Three genocides

Three genocides

Eyal Weizman writes:

On 11 January​, at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, South Africa argued that Israel’s actions in Gaza have been ‘genocidal in character’, since ‘they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnic group.’ Lawyers cited the killing of 23,000 Palestinians (the number is now more than 33,000), the majority of them women and children, the destruction of life-sustaining infrastructure, including schools and hospitals, and the displacement of practically Gaza’s entire population. Israel staged its defence the following day, claiming that ‘if there were acts of genocide, they have been perpetrated against Israel.’ Its lawyers called on the court to dismiss the case and reject South Africa’s request that military operations against Gaza be halted.

Less than two hours after Israel concluded its case, Germany announced that it would intervene as a ‘third party’, siding with Israel. Any signatory to the 1948 Genocide Convention can put forward ‘substantive arguments’ in a dispute over the interpretation of the treaty. In 2023, Germany intervened in the genocide case brought by Gambia against Myanmar for its treatment of the Rohingya, in support of the view that Myanmar’s actions constituted genocide. In the South African case, a German government spokesman declared that ‘in light of Germany’s history and the crime of humanity – the Shoah – the federal government sees itself as particularly committed to the Genocide Convention.’ In other words, it had expertise in such questions, and the current accusations against Israel had ‘no basis whatsoever’: they were merely an attempt to politicise the convention. The memory of the Holocaust is considered to be the moral foundation of postwar Germany, and the defence of Israel’s security, as Angela Merkel affirmed in 2008, is Germany’s Staatsräson. The idea that Israel can be accused of perpetrating a genocide – or that any genocide can be compared to the Holocaust – is therefore heresy.

On 13 January, the day after the German announcement, the president of Namibia, Hage Geingob (who died on 4 February), rebuked Germany, arguing that it ‘cannot morally express commitment to the UN Convention on Genocide … while supporting the equivalent of a holocaust and genocide in Gaza’. He added that ‘the German government is yet to fully atone for the genocide it committed on Namibian soil.’ Tlaleng Mofokeng, the South African UN special rapporteur on the right to health, summed up the situation: ‘The state that committed more than one genocide throughout its history [Germany] is trying to undermine the efforts of a country that is a victim of colonialism and apartheid [South Africa] to protect another genocide [Israel’s].’ Two weeks later, on 26 January, by fifteen judges to two, the ICJ accepted that the allegation that Israel was in violation of the 1948 convention was plausible, and ordered it to take measures to prevent genocidal acts. [Continue reading…]

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