Pro-Palestine activists flock to The Hague on eve of crunch Israel ICJ case

Pro-Palestine activists flock to The Hague on eve of crunch Israel ICJ case
Pro-Palestine activists from across Europe are heading to The Hague on the eve of South Africa's genocide case against Israel.
5 min read
10 January, 2024
The Peace Palace which homes the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the capital city of the Netherlands [Rabeea Eid]

Pro-Palestine activists from across Europe, including from the Arab diaspora, flocked to The Hague in the Netherlands on Wednesday to show solidarity with South Africa as it files a case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Israel of genocide.

The city is expected to see huge demonstrations outside the ICJ building on Thursday and Friday when the genocide hearing takes place.

Wednesday's protest, on the eve of the hearing, follows calls by pro-Palestine groups to mobilise against Israel's war on Gaza, which has killed over 23,000 Palestinians, and show support for South Africa's efforts during the two-day hearing.

The New Arab’s Arabic-language sister site, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, spoke to activists from France, Germany, and Belgium, who travelled to The Hague for the hearing.

The first ICJ hearing will begin on Thursday at 10 am, when South Africa's arguments will be heard, while Israel's response to the lawsuit will be heard on Friday.

The world's eyes will be on The Hague to learn whether the court will issue a preliminary decision approving South Africa's request for provisional measures to bring a halt to the fighting in Gaza, which began on 7 October.

South Africa's 84-page brief states: "The acts and omissions by Israel complained of by South Africa are genocidal in character because they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group, that being the part of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip […] in manifest violation of the Genocide Convention".

Amin Rajoub, a German citizen of Palestinian origin who lives in Hamburg, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that he and other activists are travelling to The Hague by car due to a train drivers' strike in Germany.

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"There are at least 50 people from Hamburg coming. Our first message is that we stand with our families and the people of Gaza, and our second message is one of support and gratitude to South Africa, the only state that has worked on the international stage in this way, for Palestine," he said.

"We were prevented from demonstrating in Germany during the first months of the war, and were harassed by the German authorities around all our actions taken against the war, and were banned from using the term 'genocide'.

"We are here today to say to Germans and Europeans that what is happening to Palestinians is genocide, and we are here as Palestinians, as Arabs, and as Germans, to ensure the voices of the Palestinian people are heard."

Rajoub, who is active in a political group called 'Hamburg Revolution', said if South Africa's ICJ request is successful, this will be hugely significant for free speech and pro-Palestine activism in Europe.

"Whether or not the court agrees, we will continue to actively work for the freedom of Palestine," he said.

Digital map showing the Peace Palace in The Hague with Palestine flag icons around it
​Digital graphic circulated by pro-Palestine activists in the Netherlands showing where demonstrators should position themselves during the ICJ case [Supplied] ​

"If the court agrees, then this is evidence that Israel is a racist state whose goal is to eliminate the Palestinian existence, and the resolution will allow us to say that, without international governments penalising us because of our comments about the nature of the State of Israel. It has always been our view that Israel is perpetrating genocide, however, the decision will help us in the European environment where we are acting."

A coalition of pro-Palestine movements in the Netherlands called on people to bring Palestinian flags and keffiyehs and show their solidarity with South Africa's efforts by joining protests outside the Peace Palace, home of the ICJ, on Thursday and Friday from 9 am. The court hearings will be broadcast live to the protesters outside the court.

"After 75 years of settler colonialism and apartheid, Israel is finally being tried and held accountable for the horrific actions it has imposed on the people of Palestine," the statement said.

"South Africa has formally accused Israel of committing genocide in the Gaza Strip, claiming violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention. South Africa has called for provisional measures to stop the genocidal war against 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza."

The statement said that over the past three months, Israel has "implemented the largest live-broadcasted genocide in the world" and the West had shielded it from genocidal acts. 

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"Israel has placed the whole Gaza Strip, in which over two million people live, under a complete blockade for 16 years, and has deprived it of humanitarian aid, and basic items, as a form of collective punishment," the statement added.

"And even after urgent requests by human rights organisations, as well as UN resolutions, in the last few months, Israel has persistently prevented the delivery of essential supplies to the people of Gaza, while actively launching brutal attacks [on Gaza]. 2.3 million Palestinians are now living without food, water, fuel, and medical supplies, which is leading to famine and the spread of (infectious) diseases."  

The group said that a failure to hold Israel to account for breaking international law over the past decades poses a threat to the international legal order.

"If the International Court of Justice halts genocide and ultimately convicts Israel of genocide, this will not only save the lives of thousands of Palestinians but perhaps restore the significance and credibility of international law itself," the statement added.

Dutch activist Dagmar Bosma told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that thousands are expected to protest outside the court during the two-day ruling, some coming from as far as Canada and the US. 

Bosma hopes that the ICJ will approve South Africa's request and issue an interim decision to end the fighting in Gaza. This official condemnation of Israel's conduct in Gaza will aid pro-Palestine activism in the Netherlands and Europe, she added, but if not, there could be mass protests in Europe against the ruling and war in Gaza.