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International Court of Justice Orders Israel to Prevent Genocide in Gaza But Fails to Order Ceasefire

StoryJanuary 26, 2024
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In a highly anticipated ruling, the International Court of Justice at The Hague has found that there is a “real and imminent risk” that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, and supported “at least some” of the provisional measures South Africa had requested when it brought the case in order to rein in Israel’s military assault. Though the ruling falls short of calling for an immediate ceasefire, analysts say it is nevertheless a significant milestone. We discuss the “unprecedented” decision by the World Court with a panel of experts: Palestinian human rights attorney Diana Buttu, genocide scholar Raz Segal and scholar of colonialism Mahmood Mamdani. “It becomes imperative upon the world community to now act,” says Buttu. “This is the beginning of a process of isolating Israel,” adds Segal.

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StoryJan 11, 2024Palestinian Genocide Scholar & South African Lawyer on “Extreme Urgency” of World Court Case
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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: In a landmark ruling today, the International Court of Justice found plausible risk that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, and ordered provisional measures but stopped short of calling for an immediate ceasefire. The ruling was read out by the president of the court, Joan Donoghue. She began with the finding that South Africa had jurisdiction to bring the case against Israel.

JUDGE JOAN DONOGHUE: In the court’s view, at least some of the acts and omissions alleged by South Africa to have been committed by Israel in Gaza appear to be capable of falling within the provisions of the convention. In light of the following, the court concludes that prima facie it has jurisdiction, pursuant to Article IX of the convention, to entertain the case.

AMY GOODMAN: South Africa had asked the court, as a matter of extreme urgency, to impose emergency measures to protect Palestinians in Gaza. The president of the court went on to read out the findings regarding South Africa’s request for provisional measures.

JUDGE JOAN DONOGHUE: In the court’s view, the aforementioned facts and circumstances are sufficient to conclude that at least some of the rights claimed by South Africa and for which it is seeking protection are plausible. This is the case with respect to the right of Palestinians in Gaza to be protected from acts of genocide and related prohibited acts identified in Article III and the right of South Africa to seek Israel’s compliance with the latter’s obligations under the convention.

The court then turns to the condition of the link between the plausible rights claimed by South Africa and the provisional measures requested. It considers that, by their very nature, at least some of the provisional measures sought by South Africa are aimed at preserving the plausible rights it asserts on the basis of the Genocide Convention in the present case — namely, the right of the Palestinians in Gaza to be protected from acts of genocide and related prohibited acts mentioned in Article III and the right of South Africa to seek Israel’s compliance with the latter’s obligations under the convention. Therefore, a link exists between the rights claimed by South Africa that the court has found to be plausible and at least some of the provisional measures requested.

AMY GOODMAN: The president of the court, Joan Donoghue, cited the killing of Palestinians in Gaza, mass displacement, deprivation of aid and other charges brought by South Africa, and went on to say the court found a plausible risk that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza.

JUDGE JOAN DONOGHUE: The court considers that there is urgency in the sense that there is a real and imminent risk that irreparable prejudice will be caused to the rights found by the court to be plausible before it gives its final decision. The court concludes, on the basis of the aforementioned considerations, that the conditions required by its statute for it to indicate provisional measures are met. It is therefore necessary, pending its final decision, for the court to indicate certain measures in order to protect the rights claimed by South Africa that the court has found to be plausible.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined by three guests. We’re going to begin in Haifa with Diana Buttu, Palestinian human rights attorney, former adviser to the negotiating team of the Palestine Liberation Organization. In 2004, Diana Buttu was part of the legal team that won the case before the International Court of Justice which ruled Israel’s separation wall in the West Bank is illegal under international law.

Diana Buttu, welcome back to Democracy Now! If you can respond to the court’s ruling, that was just released moments before we went to air?

DIANA BUTTU: This is an amazing ruling, because it highlights everything that the South African team and, of course, Palestinians have been saying the entire time, which is that Israel is plausibly carrying out genocide. And so, the fact that the court has indicated to Israel that they have to take measures to prevent genocide, to make sure that soldiers are doing the same, to prosecute those individuals who are inciting, including high government officials, and ensure that there is effective humanitarian aid, is precisely what was sought by Palestinians. It’s now up to the world to make sure that this court ruling is actually enacted.

AMY GOODMAN: But they did not call for an immediate ceasefire, as South Africa asked. The significance of this?

