With South Africa joining a group of nations requesting an International Criminal Court (ICC) probe into Israel bombarding Gaza, an analyst believes international multilateralism is paralysed and in limbo.
President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday confirmed South Africa had approached the ICC for an investigation into alleged war crimes in Gaza and accused Israel of turning the enclave into a concentration camp “where genocide was taking place”.
Ramaphosa met the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, on Wednesday and said the situation in Gaza was dire. Director of public policy at the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) Benji Shulman said the organisation condemned the referral of Israel to the ICC by the South African government.
Shulman said the announcement had come from Doha, which was the headquarters of Hamas. “The SAZF notes that the South African government does not hold the ICC in very high regard,” he said. “It has, in the past, refused to carry out its orders, including the arrest of Omar al-Bashir of Sudan for actual genocidal war crimes.
“SAZF maintains that Israel continues to conduct its defensive war against the extremist Hamas organisation in line with international law and against those who have killed women and children and Holocaust survivors, and have also taken 240 hostages from a variety of nationalities.”
“The SAZF calls on the South African government to do what it can to [persuade Hamas to] release the hostages and to stop interfering in the democratic right of Israel to defend itself.” The bombardment has, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, killed more than 11 000 people, most of them women and children.
More than 2 600 people, including about 1 400 children, were reported missing after Israel declared war following Hamas’ attack on Israel during which, it is believed, 1 200 people were killed – revised down from 1 400 – and 240 people were kidnapped.
Ramaphosa said: “As South Africa we, with many countries around the world, saw fit to refer this whole Israeli government action to the International Criminal Court.We have put through a referral because we believe that war crimes are being committed there.
“Of course, we do not condone the actions that were taken by Hamas earlier but, similarly, we condemn the actions that are now underway and believe that they warrant investigation by the ICC.”
According to Everisto Benyera, University of South Africa associate professor of African politics in the department of political sciences, the condemnation was meaningless because Israel “is not a member and does not belong to the ICC”.
“Look at what they did to the United Nations [UN] secretary-general. They said he must resign because he condemned Israel. Israel is covered by the United States’ veto power. So the UN Security Council is also paralysed.”
Benyera said South Africa and others were sympathetic to the Palestinians at the ICC because it was the court of last resort. However, “this is the same South Africa who’s ruling party, the ANC, has been saying ‘let’s move away from the ICC’, or ‘this is a useless court’,” he said. “So for them, the ICC becomes a convenient institution. It’s good when it suits them. It’s bad when it does not suit them.”