent Britz says:

    Blaa Blaa blaa…. That’s all am hearing from you!!! Funny how you state that SA is showing Ubuntu and all this BS, but yet SA can’t do a single thing for the huge crisis happening right here in our own country! Our corrupt government can’t even string a case together to prosecute our corrupt politicians that have destroyed this country and put millions of people out of work, closed down how many businesses and destroyed countless life’s.
    This is just a vote stealing tac from the ANC that supports terrorism!

  • Ivan van Heerden says:

    The hypocrisy of the SA Government is conveniently overlooked by the author. Where were these mighty defenders against genocide when they escorted known war criminal El-Bashir to the waterkloof airforce base instead of arresting him? Where were they when Genocide was being carried out in Syria and Yemen? Where are they with regards to the Ethiopian disaster and gross human rights violations?

    The simple fact is that the SA government aka ANC has never forgiven Israel for working with South Africa before the end of apartheid and of course it rankles that both South Africa pre 1994 and Israel built successful, industrialised countries, something they the ANC, have managed to destroy through greed and sheer incompetence.

    The clown show that is this farce conveniently overlooks the horrors Hamas perpetrates not only against the Israelis but against their own people within Gaza. Silence when women are murdered and journalists killed by Hamas but outrage when the Israelis do the same thing during military actions against Hamas who is using those victims as human shields.

    Once again the ANC has done nothing other than draw attention to the fact that we are becoming a failed state increasingly drawn into the ambit of brutal dictatorships

  • v_s says:

    South Africa needs to sweep in front of their own door first! There is genocide in South Africa! Genocide against all the farmers!!!

  • James Webster says:

    Journalists are supposed to have insight and intelligence, traits the author of this article clearly lacks. Anyone who is so dimwitted as to praise the cynical and hypocritical attempt by an incompetent and deceitful ANC government to target Israel evidences their inability to see the wood for the trees. The lack of insight and shameless support for hypocrisy demonstrated here only serves to confirm that the majority in South Africa are sheep that blindly follow their blind leaders like lemmings and like those lemmings, they too will perish as a result of the corruption and immorality of their leaders.

  • Anthony Stricker says:

    Selective morality from the ANC government and the supporters of this case against Israel. Will they bring a similar case before the ICJ against the Chinese government for their treatment of the Chinese Uyghur population?

  • Arie Zelezniak says:

    A disingenuous, duplicitous article
    I’m speechless

  • dexter m says:

    now really did you expect any Israeli to agree . And any that agreed and professed that will be charged for treason based on current emergency censorship rules .

  • Leon Joffe says:

    Thanks for saying this! We Jews have been trying to get people to listen to this for 2000 years: injustice against us is injustice against all. Yet the injustices against us have continued and continued and still continue…for 75 years some Paledtinians have taught their kids that all Jews must be killed and those not killed driven away. It’s in their school textbooks. If that isnt I justice what is? Thanks again for saying it out loud.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Spare us the spurious drivel about what ‘all Palestinian kids’ have been taught ! A demand for freedom from oppression and subjugation is not a crime . You start sounding like all the Israeli regime propagandists, of which there are too many to count. Remember what happened to Rabin … when he tried to be ‘reasonable’ ? I guess that is really what people like you are afraid of ?

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    It won’t be long before 1 million people will have been murdered in SA since the ANC took power. It would very comforting if it looked like they gave a toss about doing something about that. Sadly getting the hole in their party budget filled so that they could settle their long overdue debts and fund their election campaign was front of mind so off to the Hague they went after getting a brief and a hefty payment from a source that will no doubt be revealed in these pages before too long. My money is on one or other of those fine Brics partners of ours.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Since you keep scores apparently … how many were murdered during apartheid ?

      • Ben Harper says:

        do you really want to show your ignorance on this one? Fact – more people were killed by black-on-black faction fighting than by the government of the day or do you choose to conveniently ignore facts to suit your agenda as is the norm with your posts

  • Sharon Anstey says:

    I have always admired the Maverick but this piece has just lost me as a donor.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      And … since you keep scores … how many were murdered during apartheid ?

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      “always admired ” ? Maybe this article closed too many ‘loops’ in your circuit of generosity and intelligence ? NO doubt … you will continue to voyeuristically follow it? Well done ! Very American !

  • Ben Harper says:

    Hahahaha, actually that’s what you’ve been doing since day one

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