DIANA BUTTU: I think it’s very difficult at this stage for the court to be pushing for a ceasefire. But in the fact that they said, first and foremost, that Israel has to take all measures to prevent acts of genocide is enough for the world to then be pushing for a ceasefire. It’s really up to the international system as we know it to make sure that genocide is not carried out. And so it’s imperative that this be followed up by countries around the world making sure that Israel doesn’t get to do whatever it wants to do with Palestinians in Gaza and continue this genocide.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about the woman who we heard delivering the pronouncement of the court, Joan Donoghue, a former State Department official, though she’s not representing the United States in this? She represents the court. She was in the State Department under President Obama.

DIANA BUTTU: Well, yes, and she was the — she was one of the judges, one of 17 judges on the bench — two of them are ad hoc — one of the 15 permanent judges, who ruled in favor of all of the measures that had been sought. Her term actually expires on February the 6th, and so she won’t be with the court after that. But it was very important that this decision not just be a split court. But you can tell by the breadth of it that of the 17 judges, two being ad hoc, that on most of the issues, it was 15 versus 2, one being the Ugandan judge and the second, of course, being the Israeli judge, and in some cases it being 16 to 1, with the one, ironically, being the Ugandan judge.

AMY GOODMAN: Why the Ugandan judge?

DIANA BUTTU: It’s not clear. It’s not entirely clear why. It’s clear why the Israeli judge, obviously. But what’s more important is the fact that we see that this court has overwhelmingly decided in favor of South Africa, has overwhelmingly determined that there is plausible risk of genocide. And it becomes imperative upon the world community to now act. You know, the fact that it’s taken 112 days for the world to finally recognize that this is genocide, and that it had to go to court, says something about the international legal system as we know it, which is that it’s broken. But I’m hoping that based on this, the world will now begin to act, rather than hiding behind all these false claims that Israel has repeated for the past 112 days.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring Raz Segal into this discussion, Israeli historian, associate professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at Stockton University, endowed professor in the study of modern genocide, co-authored a recent piece for Al Jazeera headlined “Intent in the genocide case against Israel is not hard to prove.” He’s joining us from Philadelphia. Professor, welcome back to Democracy Now! Your response to this ruling?

RAZ SEGAL: Hello. Good morning. Thank you for having me.

I think this is, really, an unprecedented ruling. It signals, first and foremost, the end of Israeli impunity in the international legal system, which is huge, right? Israel has enjoyed impunity in the international legal system for decades in the face of mounting evidence of gross violations of international law, of mass violence, occupation, siege, so on. This is the end of that era.

So it’s just a beginning of a process that, really, I think, now with a ruling that basically recognizes the possibility of genocide, the fact that Israel is likely committing genocidal acts — this is a beginning of a process of isolating Israel, because any university, company, state now will have to consider, moving forward, whether it continues — or doesn’t continue, in many cases, I think — to engage with Israel, because it is likely committing genocide. This also legally triggers third-state responsibility on issues of prevention and complicity with genocide.

And it’s significantly important today, where in a few hours in a court in Florida there will be the hearing in the case that the Center for Constitutional Rights has brought against Biden, Blinken and Austin, indeed, on complicity with genocide, U.S. complicity with genocide, and the failure to prevent a genocide. So, this might have, actually, a certain effect even on this case today in California moving forward.

So, this is really unprecedented. Yes, it is a disappointment that the court did not order an immediate ceasefire. But it did order Israel to cease from any genocidal acts, which de facto is actually an order for a ceasefire.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about the issue of getting aid into Gaza, Raz Segal?

RAZ SEGAL: Yeah, the court also issued an order on the urgent need, and it stressed, of course, the really unprecedented scale of destruction and killing, the dire situation in Gaza, in terms of what we know, the levels of hunger and the spread of infectious disease. So it also ordered this, which is, again, very, very important. I mean, we all need to now wait and see what Israel’s response to this will be.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to also bring into this discussion Mahmood Mamdani, professor of government at Columbia University who specializes in the study of colonialism. One of his many books is Neither Settler Nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities. He was previously a professor and director of the Centre for African Studies at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and has been an academic leader in Uganda for years. Professor Mamdani, your response to this ruling? We discussed yesterday, before the ruling, what you expected. What did you see today?

