Defend Truth

MIDDLE EAST CONFLICT OP-ED

Israel’s lawless attacks cannot continue if we want international peace — Part 2

Israel’s lawless attacks cannot continue if we want international peace — Part 2
A man wears a t-shirt reading 'You are the head, it is your fault' as anti-government protesters rally outside the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on 2 April 2024. (Photo: EPA-EFE/Abir Sultan)

At the level of mass struggle, it has been a very long time since international mass action of this type has been seen and never before on anything like this scale in support of the Palestinians. Two or three years ago it may be that hardly anyone outside of the Middle East knew the colours of the Palestinian flag.

Read Part 1 here

I appeal once again that access to humanitarian aid be ensured to Gaza, and call once more for the prompt release of the hostages seized on 7 October last year and for an immediate ceasefire in the strip – Pope Francis, Easter message

At the conclusion of the first part of this series, I argued that the effectiveness of international law depends on consensus, mainly between state actors. In order to achieve a consensus that underpins a rule-based international order and does not tolerate the lawlessness of any state and, in this case, Israel (and it could be argued, states allied to it, especially the United States) a new consensus needs to be developed.

There is a range of new or revived alignments that may be emerging in international relations, and these may have an impact on broader conditions, where many speak of existing in a unipolar world dominated by the United States.

US hegemony challenged

United States hegemony is definitely being challenged. Not only is it being contested by China, Russia and the Global South (which may not — at this stage — be militarily or economically strong or united beyond the Gaza issue), but there is a range of tensions within the Western Alliance (the North) itself.

There are also new state groupings like BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) that sometimes explicitly describe themselves as a challenge to the North. The original members did not include South Africa, and was then known as BRIC. Dr Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s Minister for International Relations “revealed that 34 countries have expressed their interest in joining the bloc of the largest developing economies; however, she refrained from revealing the specific countries. Earlier this year… Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Ethiopia and Egypt became official members.”

US hegemony may also be challenged by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which held its summit in Uganda in January. It may be that it will become an important player in any resurgence there may be in the South.

Significantly, the summit criticised Israel’s campaign in Gaza and called for an immediate ceasefire. The African Union, attending the meeting, joined the attacks on Israeli military activities.

Tensions within the North

There is a range of states that one would classify as part of the West/North that are taking a different position from the United States, for example, Ireland and Spain, on the Israeli/ Palestinian issue. Some states like Germany appear to blow hot and cold on the Gaza war, sometimes suggesting the ICJ 26 January decision should be implemented, but standing by while Israel and its allies, notably the US, defy it.

Developments within states of the North, notably demonstrations on a regular basis, may become an increasingly important factor in determining whether or not any state shifts its alignments.

In the United States itself there is a lot of instability. There is the possibility of former President Donald Trump returning as president in the 2024 elections, a semi-fascist alternative to the ineffectual Democratic Party leadership.

Some of the reasons for loss of support for the Democratic Party lies in alienation of what polls say are the majority of citizens over President Joe Biden’s apparently unconditional support for Israel (or where there are supposed to be conditions for such support, these are not applied).

That is not to suggest a Trump presidency would be any less fervent in support of Israel. In reality, it may be more enthusiastic about any military aggression.

Mass demonstrations against Israel

At the level of mass struggle, it has been a very long time since international mass action of this type has been seen and never before on anything like this scale in support of the Palestinians. Two or three years ago it may be that hardly anyone outside of the Middle East knew the colours of the Palestinian flag. Hardly anyone knew the phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, banned in Israel, Germany and parts of the US.

There was not only a political assault on Palestinian rights — starting even before the 1948 Nakba. There was also an erasure of the identities of the Palestinian people, as many, including respected commentator Peter Beinart, remark. When there were articles on the Palestinians, only some 1% of those were written by Palestinians. As Edward Said said about 20 years ago, “we must tell our own story”.

What has happened in recent years and especially after 7 October is that Palestinians always knew that they had a rich cultural heritage, but people who were not exposed to the cultures and literatures of the Palestinian people are seeing that it is not just a question of erasure of a generalised voice. It has been the erasure of a number of voices that expressed themselves through a range of cultural forms, literary forms, musical genres and forms of fine art and scholarship.

