SA stands by decision to file lawsuit against Israel

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

South Africa has no regrets about becoming the first country to file a lawsuit against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to end its “deadly and relentless genocidal bombardment” of Gaza.  

This is according to Deputy President Paul Mashatile who attended a question and answer session in the National Council of Provinces on Tuesday. 

Speaking in Parliament, Deputy President Mashatile said the United Nations estimates that more than 30 000 Palestinians, including over 10 000 children, have been killed. 

“Over 70 000 have been injured while 10 000 are missing under rubble. This brings the number of civilian casualties to about 110 000, amounting to roughly 5% of Gaza's 2.3 million population. We will not condone genocide,” he told Members of Parliament.  

Last year, South Africa led a case against Israel at the ICJ in The Hague, under the Genocide Convention, for acts committed by Israel in the context of its attacks on Gaza on 7 October 2023.

This is after members of the Hamas military and political organisation massacred at least 1 200 people and abducted 240 others during surprise attacks on its territory.

In January 2024, the ICJ ordered Israel to, among others, take all measures within its power “to prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide” and to immediately ensure that Palestinians have access to basic services and humanitarian assistance.

While South Africa had called for the suspension of Israeli military operations in Gaza, the court did not grant this provisional measure.  

READ | President calls for an end to Palestinian suffering

“Similarly, I must reiterate South Africa’s condemnation of Hamas for the indiscriminate and wanton violence meted against Israeli civilians,” the country’s second-in-command added. 

“We are mindful that not every citizen supports our government’s decision to refer the Gaza bombardment to the ICJ.

“We are also aware that some, here at home and abroad, started by opposing our position. However, they have revised their view, taking into consideration the number of deaths and sheer scale of human suffering.” 

READ | SA requests ICJ to act to prevent famine in Gaza

In addition, he acknowledged those who support Israel for ideological reasons, including religious.  

“They will never be swayed no matter the facts and however persuasive the argument. There are, frankly speaking, some whose idea of human pain is informed by the pigmentation of the perpetrator and the victim. 

“Others do not so much as care about anything that happens beyond our borders and would rather that we become an insular society even as the world shrinks into a village.”

However, he vowed that government would continue to engage every sector of society, especially on matters contentious. 

On the other hand, he said South Africa was committed to the promotion of social cohesion, which he believes does not mean the absence of difference, but the promotion of consensus and evolution of a practical programme of action for progressive social change.

“It is in the context of Ubuntu and the building of a better Africa and the world that we remain committed to promoting the Bill of Rights, which enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.” 

Meanwhile, he said the country would continue to pledge solidarity with the people of Palestine in their struggle to end all acts of the apartheid system by the Israeli government, and the genocide emanating from that evil system and support their collective right to self-determination. 

“As President Nelson Mandela emphasised: ‘Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians’,” he concluded. –