MAHMOOD MAMDANI: Thank you for bringing me in.

Actually, everything that I expected happened. I wasn’t sure they would call for a ceasefire. But now listening to the reasoning of the court, it is clear to me that they couldn’t have called directly for a ceasefire without preempting their future deliberations. At the same time, if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and sounds like a duck, then it’s a duck. Everything they ordered in terms of preventive measures leads to only one conclusion, which is ceasefire. How do you stop killing people? Ceasefire. How do you ensure that supplies for human life get in? Ceasefire. And so on and so forth.

I think the ball is now in the political domain. The law cannot displace politics. It can open avenues for politics. And that’s where we are now. This ruling is enormously significant in terms of broadening the avenues for politics, in terms of strengthening and accelerating the trend towards a global alliance against settler colonialism. And it has the U.S. on the defensive, Israel on the defensive.

We know that the last time the court ruled against Israel, which was on the question of the wall, Israel just ignored it. But this time, I think it may not be so easy to do. First of all, one has to ask oneself: Why did Israel come before the court? It could have just ignored it. According to its past conduct, that’s what it would have done. So the fact that it came before the court suggests that there are conflicting pressures before the Israeli government. Now what does it do? I think this is one goal in favor of the world, and we continue with the game.

AMY GOODMAN: And your insight into the Ugandan judge of the International Court of Justice? Sometimes the vote was 15 to 2, as Diana Buttu said, the Ugandan judge and the Israeli judge, and sometimes it was 16 to 1.

MAHMOOD MAMDANI: Well, Judge Sebutinde, she has a — she had a career where she had opposed the Museveni regime on several legal issues in court. Then she was appointed by the Museveni regime on the international stage, thus removing her from the local stage. I haven’t followed her career since then, but she was pretty consistent. There seemed to be no indication that she was making up her mind from issue to issue. I can’t say anything more than that right now.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to go to break and then come back to our guests. We’re speaking with Columbia University professor Mahmood Mamdani here in New York; with Raz Segal, the Israeli historian and professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at Stockton University; and in Haifa, Diana Buttu, Palestinian human rights attorney. We’ll also hear more from the International Court of Justice, the U.N.’s highest court. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Masters of War,” Bob Dylan, here on Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

The International Court of Justice, the U.N.’s highest court, has found a plausible risk Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, and ordered provisional measures but stopped short of calling for an immediate ceasefire. This is the president of the court, Joan Donoghue, reading out the vote of part of the ruling.

JUDGE JOAN DONOGHUE: By 15 votes to 2, the state of Israel shall, in accordance with its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, in relation to the Palestinians in Gaza, take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of Article II of the convention — in particular, A, killing members of the group; B, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; C, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction, in whole or in part; and, D, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.

AMY GOODMAN: Over a one-hour ruling, the International Court of Justice President Joan Donoghue in The Hague quoted Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, saying that as the war got underway, Gallant had said, “We have removed all restraints. We will eliminate everything,” referring to Palestinians as “animals.” Judge Donoghue continued, Gallant went on to describe Hamas as comparable to the Islamic State. After proceedings concluded today, the South African government said it welcomed the ICJ’s decision.

We’re continuing with our guests right now: Diana Buttu, Palestinian human rights attorney in Haifa, Israel; Raz Segal, Israeli historian and professor of Holocaust and genocide studies, Stockton University, joining us from Philadelphia; and Mahmood Mamdani, professor of government at Columbia University, specializing in the study of colonialism.

Diana Buttu, if you can talk about what exactly the timetable is right now and the true level of enforcement that the ICJ, or even the United Nations, overall, has? Go back to using as a reference your involvement with the 2004 decision, where the ICJ ruled the separation wall that Israel built in the Occupied Territories illegal.

DIANA BUTTU: Well, let’s first start with this particular case. I think it’s important to keep in mind that just last week Prime Minister Netanyahu said that nothing is going to stop him, not the ICJ, not The Hague; nobody is going to stop him; and that he’s going to continue to pursue ahead. And, of course, the reason he’s doing this is, in part, because he is genocidal and, in large part, because he knows that the minute that the attacks on Gaza are over, that his term in office is also over, because of the internal dissent inside Israel.

