As we all come to terms with the initial disappointment of not having a straightforward call for an immediate ceasefire, a natural human exhaustion from a collective wait of 111 days of watching a dystopian reality play out in plain sight, we must refocus to ruminate on the historical milestone that was the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on the case brought by South Africa against Israel concerning alleged violations in the Gaza Strip of obligations under the Genocide Convention. Leaving the dissection of the legal implications of the ruling to the lawyers and legal analysts of the world, most of which has already flooded everyone’s news feed over the last two days, I want to reflect on the realities of the ruling.
Had the ICJ ordered an immediate cessation of all military operations by Israel in Gaza, we know from the example of the Russia-Ukraine case, it would not have led to a ceasefire. What it has achieved though is of utmost importance. The ruling is pressing governments of Global North countries previously in disagreement over the severity of the situation on ground in Gaza, reckon with their stance and adopt statements in support of the ICJ rulings. The latest being the EU issuing a statement saying the orders of the ICJ are binding on the parties and must comply with, adding that the EU expects their full, immediate, and effective implementation. The first of the six measures ordered by the court orders Israel to take all measures within its power to prevent acts prescribed under Article 2 of the Genocide Convention. This in and of itself is an indirect recognition by the ICJ of Israel potentially engaging in acts that may amount to or lead to genocide. All countries that are signatories to the Convention are now legally obligated to recognize it, therefore.
I consider the court’s ruling on February 26th to be a victory. South Africa’s action is a rare instance of exemplary political action backed by the spirit of social activism for justice, that defied the standards of the transactional nature of present international diplomacy. A victory of our common humanity over global disunity, a victory of the collective voice against dominant injustice. I, of course, continue to advocate for an immediate ceasefire!
See ActionAid’s official statement on the ruling here.