World

MIDDLE EAST CRISIS: 17 MAY 2024

SA calls for bolder ICJ action against Israel; US finishes floating pier to deliver aid to Gaza

SA calls for bolder ICJ action against Israel; US finishes floating pier to deliver aid to Gaza
South African Ambassador to the Netherlands Vusimuzi Madonsela (right) and the legal adviser of the South Africa Embassy in the Netherlands, Cornelius Scholtz (left), attend a hearing at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the situation in Gaza's Rafah, at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, on 16 May. (Photo: Lona Selg / EPA-EFE)

The International Court of Justice must take bolder action to make Israel protect civilians in Gaza, according to South Africa, which has brought a genocide case before the United Nations tribunal.

The US has finished building a floating pier that will help bring more aid to the Gaza Strip, the Pentagon said, even as officials acknowledged the new structure would not fill the gap in need created by the war between Hamas and Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s two war Cabinet partners are openly challenging his indecision over postwar Gaza — even siding with the US in pushing for Palestinian rule of the devastated coastal strip. 

South Africa urges UN court to stop Israel from ‘destroying Gaza’

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) must take bolder action to make Israel protect civilians in Gaza, according to South Africa, which has brought a genocide case before the United Nations tribunal.

“The key point today is that Israel’s aim of destroying Gaza from the map is being realised,” Vaughan Lowe, a lawyer representing South Africa, said at a hearing at the court in The Hague on Thursday. “The court is not powerless and South Africa submits it must do something to assert its own authority and also the authority of international law.”

The nation this month sought an urgent order from the court seeking protection for Palestinians in Gaza from “further, severe and irreparable harm” of their rights due to Israel’s ongoing military campaign in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. The ICJ’s panel of judges heard arguments from South Africa at the court on Thursday afternoon and will hear from Israeli representatives on Friday morning.

Israel has previously rejected South Africa’s allegations at the UN court, arguing its operations in Gaza are a legitimate defence against the largest calculated mass murder of Jews in a single day since the Holocaust.

The seven-month conflict was triggered when Hamas invaded Israel on 7 October, killing 1,200 people and abducting 250, while Israel’s retaliatory campaign in Gaza has left about 35,000 Palestinians dead, according to authorities in the Hamas-run enclave.

Israel’s war Cabinet last week approved a “limited” expansion of the ground offensive in Rafah, where about one million Palestinians are sheltering. Ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas have since reached an impasse, according to Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

In January, South Africa’s government called upon the ICJ to rule Israel’s actions in Gaza to be genocide and order Israel to withdraw its troops. In an interim order on 26 January, the ICJ told Israel it must act immediately to prevent the killing of innocent Palestinians, but rejected South Africa’s demand for a ceasefire.

The court’s then president, Joan Donoghue, has clarified in a BBC interview that the order states that “the Palestinians had a plausible right to be protected from genocide and that South Africa had a right to present that claim in the court”. The court didn’t decide there and then whether the claim of genocide itself was plausible, she said.

The Hague tribunal in March ordered Israel to ensure measures for the unhindered provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to Palestinians throughout Gaza, increasing the capacity and number of land crossing points and maintaining them open for as long as necessary.

Instead, “Israel’s closure of those crossings has hermetically sealed Rafah, further torpedoing the delivery of humanitarian aid,” said Max du Plessis, a second lawyer representing South Africa.

Pentagon finishes pier that will bring fresh aid to Gaza Strip

The US has finished building a floating pier that will help bring more aid to the Gaza Strip, the Pentagon said, even as officials acknowledged the new structure would not fill the gap in need created by the war between Hamas and Israel.

Hundreds of tonnes of aid would begin to flow over the pier in the coming days, with much more on its way by sea, Vice-Admiral Brad Cooper, deputy commander of US Central Command, told reporters on Thursday. In a separate statement, Central Command said the United Nations would receive the aid and coordinate its distribution.

The Biden administration announced in March that it would establish the pier as part of efforts to alleviate a humanitarian crisis that the UN and other aid agencies have called increasingly dire. In his State of the Union speech, President Joe Biden laid the blame on Israel, saying that “humanitarian assistance cannot be a secondary consideration or a bargaining chip.”