And the reason that this is important is because it’s — we haven’t heard yet what Israel is — what they’ve said, but judging by that, it means that they’re going to ignore this ruling. And if they ignore this ruling, it then becomes imperative upon the member states to take this decision to the U.N. Security Council to have the ruling enforced at the Security Council level. And it becomes really a question of whether the United States is going to veto or abstain, or what exactly it’s going to do.

I can tell you, in terms of what happened in 2004, 2004 was a very different case. It was an advisory opinion. It wasn’t a case of the same type. And in 2004, Israel took the exact same position, that it wasn’t going to stop the construction of the wall. In fact, it accelerated it. But part of the decision indicated that there are other states, third states, other countries, that are also obliged to make sure that Israel upholds international law. And that was the part where the world failed.

And out of that, this is where we saw the BDS, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, movement end up being recreated or reconstituted on the one-year anniversary of the ICJ ruling, so in 2005. And the reason that it came together was because they expected — we expected — that the world was going to come forward and do something to make sure that the advisory opinion was upheld and enforced. But instead, they did nothing.

So, once again, we’re going to see that — we will likely see that Israel is going to ignore this ruling. It’s then imperative to take it to the U.N. Security Council. But all the while it’s very important that we continue to boycott Israel, to divest from Israel and to push for sanctions, that the global BDS movement should be growing at this point to make sure that the age of Israeli impunity finally comes to an end.

AMY GOODMAN: Raz Segal, if you can talk about the aspects of genocide — you write, “The crime of genocide has two elements — intention and execution” — and what Joan Donoghue, the head of the court, at least for another few weeks, read in terms of the decision for what constitutes genocide, and what this means, as an Israeli historian who lives in the United States, while Israel tried to say this doesn’t matter? The fact is, they participated in this, clearly showing it matters a great deal to them. And also, what it means for the United States’ support for Israel, and what’s happening today with this court finding?

RAZ SEGAL: Yeah, so, I think that it was very important that the court quoted some of the statements of intent. And it’s again important to emphasize that we’re talking about dozens of statements of intent to destroy Palestinians, “intent to destroy” in the language of the U.N. convention, and by people with what’s called in international law “command authority,” so state leaders, war cabinet ministers, senior army officers. And these statements were made over time, so not just a week or two after the 7th of October Hamas-led attack, but over time, actually until today, when we think about what Prime Minister Netanyahu said on 13th of January, when he said that Israel’s attack will continue, whatever happens in The Hague. He also reiterated the portrayal of Palestinians as Nazis, for example, right? Which is basically a mechanism of dehumanization, a mechanism that portrays all Palestinians in Gaza as legitimate military targets. So, these statements of intent, again, dozens of statements, over time, by people with command authority, filled with dehumanizing language — right? — “human animals,” “monsters” — which historically we know are indicators of genocide. So I think it was very significant that the court mentioned and quoted some of these statements to emphasize that it’s not as Israel tried to argue, that it’s not something that we can disregard, that it’s actually a key element of the crime of genocide, and we should be paying attention to this.

But then it also emphasized, a number of times, actually, the really unprecedented scale of killing and destruction on the ground, the catastrophic situation that Palestinians are facing now. And in this context, I think it’s very important to say that the court basically accepted South Africa’s argument that Israel’s, quote-unquote, “evacuation orders” are not actually, as Israel claimed, humanitarian measures, but they’re actually genocidal in essence. That means that they are meant — which is what they did — to displace millions of people, almost 2 million Palestinians, virtually almost all the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, and under intensive bombings. And we know that Israel also bombed Palestinians fleeing on routes that it designated as safe. It also bombed Palestinians in the southern part of the strip early on, which it designated as safe. And, of course, under the conditions of the total siege, where we today — indeed, this measure did what it was intended to do, right? It created famine. It created the spread of infectious disease. It created a population that has no access to clean water, has no fuel, has no medical supply. It destroyed all the universities in Gaza. It destroyed a majority of the hospitals. It destroyed agricultural land. It targeted cultural sites. So, everything that we know historically that happens in genocide, and with this massive displacement that is now — we know that even if Israel’s attack stops now, many, many Palestinians will continue to die of these “conditions of life” — again, to quote the convention — that Israel deliberately created in order to bring about the physical destruction of the group, in whole or in part.

So I thought that it was very important that the ruling actually quoted and emphasized both the issues of intent and the dynamics of violence and the conditions that we see now on the ground. This is very, very significant. Again, the court is saying that there is plausibility that Israel is likely — has committed and is committing acts of genocide in Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: And what this means for the United States, Professor Segal?