The number of Palestinian poets is very extensive. Now and again in reading a political article one sees a name that one may not have heard of, and the person is referred to as a “well-known Palestinian poet”. The person may have been well known among the Palestinians and among people very close to the Palestinian solidarity movements. But many who were freedom fighters, even though supporting the Palestinians, were not always aware of this cultural richness that is now emerging at an international level.

Susan Abulhawa, a leading Palestinian novelist, says that the Israelis were aware of this respect for the arts and cultural resources among the Palestinians, and they were very intent in their attacks to destroy all archives, libraries, and places where Palestinian cultural resources were stored.

Israel

A man walks past dozens of tents set up by anti-government protesters outside the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on 2 April 2024. Protesters called for a four-day rally outside the Knesset, including setting up tents, demanding the return of all hostages and the dissolution of the government. According to the IDF, 134 Israeli hostages are currently held by Hamas in Gaza. (Photo: EPA-EFE/Abir Sultan)

Assertiveness of Global South

Since the South African case at the ICJ against Israel, there has been a much greater assertiveness of the Global South.

The Global South may still not have anything like the economic or political power of many states of the West, but a number of these states and organisations have joined South Africa as a party in the ICJ against Israel or have expressed support for the case in other ways. This is an example of emerging Global South consensus.

Countries that have welcomed and/or augmented South Africa’s ICJ case against Israel include:

  • The Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC): The 57-member bloc, which includes Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and Morocco, voiced their support for the case on 30 December 2023;
  • Malaysia: In a statement released on 2 January 2024, the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the South African application. It reiterated a call for an independent Palestinian state “based on the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital”;
  • Turkey: Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Oncu Keceli posted on X on 3 January welcoming South Africa’s move;
  • Jordan: Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on 4 January that Amman would back South Africa;
  • Bolivia: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bolivia dubbed South Africa’s move as historic, becoming the first Latin American country to back the ICJ case against Israel;
  • The Maldives, Namibia and Pakistan: The three countries expressed support for the genocide case filed by South Africa during a UN General Assembly session;
  • The Arab League: The 22-member alliance also affirmed its support for the South African case in an X post made by Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit;
  • Colombia and Brazil: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia and Brazil expressed their countries’ support in individual press releases; and
  • Besides countries, many advocacy groups and civil society groups worldwide have also joined South Africa’s call. These include Terreiro Pindorama in Brazil, Asociacion Nacional de Amistad Italia-Cuba in Italy, and Collectif Judeo Arabe et Citoyen pour la Palestine in France, reported independent outlet Common Dreams (the list has grown since 9 January when this was reported).

This question of building the Global South as a force to restore international legality will be returned to in parts that follow. DM

This article first appeared on Creamer Media’s polity.org.za

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

    Well said, what has been left out is the awkward situation UK, Poland and Australia whose humatarian workers(citizens) were brazenly killed in a clearly marked convoy of vehicles.
    They died because they were providing food which Israel uses as a weapon of starvation in it’s war of genocide against the Palestinians.
    UK an unconditional supporter of Israel has changed its tone and could be embarrassed if their own weapons murdered it’s citizens who were providing much needed aid blocked by Israel.
    Australia has issued a more confrontational response.
    Western media is starting to find a voice at a time Israel is blocking Aljazerra who has the highest number of employees targeted and killed by Israel.
    UN workers have been targeted and killed at a scale not seen in any war.
    Reports are surfacing that latest USA weapons to Israel have no origin stickers, it is not yet clear how international law interprets the origin of weapons.
    The big remaining question is why did countries who are members of international bodies support Israel with weapons if they did not approve the war plan?
    The comments of the war cabinet and the Israel president gave the world a verbal genocidal war plan which could not have differed in paper.
    Sullivan and Blinken look like they will jump out of their skins when answering or trying not to answer when interviewed about the Israel question by their own media.
    Hope all these guys stay around to directly give answers in the international court.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Become a Maverick Insider

This could have been a paywall

On another site this would have been a paywall. Maverick Insider keeps our content free for all.

Become an Insider
Elections24 Newsletter Banner

On May 29 2024, South Africans will make their mark in another way.

Get your exclusive, in-depth Election 2024 newsletter curated by Ferial Haffajee delivered straight to your inbox.