PRC Holds Panel Discussion on ICJ Genocide Case against Israel

PRC Holds Panel Discussion on ICJ Genocide Case against Israel

The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) in London hosted a panel discussion entitled “Israel in the ICJ: What next?”, where the speakers dealt in depth into South Africa’s current case of genocide against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The first speaker was Richard Falk, Professor of International Law and Practice, Emeritus at Princeton University, and was Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara (2001–04). He retired from teaching in 2001. In 2004, he was listed as the author or coauthor of 20 books and the editor or coeditor of another 20 volumes. In 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed Falk to a six-year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. He is a member of the Editorial Boards of The Nation and The Progressive, and Chair of the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He is a former advisory board member of the World Federalist Institute and the American Movement for World Government. He is Distinguished Visiting Professor in Global & International Studies, University of California at Santa Barbara. During 1999–2000, Falk worked on the Independent International Commission on Kosovo.

Prof. Falk underscored the implications of the interim order issued by the ICJ on Jan. 26 in response to the South African initiative taken under article 9 of the Genocide convention entitling any party to that convention to bring a legal dispute before the ICJ.

According to Falk, what is significant is, on the one hand, that the court, as expected, upheld a clear case of violating the most fundamental rules of international law to the extent that a preliminary order empowered it to do; However, “this order, was dependent on its implementation and that’s where the limit of the ICJ arrives.”

“The ICJ declared the law but has no capability to enforce the law and that depends on the UN Security Council, where the five permanent members have a veto power and the US has shown no reluctance to exercise that power”, said Falk.

“So the court has come to do what it is expected to do; But it can’t implement its own decision and it is bound by a legal process that will take it several years in order to reach a substantive conclusion on the fundamental South African complaint that Israel is guilty of genocide and violating the genocide convention in its prosecution of its military campaign in Gaza, which is problematic because Israel is the occupying power and has no right to self-defense in such a situation”, he added.

In Prof. Falk’s view, these two limitations on the court’s authorities are fundamental: No capacity to enforce and a delay that makes the eventual judgment of academic interest but probably not relevant to the behaviour at issue.

“Is international law irrelevant in such a situation if it can’t be enforced and if a timely decision cannot be reached?” wondered the scholar.

He stressed that the ICJ case, whatever its limitations, contributes to the symbolic role of international law by legitimizing civil society activism and serving as an impetus for the further mobilization of solidarity initiative, arms embargo, sanctions, and boycott of all kinds including cultural boycott and sports boycott; It also raises the pressure on the governments that are complicit at this point with Israel including the major liberal democracies of the West to respect their own internal public opinion and abandon this posture of assisting a country that is engaging in what has been called the most transparent genocide in human history, that is enacted before the eyes and ears of the world in real time”.

“We should remember that in the context of anti-colonial wars of recent decades, the national liberation side had the inferior  military capabilities; Yet, it was able to win the war partly because it enjoyed the symbolic support of international law which led to this form of solidarity  and pressure on colonial powers to abandon their colonial positions”, concluded Prof. Falk.

The next speaker was Prof. Muhannad Ayyash, the author of A Hermeneutics of Violence (UTP, 2019). He was born and raised in Silwan, Jerusalem, before immigrating to Canada, where he is now an Associate Professor of Sociology at Mount Royal University.

“To me I always situate the question of international law in cases like this brought to such a court within the grassroots activism of people”, said Prof. Ayyash.

“From my perspective, it is undeniable that if it wasn’t for the resistance of the Palestinian people on the ground in Palestine and their refusal to submit to Israeli domination, then there wouldn’t have been these worldwide protests for Palestine; and conversely if these protests did not happen I’m not so sure that South Africa dedicates this much effort and this much time working behind the scenes for quite some time dedicating significant resources for this case”, Prof. Ayyash proceeded.

In his view, the case itself was an important moment for the Palestinians and their supporters because this is the first time a non-Palestinian party brings the case to such an international body—the ICJ.

He stressed that the Palestinian resistance and the grassroots solidarity with the cause stand at the heart of all processes that happened at the international level.

“The ICJ cannot on its own restructure a world order dominated by the US….I encourage all activists to understand that it’s your work that led to this point and it’s your work that takes it forward; So it is incumbent on all of us now in whatever way we can to use these decisions by the court in order to push for an economic boycott, cultural boycott, and to ask for sanctions and trade embargos in general”, added Prof. Ayyash.

“Ultimately, there are only two ways out of this; One is genocide and war, which we don’t want; The other is the legal, political, and economic isolation of the Israeli state and, if possible, as well the American empire; And really isolating the Israeli state and handing the US empire a defeat in that regard will weaken the US empire too; So it’s one and the same thing”, he maintained.

Prof. Ayyash called on scholars to take governments complicit in trade with Israel and in genocidal violence in Gaza to court and to step up pressure on Israel and the imperial system, which have chozen the path of genocide and war, to cease their war crimes and serious violations of international law.


The panel discussion is available here:

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