RAZ SEGAL: Yeah, well, I mean, the —

AMY GOODMAN: And that the deliverer of the message, of course, the head of the court, is an American?

RAZ SEGAL: Yeah, I think that, you know, it’s difficult — it’s difficult to say. And I’m curious to see how the U.S. state will respond. I think that — I’m very curious to see, as I said, in the next few hours, beginning at noon today Eastern time, the case in California. Right? Because now the judge there has the ICJ ruling, so the judge knows that the World Court has ruled that Israel is likely committing a genocide.

I think that there will be growing pressure also on the U.S. in this sense. It’s difficult to say what the U.S. will do, but we do know, actually, that in Europe, there are more and more states — not Germany, but more and more states — that have already said and will, in various ways, need to abide by the court ruling, which may be very significant in terms of obstructing arms deals, refusing to facilitate transfer arms to Israel through Europe, and various other measures. You know, I think that, as I said before, any company, any university, any state around the world now — right? — knows that Israel is likely committing genocide, so the isolation of Israel. And I hope that we’ll also be seeing more and more calls for direct cutting of ties with Israel, academic boycotts in the U.S.

So, while U.S. state will definitely try, you know, to ignore the ruling — and we already see the headline in The New York Times right now, by the way, if people are following — right? — which frames this as the court did not issue an order for ceasefire, right? Which, in effect, it actually did, because if it — you know, as Professor Mamdani said, if it ordered — right? — that Israel should cease from genocidal acts, if it ordered that Israel should facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid, it actually said you have to cease fire, because, otherwise, there’s no ways of doing that, right? So, I think that the U.S., if judged by The New York Times right now, will try to ignore this as much as possible, but I think that the pressure is going to be — we’re just at the beginning of the pressure building up on this issue. So I think we might see some significant moves on this front, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: The court case you’re referring to in Oakland today, which will be fueled by the International Court of Justice response from The Hague, the Center for Constitutional Rights brought the lawsuit against President Biden, accusing him of failing to follow his obligations under international and U.S. law to prevent the genocide in Gaza, the complaint brought on behalf of Palestinians, including residents of Gaza, who are asking a federal court — asking a federal court to — let’s see if I can read this — a federal court to intervene to block Biden, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin from providing further military funding, arms and diplomatic support to Israel. Katherine Gallagher, a senior attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights and one of the lawyers who brought the case, said in a statement, “The United States has a clear and binding obligation to prevent, not further, genocide. So far, they have failed in both their legal, moral duty and considerable power to end this horror. They must do so.” Now, that’s the court case that’s happening in a few hours in Oakland.

I also wanted to read the response of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I’m reading from an article in Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper. He said the decision by the ICJ, quote, “'rightly rejected the outrageous demand to deny' Israel the right to basic self-defense to which it is entitled as a country. According to him, [quote] 'the very claim that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians is not just false, it is outrageous, and the court's willingness to discuss it at all is a mark of disgrace that will not be erased for generations.’”

I want to go back to Professor Mamdani, but first play more of the court decision as read out by the chief judge of the International Court of Justice, Joan Donoghue.

JUDGE JOAN DONOGHUE: During the ongoing conflict, senior United Nations officials have repeatedly called attention to the risk of further deterioration of conditions in the Gaza Strip. The court takes note, for instance, of the letter dated 6 December, 2023, whereby the secretary-general of the United Nations brought the following information to the attention of the Security Council.

I quote: “The healthcare system in Gaza is collapsing. Nowhere is safe in Gaza. Amid constant bombarding by the Israel Defense Forces and without shelter or the essentials to survive, I expect public order to break — to completely break down soon due to the desperate conditions rendering even limited humanitarian assistance impossible. An even worse situation could unfold, including epidemic diseases and increased pressure for mass displacement into neighboring countries. We are facing a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system. The situation is fast deteriorating into a catastrophe, with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians as a whole and for peace and security in the region. Such an outcome must be avoided at all costs,” end of quote.

On 5 January, 2024, the secretary-general wrote again to the Security Council, providing an update on the situation in the Gaza Strip and observing that — I quote — “Sadly, devastating levels of death and destruction continue,” end of quote.

