Medics transport an injured Palestinian child into Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City following an Israeli airstrike on October 11, 2023. Photo by Atia Darwish.

Delaying Peace: The Palestinian Case

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7 mins read

By Quentin Machado

Uttryck Magazine, in collaboration with Radio UF, interviewed two weeks ago Dr. Namira Negm on the state of affairs between Israel and Palestine. Former Legal Counsel of the African Union, notably defending Palestine before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), she delivered, thanks to her extensive experience, deeply valuable insights about the dire situation. Vested interests, legal pathways, question of genocide… Here is a summary.

IT HAS BEEN MORE THAN NINE MONTHS since the conflict sparked between the Hamas and the Israeli forces, and despite the many humanitarian violations committed by Israel in Gaza, the United Nations and the International Court of Justice seemed to lack an enforcement capacity. One might wonder what are the resources available to the international community in ensuring the rule of law and protecting the civilians. Many legal pathways tend to condemn such violations: the ICJ ruled, in the case South Africa v. Israel, that emergency measures such as a ceasefire had to be taken in order to prevent any genocide. In the case Nicaragua v. Germany held recently, it decreed on the countries’ accountability for allowing their weapons to be used for violations in crimes against humanity – questioning, already at the time, some contentious deliveries. Moreover, the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which founded the modern international law, supremely protected the sovereignty of states. 

145 out of the 193 member states recognized the State of Palestine: in the UN General Assembly, a resolute majority condemned the exactions of Israel in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. But some clear limitations quickly arise in the analysis. All UN members states should abide by the ICJ, but the Court has no police capacity other than through the Security Council, an institution oftentimes besieged on the matter by the vetoing powers such as the United States.

A waltz of interests

Nevertheless, beyond diplomatic talks, other ways of pressuring states to enforcement are yet to be explored: for instance, nationals, interest groups or NGOs can bring a domestic case against government officials supporting the war in order to make sure that they abide by the humanitarian law, first by stopping weapon supply if there is no certainty that they won’t be used against civilians.

In the case of economic pressures, halting investment activities until a ceasefire may appear as an efficient pathway to peace: supplying with the strict minimum – only foodstuff, but no luxury products, no weapons, no financial influx – can nurture civilian dissatisfaction, thus hampering the war effort. But war can also improve economies: the only paradox is that by providing weapons to answer violence with violence, security never comes around the corner, and arms-manufacturing companies enjoy skyrocketing profits. 

Or is it really a paradox? The most prominent example is the United States: a lot of interests are at stake when it comes to such companies, as several representatives and senators are active shareholders in military consortiums (e.g. Lockheed Martin), thus channelling into the Congress and into foreign policymaking. Dr. Namira Negm highlights another point: gas. Moving Palestinians outside of Gaza, as Israeli officials have mentioned, would allow for exploiting the territorial waters of the Strip, open the door to joint Israeli-American investments, and add yet another interest to the conflict

A clash of narratives

“The US support to Israel is indefinite. The leaders of the US, including President Biden, when asked at the beginning, before the bombardments and the military activities of Israel in Rafah, said Rafah is a red line. A few days ago, he was asked: Is there a red line for Israel? He said, no, for us, there is no red line for Israel’s security. When we speak about Israel’s security, it’s a very vague term: What will constitute the security?”

In the clash of legal and mediatic narratives, security has been the most outstanding point: the security of Israel against Hamas or Hezbollah, or the security of the Palestinians against humanitarian violations. Although it is broadly admitted that Hamas committed violations of the humanitarian law by killing and abducting civilians during October the 7th 2023, the debate cannot be reduced to this sole fact. The ICJ, in the Wall advisory opinion, clearly stated that Article 51 of the UN Charter – legitimate and proportionate defence to protect its own civilians – does not apply to occupied territories, a point totally missed by the media, while the fact that the Palestinian territory is under Israeli occupation is recognized by most of the UN member states. And even if one would want to analyse the situation through the spectrum of self-defence, the military reaction does not comply whatsoever with the criterion of proportionality.

For the African diplomat, no one can justify the killing of close to 15,000 children under the pretence of self-defence, as they do not partake in any political or military action. It is not being antisemitic, warmonger, pro-terrorist or any other (Western) mediatic term to condemn the violence exerted by the Israeli government and military at this stage.