The situation has only grown worse since then, with the UN World Food Program saying in a post on X on Thursday that the threat of famine has “never loomed larger” and stocks of fuel and food would run out in days. Aid has also been disrupted as Israel has told people to leave the area near the two crossings in southern Gaza — Rafah and Kerem Shalom — as it presses ahead with a campaign to root out Hamas.

Israel was helping with the construction of the pier and was working with the US to receive the aid, the Israel Defense Forces said in a post to X on Thursday. The US has said the pier will cost about $320-million to build and operate, and hundreds of US troops will be involved, though none will set foot in Gaza.

Israel’s war Cabinet rift bursts into open over postwar Gaza

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s two war Cabinet partners are openly challenging his indecision over postwar Gaza — even siding with the US in pushing for Palestinian rule of the devastated coastal strip.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel should help establish a Palestinian governing body as an alternative to Hamas, a plan he believes would avoid the need for a long-term Israeli military occupation of the enclave — which he called a “negative and dangerous option”.

“Since October, I have been raising this issue consistently and have received no response,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

He received near-instant support from Benny Gantz, a former opposition figure who joined Netanyahu’s Cabinet following the Hamas attacks on southern Israel on 7 October. Gallant “speaks the truth” and “the leadership’s responsibility is to do the right thing for the country, at any cost”, he said.

The public pronouncements by Gallant and Gantz expose a rift at the top of Israel’s war-planning unit about the future of Gaza, where the military has waged a seven-month campaign to destroy Hamas — which rules the Strip — reducing much of the territory to rubble. The US, a key ally and supplier of arms, has at the same time stepped up pressure on Netanyahu to articulate a postwar plan.

Netanyahu was quick to dismiss Gallant’s comments, and told CNBC he favoured “a non-Hamas civilian administration there with an Israeli military responsibility”. Yet Gallant insisted he and the defence establishment had put forward their alternative proposal in the Cabinet since the early weeks of the war, but received no response from the prime minister. “Worse,” said Gallant, “an alternative was not raised in its replacement.”

Netanyahu and his close aids have taken a firm stand on not making postwar plans for what they say are good and obvious reasons. No candidates to lead Gaza would step up if Hamas retained the ability to fight or threaten them, they said, meaning the group must be eliminated before any plans can be made. Another priority for Netanyahu is to block any involvement of the Palestinian Authority, which rules parts of the West Bank territory and controlled Gaza before Hamas took over in 2007.

Read more: How West Bank, settlements fit into Israel-Hamas war: QuickTake

The dispute emerged as the US warned Israel to focus more on postwar planning or risk creating a power vacuum across swaths of Gaza. A Hamas insurgency could be the result, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this week, adding that thousands of armed militants may remain in the enclave even if Israel pushes ahead with a full invasion of the city of Rafah — the one major urban centre yet to be entered by Israeli ground troops.

Israel’s economy rebounds sharply from slump caused by war

Israel’s economy rebounded at a pace seen only after the coronavirus pandemic, as investment and consumption powered an upswing that partly offset the shock of more than seven months of war.

Gross domestic product jumped by an annualised 14.1% during the first quarter in seasonally adjusted terms, slightly less than forecast, after slumping by a downwardly revised 21.7% during the previous three months. GDP grew at a quarterly rate of 3.3%, according to preliminary figures published on Thursday.

The shekel maintained losses after the data release and traded 0.5% weaker against the dollar as of 8.16pm in Tel Aviv. Israeli stocks retreated for the first time in more than a week.

“Signs of war are still evident and will likely be felt more strongly in the second quarter,” said Ronen Menachem, chief markets economist at Mizrahi Tefahot Bank. “If the conflict comes to a quick resolution, it will be easier for the economy to recover quickly this year and grow relatively rapidly in 2025.”

Still, the worst of the economic fallout may be coming to an end, with consumer confidence approaching its pre-war levels and the labour market quick to stabilise after unemployment spiked in October.

Harvard slammed in House probe for ‘inaction’ on anti-Semitism

A congressional committee hammered Harvard University for “major flaws” in its response to anti-Semitism on campus following Hamas’ 7 October attack on Israel, saying the school’s failures led to a hostile environment for Jewish students.

Harvard could have improved the campus climate by implementing recommendations from its own advisory group on anti-Semitism such as cracking down on classroom disruptions and enforcing existing university rules, the House Education and the Workforce Committee said in a report on Thursday. Former President Claudine Gay created the group before abruptly resigning in January.