The court also takes note of the 17 January, 2024, statement issued by the UNRWA commissioner-general upon return from his fourth visit to the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the current conflict in Gaza. I quote: “Every time I visit Gaza, I witness how people have sunk further into despair, with the struggle for survival consuming every hour,” end of quote.

The court considers that the civilian population in the Gaza Strip remains extremely vulnerable. It recalls that the military operation conducted by Israel after 7 October, 2023, has resulted inter alia in tens of thousands of deaths and injuries and the destruction of homes, schools, medical facilities and other vital infrastructure, as well as displacement on a massive scale. The court notes that the operation is ongoing and that the prime minister of Israel announced on 18 January, 2024, that the war — I quote — “will take many more long months,” end of quote.

At present, many Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have no access to the most basic foodstuffs, potable water, electricity, essential medicines or heating. The World Health Organization has estimated that 15% of the women giving birth in Gaza Strip are likely to experience complications, and indicates that maternal and newborn death rates are expected to increase due to the lack of access to medical care.

In these circumstances, the court considers that the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is at serious risk of deteriorating further before the court renders its final judgment. The court recalls Israel’s statement that it has taken certain steps to address and alleviate the conditions faced by the population in the Gaza Strip. The court further notes that the attorney general of Israel recently stated that a call for intentional harm to civilians may amount to a criminal offense, including that of incitement, and that several such cases are being examined by Israeli law enforcement authorities. While such steps are to be encouraged, they are insufficient to remove the risk that irreparable prejudice will be caused before the court issues its final decision in the case.

AMY GOODMAN: Joan Donoghue is the chief judge of the International Court of Justice, the U.N.'s highest court, reading out the decision of the ICJ at The Hague. When we come back, we'll continue our discussion with Mahmood Mamdani, with Diana Buttu and with Raz Segal. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Hal Asmar El-Lon,” “My Dear with the Brown Skin,” performed by Lena Chamamyan. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

As we get response to the International Court of Justice handing down its decision today at The Hague, we want to go right now to the State Department, the questioning of Matt Miller, State Department spokesperson, by the Associated Press reporter Matt Lee. This took place last week about Israel’s demolition of Al-Israa University in Gaza.

MATT LEE: I mean, it looks like a controlled demolition. It looks like what we do here in this country when we’re taking down an old hotel or a stadium. And you have nothing to say? You have nothing to say about this?

MATTHEW MILLER: I — I have —

MATT LEE: I mean, to do that kind of an explosion, you need to be in there. You have to put the explosives down, and it takes a lot of planning and preparation to do. And if there was a threat from this particular facility, they wouldn’t have been able to do it.

MATTHEW MILLER: So, I have seen the video. I can tell you that it is something we are raising with the government of Israel, as we do — often do, when we see —

MATT LEE: Well, “raising” is what? Like —

MATTHEW MILLER: When we see — to ask questions and find out what the underlying situation is, as we often do when we see reports of this nature. But I’m not able to characterize the actual facts on the ground before hearing that response.

MATT LEE: Yeah, but you saw the video.

MATTHEW MILLER: I did see the video. I don’t — I don’t know — I don’t know —

MATT LEE: I mean, it looks like people —

MATTHEW MILLER: I don’t know what was —

MATT LEE: It looks like, you know, a bridge being imploded or something.

MATTHEW MILLER: I don’t know what was under that — I don’t know what was under that building. I don’t know what was inside — 

MATT LEE: Well, yeah, but —

MATTHEW MILLER: — inside that building.

MATT LEE: But it doesn’t matter what was under the building, because they obviously got in there to put the explosives down to do it in the way that they did.

MATTHEW MILLER: So, again, I’m glad you have factual certainty, but I just — I just don’t.

MATT LEE: I don’t.

MATTHEW MILLER: I just don’t.

MATT LEE: All have is what I saw on the video, right?

MATTHEW MILLER: I — I just don’t. But I can say say —

MATT LEE: And I think you guys saw it, too.

MATTHEW MILLER: We did see it. I can say that we have raised it with the government of Israel.

MATT LEE: And it’s not troubling to you?

MATTHEW MILLER: We are always troubled by the — by any degradation of civilian infrastructure in Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s State Department spokesperson Matt Miller being questioned by the AP reporter Matt Lee.

