The South African government is seeking to speak for all those who oppose the existence of Israel. It went before the United Nation’s World Court Jan. 11 to charge Israel with committing genocide against the Palestinian people. The accusation stands history on its head. Israel was founded as a refuge for Jews who had survived the Nazi Holocaust, an attempt to exterminate the entire Jewish people.
As the hearing opened, supporters of Israel’s right to exist rallied outside the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Pro-Hamas protesters gathered in support of the South African charges.
The accusation provides a “political and legal cover” to Hamas, which carried out a murderous pogrom against Jews in Israel Oct. 7, the Israeli government said.
Israel has been put on trial for its “conduct in a war it did not start and did not want,” the Israeli defense team said. It is fighting Hamas “whose brutality knows no bounds.”
Hamas and its sponsor, the reactionary bourgeois clerical regime in Iran, have time and again stated their aim is to eliminate Jews and wipe Israel off the map.
Hamas thugs carried out “the largest calculated mass murder of Jews in a single day since the Holocaust,” said Tal Becker, the lead Israeli defense counsel speaking on behalf of the foreign ministry. They “proudly filmed and broadcast their barbarism.”
Pretoria’s submission to the U.N. ignores all this, focusing instead solely on Palestinian suffering. It relies on Hamas sources that hide the large number of Hamas combatants killed, instead counting them as part of the total of civilian casualties. The charges cover up the fact that the disaster in Gaza is a consequence of “Hamas’ reprehensible strategy of seeking to maximize civilian harm to both Israelis and Palestinians, even as Israel seeks to minimize it,” Becker said.
He showed the court pictures of hostages seized by Hamas.
“Residents of the Gaza Strip are not the enemy,” Israel’s foreign ministry said. It pointed out that it strives “to allow humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip.”
The genocide charge “seeks to thwart Israel’s inherent right to defend itself, to let Hamas not just get away with its murder, literally, but render Israel defenseless as Hamas continues to commit it,” the Israeli opening statement said. South Africa has long “celebrated its ties with Hamas figures,” including hosting senior Hamas leaders just weeks after the Oct. 7 massacre.
The rulers of the “democratic” imperialist powers that established the United Nations use the court to advance their own interests against opponents, especially rivals they have and will defeat in their predatory wars.
In this case the South African rulers are trying to use the court to advance their interests, drawing other governments to support them. Its accusations are backed by the governments of Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Jordan, Malaysia, Pakistan and Turkey, along with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a bloc of 57 states led by the rulers of Saudi Arabia.
So far Pretoria has had a lukewarm response to its charges from Moscow and Beijing, who are allied with it in the BRICS bloc. The group of governments of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa was set up to challenge Washington’s supremacy. It postures as the champion of peoples in the semicolonial world.
Pretoria’s case is applauded by liberals predominating in “nongovernmental” bureaucracies, the U.N. and academia and other agencies within imperialist countries, as well as Stalinist-trained forces on the middle-class left.
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress faces elections in which it could lose its parliamentary majority for the first time since Nelson Mandela’s victory in 1994. At that time it was a national liberation movement at the head of a mass struggle to overthrow apartheid. Today the ANC presides over a capitalist government whose crisis is marked by world-record unemployment, growing inequality and breakdowns in basic services.
S. African Christians protest case
As the South African government prepared its case against Israel, an open letter opposing the charges was sent by nearly 30 Christian organizations from across South Africa.
“Israel does not seek to wipe Gaza or the Palestinians off the face of the map,” the letter said. “It seeks to defend itself.”
Pretoria’s charges “could be interpreted as direct support to Hamas’s tactics, including using civilians as human shields and diverting aid for military purposes and the building of tunnels, rather than humanitarian relief sent to the Palestinian people.”
The signatories noted that the South African government’s “one-sided approach … has placed its Jewish citizens at risk by inciting antisemitism as well as eroding the freedom of religion of Christians in South Africa.”
Israel has existed as a refuge for Jews for over 75 years. It came into existence for three reasons, the horror of the Holocaust with the slaughter of 40% of Jews worldwide; the refusal of the imperialist rulers in Washington and London to open their borders to Jews seeking to flee Nazi persecution before, during and after World War II; and the betrayal — by counterrevolutionary Stalinist parties that looked to Moscow — of the openings for workers to take political power into their own hands across Europe.
While the “democratic” imperialist powers today mostly reject the South African government’s slanders, in the 1930s and ’40s it was Washington and its allies that shut their doors to Jewish refugees.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa accuses Israel of carrying out war crimes. But nothing the Israeli rulers have done in their war against Hamas is remotely comparable to the actual war crimes carried out by the Allied imperialist powers in World War II. London and Washington carpet-bombed German cities Dresden and Hamburg, suffocating or incinerating tens of thousands of people in the ensuring firestorms.
The interests of the working class lie in leading the fight against antisemitic vitriol and violence that is surging worldwide, especially from the self-proclaimed left, in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 pogrom. The only way to stop the scourge of Jew-hatred is for the working class to take political power to uproot capitalist exploitation and all oppression.