Azmi Bishara: ICJ will prove Israel is committing genocide 'with ease'

Azmi Bishara: ICJ will prove Israel is committing genocide 'with ease'
Dr. Azmi Bishara said he expected the ICJ to prove Israel is committing the crime of genocide "with ease" due to the abundant evidence and open statements.
9 min read
03 January, 2024
Dr Azmi Bishara said he expected the ICJ would easily prove Israel is committing the crime of genocide [Al-Araby Al-Jadeed]

Commenting on the case filed by South Africa to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Israel of committing genocide, Dr Azmi Bishara, Director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, said the lawsuit was a major development both politically and legally, and anticipated that the 15 ICJ judges would have no difficulty proving the case.

In a new interview on New Year day, Bishara said he also believes that though the US has started demanding Israel transition swiftly to the third phase of its war on Gaza, there is no genuine change in the US stance regarding the war’s objectives, or regarding its total support for Tel Aviv.

He criticised Russia's position on the war as as "opportunistic" and stressed that Israel had so far failed to achieve its true military goals. Bishara also warned any displacement in the Palestinian case, current, or future, would be "compulsory" and not "voluntary", as some Israeli and other pundits claim.

Legal proceedings brought by South Africa

Bishara said that South Africa’s step was "important politically, because condemning Israel for committing genocide resolves a global debate on whether or not to take such action".

Several leaders, such as Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, have separately endorsed the option and necessity of holding Israel accountable by taking the case to the ICJ.

He said that South Africa's move is especially significant due to its own history of struggle against apartheid in addition to the fact its motives are ethical and humanitarian, rather than nationalistic, religious or interest-based. This demonstrates the truth that the Palestinian issue is a just issue for all of humanity, first and foremost, in his view.

Bishara also pointed out he would have preferred for this kind of a legal case to have been launched with the participation of more than one country, and representation of more than one continent. He revealed Malaysia and Bolivia could join South Africa in presenting the case to the ICJ.

He expressed regret that most Arab countries had not added their names, either so as not to disrupt their relations with the US, or they were not signatories to the UN treaty that established the court - as in Qatar's case - and so had no right to legislate via the Hague.

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Bishara stressed that the legal importance of the act stems from the impossibility for Israel and other governments to ignore the decision, which is being eagerly awaited internationally, because while only states that signed the agreement establishing the ICJ can sue other signatory states, the court’s decisions in these cases are binding on the signatory states.

Bishara expects the decision will be issued in a matter of weeks as the subject concerns an emergency situation (genocide). He doesn't think the ICJ judges and investigators will have any difficulty proving the charge brought by the plaintiff state, and stressed that all the necessary evidence is available to prove Israel's implication in committing genocidal acts "because genocide does not have to be like the Holocaust. Instead, it is linked to intent to exterminate; then to actions taken in the context of implementing the genocide, that is, eliminating an ethnic or religious group or a portion of it, and [in this case] proving that in legal terms will not be difficult".

Bishara thinks it likely that Israel will raise the banner of "self-defence" to respond to the accusation of genocide, however he pointed out that the court in the Hague has already made a decisive ruling on this issue, back when it issued a resolution on the case of Israel's apartheid wall, where it said that "an occupation force doesn't have the right to self-defence".

Moreover he added even if the "self-defence" excuse was raised, in the case of Gaza it is invalid, and this is clear from public statements made by Israeli officials, which are basically a gift to South Africa as a plaintiff, as they have announced that collective punishment is being carried out against the population in Gaza, and talked about the intention to displace them.

Such statements have been followed by acts which make the Gaza Strip incapable of supporting human life, in addition to abundant evidence such as the World Bank report on the destruction of 70 percent of Gaza's homes. All of this, in Bishara’s opinion, is evidence that feeds into the plan of displacement, which is one feature of genocide.

Responding to a question on the expected decision of the ICJ and its possible impact in this context, Bishara indicated that taking the decision to the UN Security Council will lead to a crisis for the states which could use their veto to block a binding resolution to implement the ICJ ruling, "because the right to veto in this case at the Security Council would be against 15 international judges from 15 countries, one of whom is often American, rather than being against a state like Russia".