We’re continuing our discussion and talking about facts on the ground in Gaza. We’ll start with professor Mahmood Mamdani, professor of government at Columbia University, the School of International and Public Affairs, SIPA, specializing in the study of colonialism.

You are a professor, Professor Mamdani. If you can talk about the response of professors here to the destruction of universities, cultural spaces in Gaza, and the significance of this, and where you think this preliminary ruling of the ICJ — how you think it will affect what’s being described today?

MAHMOOD MAMDANI: Well, I think the more facts come to light, the more Israel’s actions in Gaza look like a textbook case of genocide. This calculated destruction of a people’s intellectual resources and intellectual legacy is not something which just has a short-term impact or is based on a short-term consideration. It is aimed at a long-term resolution of this question.

Already there is considerable concern amongst faculty at Columbia University. For the last few days, I’ve been seeing emails going around with photographs of this, what the AP reporter called “controlled demolition,” premeditated demolition. And people are asking Columbia University to take action, to declare where they stand. And this will go on.

One thing I am struck by as sort of evidence mounts is that the court ruling relied on two sources of information. One was U.N. commissions. And the second was statements by Israeli leaders themselves. Nothing else. And in doing so, it followed, almost strictly, the South African application, because the South African application also drew its facts not from other sources, but from U.N. commissions.

And now we have got a situation where the court has asked Israel to report back in a month and tell the court what it has done to comply with its decision, and given South Africa the right to comment on this report back by Israel. This is going to be another round of not just PR, because this is going to be a controlled process.

So I think we’re onto good territory. We are onto a territory which will bring more and more facts to light. And therefore we are onto a territory which will permit increased political mobilization based on these facts, especially in the U.S. and Israel, because these are the two countries where there has been minimal information in the mass media on what’s been going on in Gaza. Now this will become open territory.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring in Diana Buttu again as we begin to wrap the show. Yesterday, Ryan Grim in The Intercept wrote, “I was at the State Department briefing today and asked if the U.S. would pledge not to veto the International Court of Justice’s preliminary ruling on the genocide charges against Israel.” If you can respond to what that means, what this process is? And again, what’s happening on the ground now in Gaza, with Israel dropping more leaflets in what was a safe space, which was Khan Younis, and this parade of humanity and misery of hundreds, if not thousands, going south from Khan Younis?

DIANA BUTTU: Well, Amy, I’m sure you saw the response. And the response was a typical American administration word salad.

And the reason that I think it’s so important for us to continue to press ahead is because what Israel has had in mind is two things since the beginning of this attack on Gaza. First, it has made it clear that it wants to make Gaza smaller in size, and they’ve made it clear that they want to, quote, “thin out” the population. So it’s the combination of genocide and ethnic cleansing and taking more Palestinian land. And that’s why, from the beginning, it was clear to anybody who was paying attention that Israel was going to begin in the north, but then suddenly, magically, move to the south as everybody had looked the other way. And this is precisely what’s happening.

So, now what Israel is doing is not only just dropping leaflets in Khan Younis. There isn’t a single place that has been safe in Gaza from day one. And the intention is clear. If you want to get medical treatment, even now or a day after the bombing ends, you’re going to have to seek it elsewhere. If you want to get education, you’re going to have to go elsewhere. If you want to have a home and have a normal life, you’re going to have to go elsewhere.

And so, it’s this combination of genocide and ethnic cleansing that Israel has been pushing forward from day one. And the problem is, of course, that the United States has been not only an enabler for Israel, but it’s been blocking any other effort to try to stop this process of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

AMY GOODMAN: And the issue of this court decision — and we just have 10 seconds — going to the U.N. Security Council, if violated?

DIANA BUTTU: Yeah, so, under the rules of the International Court of Justice, states must oblige. They’re obliged to uphold the rules of the ICJ, the decisions. But if they do not, they can go to the U.N. Security Council. And so, I suspect that we will be seeing this at the Security Council. The real question is whether the United States is going to use that veto or abstain.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you all for being with us today. Diana Buttu, Palestinian human rights attorney, former adviser to the negotiating team of the Palestine Liberation Organization. In 2004, she was part of the legal team that won a case before the International Court of Justice, which ruled Israel’s separation wall in the West Bank is illegal under international law, speaking to us from Haifa, Israel. Raz Segal, Israeli historian and professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at Stockton University. And Mahmood Mamdani, professor of government at Columbia University.

That does it for our show. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.

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