Israel on Trial
“We are a people who were the victims of apartheid. We know what apartheid looks like… we will not be passive bystanders & watch the crimes that were visited on us being perpetrated on other people elsewhere.” – Cyril Ramaphosa, president of South Africa
The media silence on the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordering Israel to ensure its forces do not commit acts of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, is deafening.
The International Court of Justice ruling is not the final word on whether Israel’s actions amount to genocide, but it provides a very strong indication that the judges believe there is a credible risk to Palestinians under the genocide convention. Although the courts powers of enforcement are limited this is not without consequence.
Firstly, the president of the court, Joan Donoghue, said Israel must “take all measures within its power” to prevent acts that fall within the scope of the genocide convention and must ensure “with immediate effect” that its forces do not commit any of the acts covered by the convention.
She also said: “The court is also of the view that Israel must take measures within its power to prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide in relation to the members of the Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip,” the US judge said. “The court further considers that Israel must take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”
The consequence of this is that defiance of this by Israel means war crimes at scale and under international legal scrutiny. The current tactic of starvation is happening in real time and in plain sight.
As Kenneth Roth, the former executive director of Human Rights Watch pointed lout: “On the need to allow humanitarian aid to a starving population in Gaza and to prevent and punish the incitement of genocide, even the respected Israeli judge, Aharon Barak, joined the majority, making the vote 16 to 1 – a powerful repudiation of those who try to chalk up challenges to Israel’s conduct in Gaza as an unfair double standard or antisemitism.”
The mounting death-toll, the numbers of children involved, the collective punishment is an obscenity, but it is an obscenity the west is complicit in. And the consequences of this ruling are not just about the politics of evasion, they are about the active support from the US and Britain in this travesty. This ruling then has consequences for Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak but also for Keir Starmer. If Tony Blair’s New Labour came in on a wave of popular enthusiasm for renewal and was later tarnished by the Iraq war, Keir Starmer’s Neo Labour will arrive on a wave of disillusionment and is already stained by his support for Israel’s actions in Gaza.
This is important, not because it will effect Starmer’s ascending to power, the brutal realities of the conflict will not really enter a UK election campaign being slugged out between Tories and Labour, but it does effect Starmer’s moral standing.
As Rishi Sunak’s government unravels into a festering shambles unlikely to see-out the last few months intact, the incoming party resembles a well-oiled, if principle-free, machine. Starmer and his senior colleagues have assembled a ruthless array of content-free slogans and non-policies that is resistant to media-attack and is soaring in the polls promising Conservative annihilation. Tory in-fighting means that now even the right-wing press (the Mail and Telegraph and GB News) are turning on Sunak, according to Andrew Marr.
What we are now seeing – and few thought this was even possible – is the British political landscape turning even further to the right. As the British Labour Party takes up policy positions adjacent to the former Conservative Party, the Tories are in danger of being annihilated and replaced by something else altogether. Writing in the New Statesman Marr writes; “As morale and discipline inside the Conservative parliamentary party continues to unravel, there is a belief that the right-wing media, far from fulfilling its old role as a flying buttress, supporting it from the outside, is busy fomenting rebellion and flirting with the challenger party, Reform UK. At the most extreme, some Tories see the emergence of an increasingly powerful British alt-right.”
The argument Marr constructs is that the new editors of Britain’s key right-wing press are of a new generation, unbiddable by the previous circles of upper class London cronyism and more driven by data, (and Dacre). They are, Marr argues, driven by instant data on their readership and responsive to their politics. And what their politics is telling them is that these people are dismissive of Sunak’s government and demanding a harder/tougher approach on immigration.
Tougher than Priti Patel and Suella Braverman? Apparently, yes. What they want, and the threat that is waiting in the wings is Richard Tice’s Reform Party, with an eager Nigel Farage at the helm ready to pounce on a wounded and collapsing Tory Party. If this sounds far-fetched you’ve not been paying attention to the debacle of British politics.
When you put this all together what you have is the possibility of a completely re-cast British political map. The Labour Party is a hollowed-out shell of its former self, with any last remnant voices of the left expelled, alienated or isolated. The incoming party is unlike any previous version of itself and its position on Israel is only emblematic of its wider positioning. The Conservatives will either be taken-over by people who believe Sunak is not extreme enough or face such defeat they will become politically extinct, and the SNP may also be facing huge losses at Westminster, depending on what polls you believe and to what extent Starmer’s sea-change washes north of the border.
While such changes might see celebrations at the idea of ‘getting rid of the Tories’ or ‘booting out the SNP’, the era it heralds in is one of such cynicism and such dark politics, it will be little to cheer. The danger is we are entering a new era where the ‘rules based order’ is meaningless and where the two main political parties compete to put-out the most extreme and brutal politics both at home and abroad.
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