Above photo: Palestinian refugees gather outside the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) headquarters in Beirut to protest against a decision by several countries to stop funding of the organization. Marwan Naamani/dpa.
Also the immediate lifting of blockade of aid to Gaza and an end to military support for Israel.
All individuals and states that are complicit in genocidal acts in Palestine must be held accountable.
On January 26, 2024, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) released its ruling in the case of South Africa v. Israel in which the court found there was sufficient evidence to support South Africa’s allegations of genocide against the Palestinian people (see our previous press release for more details) and rejected Israel’s claim to be acting in ‘self-defense’. The World Court ordered the state of Israel to “take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of” acts of genocide, including deaths, harm to mental and physical health and conditions that threaten the well-being of the Palestinian people, in effect, an order for a ceasefire. The ICJ also ordered the state of Israel to immediately provide humanitarian aid to people in Gaza.
The response by the state of Israel and its Western allies to the ICJ decision has not only been to deny that genocide is occurring but to double down on their genocidal acts. Israel has ramped up its attacks with an ongoing brutal military assault on civilians in the previously-designated “safe zones” of Khan Younis and Rafah, in the South of Gaza. It also falsely accused the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) of support for terrorism, following which the United States and Germany, along with Australia, Austria, Canada, Estonia, Finland, France, Iceland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Romania, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom withdrew their financial support from the agency, which is struggling to serve as a lifeline for Gazans, the majority of whom are without homes, food, clean water, health care and other basic necessities. Meanwhile, the Biden administration is continuing its efforts to push through a USD $14.3 billion dollar military package to aid the Israel Occupation Forces in its genocidal operation, which has already killed over 27,000 civilians including approximately 12,000 children.
In light of the ICJ order and finding of a plausible risk of genocide, major international human rights organizations, practitioners of international law and experts on genocide have pointed out that the defunding of the UNRWA itself constitutes a genocidal act. The Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention calls the defunding of UNRWA a “serious escalation” of the crisis in Gaza representing “a shift by several countries from potential complicity in genocide to direct involvement in engineered famine.” In its January 31 Statement on Recent Threats to UNRWA and the Shift between Potential Complicity and Direct Involvement in the Crime of Genocide against Palestinians by Several Nations, the Lemkin Institute asserts: “this action is tantamount to increased participation in the on-going genocide of Palestinians in Gaza and constitutes both a violation of the ICJ’s recent ruling and of the participating nations’ responsibilities under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (‘the Genocide Convention’).” It further states: “During a period of famine, to implement either permanent cancellation or a pause of funding potentially puts states that have previously committed funds in violation of the Genocide Convention.” This argument has been echoed by over 800 U.S. and European government officials in their recent “Transatlantic Civil Servants’ Statement on Gaza.”
States that are complicit in genocide can be sued through the Genocide Convention at the ICJ. Several state funders of UNRWA have opted to maintain their funding, despite U.S. and Israeli pressure to stop, including Belgium, Ireland, Denmark, Spain, and Norway. On Wednesday, Israel apparently retaliated against Belgium for its stance, by bombing and destroying Belgium’s federal government development agency (Enabel) building in Gaza.
Also on Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council debated the ICJ decision, but no steps were taken to sanction or otherwise pressure the state of Israel to stop its genocidal activities. Both at the Security Council meeting and at a separate press conference held in Pretoria by South African Foreign Minister Dr GNM Pandor the same day, the South African government called on the nations of the world to submit declarations of intervention to the ICJ. Said Dr. Pandor: “South Africa welcomes the support expressed by several countries and we encourage States that are so inclined to approach the Court to intervene in the proceedings so as to send a strong message to the international community that the situation in the Gaza Strip is indefensible.”
The ICSGP urges social movements around the world to back South Africa’s request by applying maximum pressure to friendly governments to formally intervene on behalf of South Africa in their case against Israel, and to adamantly condemn governments that are actively participating in the genocide in Gaza by witholding funds from UNRWA, and demand the funds be reinstated immediately. The ICSGP commends Nicaragua for being the first nation to take formal steps to intervene on behalf of the South African ICJ case; and furthermore, for taking the bold step of putting countries that are complicit under the Genocide Convention on notice that they will be subject to legal action if they fail to desist. The ICSGP also urges social movements to continue to use the tactics of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions by pressuring governments and corporations that are sending money and/or weapons to Israel to immediately cease those genocidal activities.
“The recent offensive against UNRWA is a calculated continuation of a long-term strategy to dismantle this crucial agency. Initiated in 2014 by the Trump administration under Israeli government influence, this campaign not only sought to defame but also strategically cripple UNRWA through financial strangulation,” said Fuad Abu Saif, director of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (Palestine). He added, “These efforts are blatantly aimed at eradicating the Palestinian refugee issue and stripping Palestinians of their right to return. The hasty decisions by several Western nations to halt UNRWA funding on the grounds of mere suspicion is deeply disturbing and underscores the extent of Israeli coercion on these governments.”
Rosa Elva Zúñiga López, General Secretary of the Latin American and Caribbean Council for Popular Education (CEAAL) and representative of the World Social Assembly of Struggles and Resistances of the World Social Forum, states:
“The Palestinian people are living through the most heinous violence, which no human being should ever have to endure. Their occupiers have destroyed their lands, their history, and their common goods. We are extremely concerned about the decision by the United States and its allies to halt their funding of UNRWA, which makes them complicit in the genocide of a people fighting for their dignity. It is necessary and urgent to create as much pressure as possible for all humanitarian aid to be able to enter these lands. By cutting off UNRWA funds they affirm that they are orchestrating the annihilation of an entire group of people, and humanity cannot permit this. We need to be in the streets to demand a Ceasefire, the opening of the borders and the Palestinian right to self-determination.”
As we receive news of the Israeli Occupying Forces attacking aid trucks that enter the Gaza Strip, the ICGSP stresses the urgency of action to end the starvation and annihilation of Palestinians.
The ICGSP reiterates its demands that in compliance with international law:
- The state of Israel must cease ALL genocidal acts, including inflicting starvation as a weapon of war, against Palestinians.
- The UNRWA must be fully funded.
- Humanitarian aid must be provided safely to all Gazans without delay.
- All states, institutions and individuals that are complicit with genocide must cease their economic, political and military support for the state of Israel and be held accountable in courts of law.