Are we doing enough?
The Australian Government voted in the UN in favour of an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza and an immediate and unconditional release of all hostages. It also expressed grave concern over “the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the suffering of the Palestinian civilian population”. But is it enough?
In November 2023 the UN raised the alarm about the risk of genocide in Gaza.
The Government of the Republic of South Africa has now taken the Government and military of the State of Israel to the International Court of Justice for the crime of genocide against the Palestinian people in the wake of attacks in Israel on 7 October 2023. Both South Africa and Israel are party to the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide – the Genocide Convention, as is Australia.
More than 50 countries have expressed support for the case but not Australia.
The case in the ICJ is now being heard.
South Africa requested the court urgently order Israel, among other things, to suspend its military operations, take all measures necessary to prevent genocide and refrain from killing, injuring, or committing other acts constituting genocide against Palestinians. Israel denies it was motivated by genocidal intent and that its conduct in Gaza violates its obligations under the Genocide Convention, asserting that “[t]he accusation of genocide against Israel is not only wholly unfounded as a matter of fact and law, it is morally repugnant” and “antisemitic”.
Israel was clearly motivated to respond militarily to the horrific Hamas attack on its citizens in October but months on, there seems little doubt the war has transitioned into genocide.
Continuing the war increases hostility towards Israel by Palestinians, their supporters, the Middle East and the World more generally.
Our fervent hope is that the ICJ orders Israel to suspend military operations. The Australian Government must do all it can to make this happen.
The application of proceedings is a harrowing read:
…. at least 21,110 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed and over 55,243 other Palestinians have been wounded, many severely. The death toll includes over 7,729 children, not including the 4,700 women and children still missing, and presumed dead under the rubble. Entire multi-generational families have been wiped out completely.
Over 355,000 homes equivalent to more than 60 percent of Gaza’s housing stock has been damaged or destroyed. 1.9 million Palestinians – approximately 85 per cent of the total population – have been internally displaced. Many fled the north of the territory to the south, having been ordered to do so by Israel, only to be bombed again in the south, and told to flee once again further south or the southwest, where they are reduced to living in makeshift tents in camps with no water, sanitation or other facilities.
Israel has bombed, shelled, and besieged Gaza’s hospitals, with only 13 out of 36 hospitals partially functional, and no fully functioning hospital left in North Gaza. Gaza’s healthcare system has all but collapsed, with reports of operations, including amputations and caesarean sections, taking place without anaesthetic. A significant proportion of the wounded and sick are unable to access any or adequate care. Contagious and epidemic diseases are rife amongst the displaced Palestinian population, with experts warning of the risk of meningitis, cholera, and other outbreaks.
The entire population in Gaza is at imminent risk of famine, whereas the proportion of households affected by acute food insecurity is the largest ever recorded according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (‘IPC’). Experts warn that silent, slow deaths caused by hunger and thirst risk surpassing those violent deaths already caused by Israeli bombs and missiles.
The UN Secretary-General says ‘This is an apocalyptic situation now, because these are the remnants of a nation being driven into a pocket in the south. Palestinians in Gaza are described as “living in utter, deepening horror”, as they “continue to be relentlessly bombarded by Israel… suffering death, siege, destruction and deprivation of the most essential human needs such as food, water, lifesaving medical supplies and other essentials on a massive scale”; it is “apocalyptic” (United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights).
An entire population is besieged and under attack, denied access to the essentials for survival, bombed in their homes, shelters, hospitals, and places of worship. (Principals of the United Nations Inter-Agency Standing Committee).
Gaza is “the most dangerous place in the world to be a child (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund).
“It is a “living hell”, it is “a war of all the superlative, everything is unprecedented” and “[w]e are out of words to describe what is going on” (UNRWA Commissioner-General).