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The Israeli consensus

Moving to Israel's domestic situation, Bishara affirmed that Israeli consensus around the war is still firm despite the divisions between the political and military elites. While he asserted that there is a crisis and signs of an electoral battle starting to show, "on the continuation of the war and its goals, there is still unity in Israeli society and agreement among the main leaders".

He continued, "even regarding the scale of the Israeli losses, the numbers of dead and wounded are still bearable in the eyes of Israeli society". He reminded listeners that in past wars Israel had borne high numbers of dead and injured, whether in Lebanon or in 1948 and after.

Bishara also pointed out that the Israeli Supreme Court's recent annulment of the special Knesset Law (which limited the court's jurisdiction under the pretext of "a reasonableness" clause) is yet additional evidence that Israel is currently not a country on the verge of collapse from within.

The third stage of the war

Regarding the third stage of the war, Bishara noted that the number of casualties in the Israeli army (both killed and wounded), the economic crisis and America's insistence that the third phase start (i.e. the total war end and targeted positional operations against the resistance begin), are all aspects which have led to the shift to the third phase. In this context he pointed out that Israel had not yet achieved its real military goals (which Tel Aviv's rulers had set for themselves).

Bishara believes it possible that the discussion about Israel taking control of the Salah al-Din axis (separating Gaza and Egypt), so that there won't be a Palestinian-Egyptian border via which weapons smuggling can occur, may be "an early sign of the coming election campaign where Benjamin Netanyahu is throwing out headlines and catchphrases with [the elections] in mind".

Bishara did not expect Egypt, which has been dealing with Gaza as an occupied territory for decades, to agree to this. He concluded by saying that the suggestion may be a form of blackmail to obtain concessions from Egypt, and Netanyahu may actually be thinking about displacing a portion of the population of Gaza and for the '67 territories to remain under the Israeli apartheid system.

On increasing Israeli discussion on the displacement of the Gazan population and reducing their numbers, Bishara clarified there would be no voluntary displacement in the Palestinian case, either currently or in the future. On the contrary, any displacement would be forced, because the general situation is one in which Gaza has been made uninhabitable. Moreover, the matter is linked to a conspiracy and a carefully drawn-up displacement plan.

Bishara revealed that one of the most important provisions in the previous negotiations on a humanitarian truces, was the demand (by Hamas) for the people to return to northern Gaza. Though Hamas was fully aware everything in the north had been destroyed, its position demonstrated the rejection of displacement and their holding tight to the land.

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The US and Russian position

Bishara confirmed there was no change in the stance of the US and its officials when it came to support for Israel and its war objectives. And despite his certainty that the Americans are not pressuring Israel and are content just advising Israel to change the way the war is being conducted while continuing to agree on its objectives, he explained that "as a result of the achievements of the resistance and the big shift in the position of Western public opinion, the US has started demanding Israel transition fast to the third phase of the war".

Regarding the European position, Bishara considered that Europe's influence and readiness to take a political stance against the war had been overestimated, but he highlighted the extreme importance of the movement of public opinion against the war in Europe. He advised Arab and European citizens of democratic Western countries on that continent not to allow freedoms in Europe to be scaled down, adding:  "This also applies to the Arabs inside Israel, as Israel is working to exploit the circumstances of the war to redraft the rules of the relationship with its Arab citizens, concerning their freedoms and rights."

Bishara commented on the Russian position and the controversial statements by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He described the Russian position on the war since its beginning as opportunistic, interpreting it as "anti-American" above all else, while recalling that the Russian officials had called the 7th October Operation "terrorism".

Bishara concluded his interview by saying that if there was any "positive" from the disaster of the current onslaught, it was the return of the Palestinian cause to the centre stage of global concern. However, he stated that we "must look critically at ourselves a little because the goal is not that the issue remain one of rigid idolisation and dogma - what concerns us is the Palestinian people and that the Palestinian issue be solved".

The second positive issue in his view is the global protest movement around the Palestinian issue and its being described as an international issue of justice and humanity - not a religious or nationalistic one nor one of vested interests.

This truth is reflected in the step taken by South Africa in its launching of the lawsuit at the ICJ. As for the Arab states, he reiterated that their position was one of "spectators" as after all their meetings,  statements, delegations and speeches, they had only managed to issue a frank rejection of displacement, as if everything else was permissible for Israel to commit.