She further argues: “Here, let us teach the Palestinians a lesson to never do that to Israel again. So they gave them space to do it the way they want to do it until it came totally out of proportion, until you, the young population of these countries, started to take action, saying, no, we cannot accept to be partners in crime. We see this, for us it’s horrendous, it’s unacceptable. (…) Even the Jewish community is coming out saying, we do not want to be associated in any way with crimes against humanity – with a genocide. Those who suffered in the Holocaust, those who had stories from their grandparents who suffered in the Holocaust, don’t see themselves as perpetrators of something similar. This is the whole thing.”

An intent of genocide

When asked the contentious question of genocide, our interviewee stood firm: genocide is happening, and many elements are here to prove it. Systematic bombing, targeting of medical and UN refugee facilities, undifferentiated killing of civilians and soldiers, blockade on humanitarian goods, and so on, and so forth. Seven to ten mass graves have been found, including four under the Al-Shifa Hospital, a hospital mostly destroyed by the Israeli targeted bombings. The conflict’s toll itself, oftentimes contested by Israel as it depends on the Hamas Ministry of Health in Gaza, serves as proof: the Minister posted names and details of all bodies (more than 37,000 so far), not even including the 10,000 unidentified bodies in the count.

“If you read and you think of what the current Israeli government officials are saying, you see how it is. (…) [They were] asked: You were involved in killing children. Were the children in any way part of any political group or did anything wrong? No. So their killing was wrong. Well, killing children in general is wrong, but those who had seen their parents killed by us will grow to fight against us. That’s why we have to eliminate them. This is a genocidal intent. This is exactly the genocidal intent.”

On the point of legality, Dr. Namira Negm recalls that failing to prevent genocide, or even only the lack of intent to prevent genocide, are legally sufficient. Even though it is uneasy to prove the intent of committing the crime of genocide, the rhetoric of the Israeli government and the statements from Netanyahu and his ministers, Gallant notably, do provide a case for such a crime: there is a very clear intent to wipe out Palestine, to eradicate the ‘threat’, to remove the Strip from the map. On the battlefield, a lot of soldiers are posting what they have done, providing legal proof of indiscriminate killing, that is the intent of committing genocide against the Palestinians. The toll’s ratio has been used as a counterargument: from thousands of dead to a million Palestinians, the proportionality might appear weak enough not to qualify for genocide. However, when she compares it with the recent case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, she underlines that the sole failure of the Serbian leaders to prevent the genocide of tens of thousands of Bosnians qualified as violation of the Genocide Convention (as decided by the ICJ). Alas, today’s Israeli leaders seem to qualify as violation of the Genocide Convention: both the psychological intent and the material factor are deemed to be here.

“They say, we are going to wipe out the Palestinians, and on the ground, they are killing the members of the group indiscriminately. They are killing women, they are killing children, they are killing babies. This is very clear because when you start with the babies, this means you are targeting the group because you don’t want them to grow. You don’t want them to have more offspring. So here, if we look at the elements of the crime of genocide, it is taking place in Gaza. (…) And [even if] we fail to prove a hundred percent that the crime of genocide happened on the hands of this Israeli government, then we can at the minimum say they failed to prevent the genocide.”

Is there any hope left for the Palestinians?

“As long as we live, there is always hope. I’m coming from a country that has been occupied by everybody since the dawn of history, but then we gained our independence. (…) I don’t know if it will happen today, if it will happen tomorrow, but it will happen. Occupation is not a solution in our time today. There is hope for the Palestinians, because they are very resilient. I would like to say chapeau to all the Palestinian women, children, men, elderly who are suffering tremendously walking up and down the strip whenever they are bombarded. I stand in awe to every individual that is opening a classroom in the tents to teach children. You’re talking about nine months of a population on the move. No health care, no education, nothing for the kids. But then you will find teachers or educated, even young people, opening their tents with some class books to teach the kids.

They will not erase the Palestinians from the map. They will not erase Palestine from the map. Definitely there is hope. But our reality today, while we see all these massive atrocities happening against a population, is sad. And those who coalesce with it from everywhere, especially media personnel, the future is what will hold them accountable, not us. But the history will hold them accountable.”

By: Quentin Machado

Cover: Atia Darwish, Palestinian News & Information Agency on Wikimedia Commons
Profile picture: Namira Negm on Linkedin

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