Israel and its Western Supporters Have Violated the Spirit of ICJ’s Interim Ruling

Gaza Hunger 1

The recent interim ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) disappointed many, many people by not providing for immediate ceasefire. This disappointment is understandable considering the great need for ceasefire. However if we look carefully at what the ICJ has asked for—particularly improving the humanitarian situation in very significant ways—then it is clear that this cannot be achieved effectively and in any sustained way without a ceasefire and so, although somewhat indirectly,  the ICJ ruling also points to the need for ceasefire.

Unfortunately, however, instead of taking such an enlightened view of this judgment, Israel has even become even more aggressive in some contexts due to which prospects of humanitarian assistance for the people of Gaza have worsened further, and this is an even more direct and serious violation of the ICJ’s interim ruling. What is no less troubling—and perhaps even more so—is that the USA and some other western countries supporting Israel appear to be going along with it in this regard.

Soon after the ICJ’s interim ruling on stepping up humanitarian assistance in a big way, Israel came up with new allegations of the main UN agency working for Palestinian refugees since 1949—the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees or UNRWA—having been infiltrated by some Hamas members and about a dozen of its employees being involved in the October 7 attack. A fair response to such allegations would have been for the UN to order an unbiased inquiry and based on this to dismiss any such persons if they exist. While such actions were also initiated, in addition several western donor countries decided to stop their contributions to the UN agency in too much of a hurry, without considering the great harm this would cause to people who are already in the middle of a catastrophic humanitarian situation, as confirmed also by several UN officials and agencies.

Reuters reported on February 1, quoting UNRWA officials, that it will most likely have to shut down its operations in Gaza and other parts of the Middle-East by the end of February 2024 if funding is not resumed. The WHO said on January 31 that such defunding is likely to have catastrophic impacts. If UNRWA is forced to shut down, it will also harm the wider Palestinian cause as this agency employs about 30,000 Palestinians in its work to meet civic and humanitarian needs of Palestinians. This agency has been described by its top officials as the largest aid organization in one of the most serious and complex humanitarian crises in the world. 

Hence, as the situation stands now at the time of writing this, the clear ICJ directive for improving the humanitarian situation in Gaza has been followed immediately by events resulting in the humanitarian situation even worsening further.

Let me a give a few quotes from today’s newspapers.

Jens Laerke, spokesperson of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated, “It’s like every week we think you know, it can’t get any worse. Well, it gets worse” (The Statesman, February 3, 2024).

Shelling by Israel forces started the previous day in Rafah, the last refuge close to the Egypt border in South Gaza where most of the displaced people are concentrated just now along with the local population. If the Israeli tanks keep coming, a resident said, “We will be left with two choices—stay and die or climb the walls into Egypt.” (The Times of India, February 3).

Meanwhile the New York Times, highlighting the increasing discomfort among many policy makers even within western countries regarding the stand taken by their governments on Gaza, has reported—More than 800 officials in the USA, the UK and the EU released a public letter of dissent Friday (February 2) against their governments’ support of Israel in its war in the Gaza strip…The document does not include the name of signers because they fear reprisal said an official…” Some of the officials have stated that they tried internal channels to raise concerns but have been ignored. So much for western democracy.

This document says, “Our governments’ current policies weaken their moral standing and undermine their ability to stand up for freedom, justice and human rights globally.”

Further this document says, “there is a plausible risk that our governments’ policies are contributing to grave violations of international humanitarian law, war crimes and even ethnic cleansing or genocide.” (quote from NYT report re-published in The Times of India, Feb. 3,  under the title ‘800+US, Europe officials sign letter criticizing Gaza policy’.

This brings us back to our assertion earlier on that it is not just Israel but also its western supporter countries that are responsible for violating the spirit of the ICJ’s recent interim ruling.

Despite all that has been done by very well-intentioned people in many parts of the world for ceasefire, peace and for extending much more humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza, the fact remains that the situation has been worsening and this trend could not be checked even after the ICJ interim ruling. Meanwhile the overall escalation has also been going up at various levels. Hence the inadequacy of world’s present day systems for preventing conflict and war at an early stage before it becomes too risky and costly has been exposed once more, soon after it was exposed in the context of the Ukraine conflict. Both these conflicts can escalate into much bigger wars and there appears to be no firm indication yet where and how these will end. Despite this, the efforts for even limited peace and pause must of course continue but at the same time the need for bigger, more systemic reforms needed for world peace should never be forgotten.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children, Earth without Borders and A Day in 2071.      

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