Photo courtesy of JNS

“Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state after taking Palestine from the Arabs who had lived there for a thousand years.” (Hendrik Verwoerd)

“The people of South Africa will never forget the support of the state of Israel to the apartheid regime.” (Nelson Mandela).

It may sound strange why South Africa of all countries should plead the case on behalf of Gazans at the world court when there are so many rich Arab countries linked with Gaza by blood, ethnicity and faith and who claim that Palestine is the third holiest place for all Muslims in the world. To understand the reason, one should go back to the relations between the pre-1994 Afrikaner Union of South Africa and Israel. It was, in short, an intimate relationship developed to the mutual advantage of both apartheid regimes. The author wishes to acknowledge with thanks Antony Loewenstein for some of the information provided here (The Palestine Laboratory, Scribe Publications, 2023 reprint).

The former Afrikaner state had a close relationship with Israel and played a significant role in building Israel’s nuclear capability. Just as the Israelis claim that they are a chosen people and that their racism and Zionist exclusivity is rooted in the Bible, the Afrikaners had the biblical notion that the land was their God-given right. And like the Zionists who claimed that Palestine in 1940s was a land without people for a people without land as coined by the Anglo-Jewish writer Israel Zangwill, the Afrikaners spread the myth that there were no blacks in South Africa when they landed there in 17th century.  Until the very last day of the Afrikaner state, Israel was in close contact with that regime. It is a different story today.

March 21 is a public holiday in South Africa. On that day the country commemorates the 1960 Sharpeville massacre happened in the then Transvaal Province where 7,000 black Africans protested against the anti-Black Pass Laws and were fired at by the Afrikaner police killing and wounding 249 including 29 children. But the scale of that massacre, pales into oblivion when compared to what apartheid Israel has done in Gaza since October 7, 2023. More than any other country in the world only South Africa knows the pain of apartheid. Humanity as a whole is therefore indebted to Nelson Mandela’s country for its gallant decision to take apartheid Israel to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing that country, its rulers and security forces of intentionally and deliberately committing genocide in Gaza. According to the latest count nearly 31,000 Palestinians including women, children and the sick had been killed by Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).

The catalogue of evidence produced so methodically, professionally and impressively by the two lawyers, one Irish and the other South African, in front of the 15 judges at the ICJ would move anyone listening to their presentation to tears. More than the tens of thousands of indiscriminate killings in Gaza, it was the rationale that drove the IDF to carry out those killings make them a planned genocide. From what was presented by the lawyers one could gather that the intention to pulverize Gaza and wipe out its Arab population was developed in two stages. The first stage was to brainwash members of the IDF that they would be massacring not decent or innocent human beings but dangerous “human animals”, “savages” and “terrorists”. To the IDF therefore, Hamas “terrorists” were produced by Gazan men and women and Gazan children are their products who would grow as future terrorists. Hence, to bring peace to Israel Gazans should be wiped out from the earth.

The second stage was to make that genocide a religious duty. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an address to the IDF recalled a Biblical incident that happened when Moses led the Jews from Egypt to the Sinai desert. No sooner had they crossed the sea and landed there that a tribe by the name of Amalekites attacked the Jews and Moses was ordered by God to annihilate the entire tribe. That was the first genocide in history, according to the Bible. Netanyahu reminded the IDF of this episode in order to give a religious covering to the intended genocide in Gaza. The South African lawyer showed a video recording of the IDF dancing, drinking and shouting the name Amalekite after that reminder. It is a clearcut case and Israel’s right to defend itself does not permit the killing of women and children, starving the population by denying them even water and medicine and making it extremely hard for the little humanitarian aid to trickle into Gaza. Nearly three hours of detailing Israel’s guilt by the six lawyers of the South African team leaves Israel’s defence verbosely naked. But what about the judgement?

It appears that four of the 15 judges including the American one is scheduled to retire from the panel by February 6 and one could therefore anticipate a verdict before that. While the ad hoc judge included in the panel by Israel and the American judge may vote in favour of Israel, others may vote in favour of South Africa. But will Israel abide by the verdict? History proves otherwise. In 2004, when the ICJ declared that the apartheid wall built by Israel was illegal, Israel ignored it and did the same to a binding UN Security Council resolution and a non-binding UN General Assembly resolution. Because Israel knows that the White House, whether occupied by Republicans or Democrats, is there to protect Israel from any guilt or penalty. Today the US has become a pariah state in the eyes of the world. Behind the US are the UK, Germany, France, Canada and tragically even India who are backing Israel up to the hilt. It will be interesting to watch how they punish South Africa for its heroic stand for a just cause. In that case, will the pathetic Arab countries at least raise their voices to defend South Africa?