“The committee’s report proves that former President Gay and Harvard’s leadership propped up the university’s Anti-Semitism Advisory Group all for show,” Virginia Foxx, the North Carolina Republican who chairs the committee, said in a statement.

The report signalled the persistent scrutiny colleges are likely to face in Washington even as campus turmoil over the Israel-Hamas war eases with the end of the academic year. Foxx’s committee summoned three more college leaders for testimony next week — from Northwestern, Rutgers and the University of California at Los Angeles — and other congressional panels are also investigating.

A spokesperson for Harvard, Jason Newton, said the report offered an incomplete and inaccurate view of the school’s efforts to combat anti-Semitism. He said the university had submitted more than 30,000 pages of documents to the committee.

“Our community and campus are different today because of the actions we have taken, and continue to take, to combat hate and to promote and nurture civil dialogue and respectful engagement,” Newton said. “Harvard has and will continue to be unequivocal — in our words and actions — that anti-Semitism is not and will not be tolerated on our campus.”

The House education committee held its first hearing about campus anti-Semitism in December with Gay and her counterparts from the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Their responses were widely derided after they declined to condemn calls for genocide against Jews as a violation of university policies.

Penn’s president resigned days after the hearing. Gay, who also faced allegations of plagiarism, stepped down about a month later. DM

Read more in Daily Maverick: Israel-Palestine War
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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

    SA legal team = legal wing of Hamas

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      And you believe what you are saying? perhaps this narrative was safe inside your head.

    • JP K says:

      Are they now? I’m sure you’ll gladly refer us to evidence for without that it’s just a wild claim attempting to dismiss the arguments being made without actually bothering to address them.

      And what arguments are being made?

      The SA legal team has presented evidence that Israel has failed to comply with a single order by the ICJ and has, in fact, intensified its killing executing the genocide which Israel stated from the beginning was their intention.

  • JP K says:

    Such problematic reporting by the DM/Bloomberg on a daily basis. Let’s look at a single statement.

    “… Gaza, where the military has waged a seven-month campaign to destroy Hamas — which rules the Strip — reducing much of the territory to rubble”.

    I mean, that should read “according to Israel” rather than presenting as a statement of fact.

    Second, the reduction to rubble is presented in the passive voice. In other words, the action is being done to the subject. Active voice would’ve made it clear that it is Israel’s military that has destroyed and continues to destroy Gaza. Not just any military.

    Third, the product of the destruction is rubble. It is inanimate. It gives no indication of what has been destroyed. It says nothing of systems relating to government, health, education, religion. It says nothing of people. Of families. Communities. It’s says nothing of history. It says nothing of the effacing of the Palestinian people. It’s just broken buildings.

    What see here then, is a particular framing of the conflict which presents Israel as just pursuing Hamas. Which presents all the destruction that follows as incidental and bland. But Israel is in the dock for genocide. The US has a history of state violence domestically and abroad. But the media take their statements at face value.

    But I guess that’s what mainstream media does. Given all the Israel apologists on this comments section to what extent is that a failure of the DM? I thought the DM was better than this.

    • Samuel Ginsberg says:

      Israel is in the dock, put there by a corrupt regime who has been notably silent on regional conflicts such as Sudan.
      You’ll notice that the UN just revised it’s figures of civilian casualties dramatically downwards, giving lie to any claims of genocide.

      • JP K says:

        On the ANC being corrupt, we agree.

        On whether genocide is occurring, well done for being up to date. I note that the Israel defence raised that point.

        It does not however discount the mountain of evidence that Israel is committing genocide.

        You know very well but clearly choose to ignore that genocide does not count the number of people killed. Gaza has been flattened and is being made unlivable. Please. Look up how genocide is defined.

        So Ginsberg, like I keep saying to you, when you’re ready, let’s be serious. For now, you’re just defending genocide. History will not be kind to Zionists, suffering of Jews notwithstanding.

        • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

          Thanks JPK.

        • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

          JP, even you must agree that ‘history’ is a matter controlled by the survivors of the narrative. Simply using misnomers such as ‘genocide’ instead of ‘war’ doesn’t make it so. Blood libels are nothing new to us. Nevertheless, I will not convince you (or Kenneth, John, Luke, Steven Davidson etc.) to become philo-semites – but discount the eternal power of Jewish suffering and ultimate survival at your own peril.

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