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Palestinians in West Bank celebrate South Africa's ICJ case

Palestinians in occupied West Bank celebrate 'historic' South Africa's ICJ case against Israel
5 min read
West Bank
16 January, 2024
Palestinians expect South Africa's case against Israel at the ICJ to have "a long-term effect" on the Palestinian cause worldwide.
Palestinians across the occupied West Bank rallied in support of South Africa's ICJ case against Israel. [Getty]

Palestinians celebrated South Africa's case against Israel at the International Court of Justice for charges of genocide against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, with different opinions on its effective results.

On the eve of South Africa's hearing at the 'World Court' last Wednesday, 10 January, hundreds of Palestinians gathered at Nelson Mandela Square in Ramallah in front of the statue of the late South African leader, rallying in support of South Africa's move at the ICJ.

The municipalities of West Bank cities of Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus, and other West Bank towns also raised the South African flag.

On Thursday, the Palestinian Foreign Affairs Ministry saluted South Africa's move, calling it "a historic event".

The ministry's statement added, "What has encouraged Israel to commit all kinds of crimes, mounting to the crime of genocide, is international complicity and lack of accountability".

For its part, Hamas's senior leader said that "the Palestinian people follow with great interest the outcome of the ICJ hearings", calling upon the court to "overcome the pressure and give a verdict that makes justice to victims".

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - PFLP also saluted South Africa's case, calling upon other countries "to follow the example of South Africa's positions and condemn Israeli genocide".

Palestinians won a case against Israel at the ICJ in 2004 when the court ruled that the Israeli separation wall was illegal, that Israel had to stop building it, dismantle the arts constructed already, and compensate affected families.

"The ICJ ruling in 2004 was very important, and there was a very realistic chance to go pursue effective measures at the UN Security Council, but unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority at the time didn't follow up accordingly", Jamal Jumaa, coordinator at the Palestinian grassroots campaign against the Israeli wall and settlements 'Stop The Wall', told The New Arab.

"However, the ruling had a significant impact, as it provided the legal basis for a worldwide citizen movement to oppose the wall and the occupation in general, and the year following the ICJ ruling, the Israel-boycott movement was born", said Jumaa.

"The present case is equally important, as finally the occupation state is being held at accusation at the top international institution, and this time there is a request for 'provisional measures', which means immediate action to be taken by the security council to stop the genocide", he explained.

"Even if the court fails to rule in favour of South Africa's case, it has already opened a way to condemn the occupation state's crimes internationally and gather citizen support around that condemnation", continued Jumaa. "The fact that the support to this case is now coming from the global south, with South Africa leading the way, shows the importance of this change, which is irreversible", he added.

"This is a historic case; the entire debate on the occupation worldwide will change", Hala Yacoub, a 25-year-old human rights activist in Ramallah, told TNA.

"Imagine Piers Morgan having to deal with the term 'genocide' when speaking about the occupation, and imagine him having to disagree with the international court and the top authorities on the topic", she pointed out.

"Criminalising Palestine solidarity and the boycott movement will become more difficult because people are boycotting to help stop a genocide, and more generations to come will see the occupation for what it is, free from much of the propaganda that has dominated the discourse for decades", she noted. "If the case loses, it still has a very deep impact, and it will continue to accumulate", she added.

"This is the first time that the occupation state is held to the accusation, and the first time that it is assimilated with racist actions since the UN dropped its definition of Zionism as a form of racism in 1991; this is very significant", Fouad Walid, a 33-year-old international relations worker, remarked to TNA.

"This is also the first time that the occupation's crimes are judged through the international system and the tools that were created by the West and by southern, ex-colonised countries, which is very symbolic", he said. "The ICJ's case will have an impact on the long term, unveiling the occupation's reality, but I don't believe that it will end the occupation or stop the current genocide", he noted.

"The fact that it is South Africa presenting this case, a country which is neither Arab nor Muslim, but that has such an international weight and importance in the struggle against colonialism and racism, is very symbolic", Hamza Aqrabawi, a folk artist from the south of Nablus, underlined.

"This ICJ case shows that there is an increasing awareness worldwide that the last setter colonial case in history has to end and that this is a confrontation between humanity and justice on the one hand and colonialism, brutality and genocide on the other, and South Africa has clearly taken its side for humanity and justice", he added.

On Thursday, as the ICJ began its hearings, a Facebook post by the Berlin-based Palestinian writer and poet Majd Kayyal went viral on Palestinian social media.

"This is a trial of the world and of humanity, not of Israel," said Kayyal. "It is a chance that South Africa is giving to the world and humanity to declare themselves innocent of the brutality of this evil. A chance to the universal system upon which our modern world is built to prove its innocence from the deeds of Zionism. As for the judge, it is more than two million Palestinians in Gaza, killed, starved, wounded, and defenders," he wrote.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian health ministry announced that the death toll by Israel's ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip, on its 100th day, has exceeded 24.000 Palestinians, including more than 10.000 children, 7000 women, 1000 elderly, 337 medical staff, 117 journalists, 200 teachers, 148 UN staff and that around 7000 are still missing.