‘Israel’s war undermining top UN court’


Naledi Pandor said that Israel had defied a January interim ruling by the ICJ that it should take action to prevent acts of genocide as it fights Hamas in the Gaza Strip…reports Asian Lite News

South Africa has hauled Israel before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to allege genocide in the war triggered by the October 7 Hamas attack, infuriating Israel and drawing US criticism.

Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s foreign minister, said that Israel had defied a January interim ruling by the ICJ that it should take action to prevent acts of genocide as it fights Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“The provisional measures have been entirely ignored by Israel,” Pandor said at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace during a visit to Washington.

“We’re seeing mass starvation now and famine before our very eyes,” she said. “I think we, as humanity, need to look at ourselves in horror and dismay and to be really worried that we have set an example.”

Pandor added that Israel’s actions may mean other nations believe that “there’s license — I can do what I want and I will not be stopped.”

She said that South Africa’s post-apartheid democracy — in going through international institutions — was “merely practicing what is preached to us every day” by the West.

“The ICJ has not been respected. And the day an African disrespects (it) I hope we don’t go to that leader and say ‘Listen, you’re out of bounds — because you’re an African, we expect you to obey,'” she said.

South Africa has again petitioned the court in The Hague to order measures for Israel to stop “widespread starvation” triggered by its Gaza offensive.

Israel denounced the South African plea as “outrageous” and “morally repugnant,” pointing to its initiatives, including humanitarian pauses in fighting.

A UN-backed food security assessment determined that Gaza is facing imminent famine, with around 1.1 million people — about half the population — experiencing “catastrophic” hunger.

Last year the US ambassador in Pretoria accused South Africa of violating its stated neutrality in the Ukraine war by letting a Russian vessel dock to load military supplies, an allegation later walked back by Washington.

Pandor said that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would visit South Africa in the coming months.

“We always wanted to have a situation where we would be able to be a facilitator” between Ukraine and Russia, she said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin skipped a summit last year in Johannesburg of the BRICS bloc of emerging economies. Putin is the target of an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court, which South Africa as a court member would in theory be expected to enforce.

While the Biden administration has voiced hope of maintaining cooperation with South Africa despite disagreements, Congress is reviewing a bill that would reevaluate the entire relationship.

Introducing the legislation last month, Republican Representative John James said South Africa has been “building ties to countries and actors that undermine America’s national security and threaten our way of life,” naming China, Russia and Hamas.

Pandor said US lawmakers had failed to consult South Africa and that democracies should allow differences of opinion.

“To seek to punish South Africa because there’s a disagreement on particular policy areas is the most unfortunate response,” she said.

South Africa, which has a long history of support for the Palestinians and has compared their struggle with its history under an apartheid system, has launched a separate case at the ICJ accusing Israel of “genocide” in its bombardment of Gaza.

More than 50 countries are to present arguments to the ICJ on the legal implications of Israel’s occupation.

Last month, representatives from Algeria, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Bangladesh, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil and Chile presented their positions.

The 15-judge panel has been asked to review Israel’s “occupation, settlement and annexation… including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures”.

Israel has pushed on with building illegal settlements across the occupied West Bank, now home to more than 500,000 Jewish settlers and 3 million Palestinians.

Israeli settlers have become increasingly more violent. Their actions have been condemned by world leaders, especially in the past few months, as Israel attacks Gaza.

But South African representative Pieter Andreas Stemmet told the court that the settlements have extended the “temporary nature of the occupation into a permanent situation in violation of the Palestinian right to self-determination”.

Meanwhile, Israel has asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) not to issue emergency orders for it to step up humanitarian aid to Gaza to address a looming famine, dismissing South Africa’s request to do so as “morally repugnant”.

In a legal filing to the top United Nations court, made public on Monday, Israel said it “has real concern for the humanitarian situation and innocent lives, as demonstrated by the actions it has and is taking” in Gaza.

Lawyers for Israel denied allegations of deliberately causing humanitarian suffering in the besieged enclave, where tens of thousands of Palestinians have been killed and hunger is rising. They said South Africa’s repeated requests for additional measures are an abuse of procedures.

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