When we began in 1989 to discuss the graduation thesis of one of our colleagues, while we were in our final year in the Department of Political Science at the Faculty of Economics and Political Science – Cairo University, on nuclear cooperation between South Africa and Israel – none of us had in mind at the time that a day would come when this African country would be… The mission is at the forefront of those standing against Israel among all the countries of the world.
Rather, the end of apartheid, and the emergence of the great freedom fighter Nelson Mandela from prison to the throne, seemed to us a winged fantasy, and if we expected it, we could not hope for it to come until decades later.
South Africa emerged from the ordeal of discrimination against blacks believing in Mandela’s saying: “We forgive, but do not forget,” and then became faithful to this principle.
And because she did not forget, her approach to the war waged by Israel on Gaza emerged from the heart of a bitter experience she lived, which began with replacement settler colonialism, then an armed struggle in which much blood was shed. A peaceful struggle, which created a state of international sympathy for those who were discriminated against, was translated into ostracism, boycott, and the imposition of isolation. On the racist system of government, he was eventually forced to abandon his perception, understanding, laws, procedures, perceptions, and method of managing the state and society, so that it collapsed and a democratic state was established on its ruins, equalizing white and black citizens in rights and duties.
All of this history now constitutes a cognitive framework with which Johannesburg approaches international issues, and now it has applied it to Gaza, and it has no choice but to file a lawsuit before the International Court of Justice, accusing Israel of carrying out “genocide” in this narrow geographical sector, which was not limited to humans. But it also affected the stone.
Perhaps South Africa's taking this courageous step will gain importance and momentum from that experience, that framework, and even from the image with which this African country looks to the entire world, and part of it is definitely related to the issue of the Palestinian people. Because he also faces colonial settler colonialism, and lives behind dividing walls that have turned the Gaza Strip and the West Bank into two large prisons, while the occupation practices clear and scandalous discrimination against those who remain of this people inside Israel since 1948, and who hold its nationality.
Also within the picture, and even in its heart, is South Africa’s representation of the world with its races and cultures, as we found among the members of the team that pleads before the judges of the International Court of Justice those of European, African and Asian origins, and within the entire country there is a representation of the three religions that are most in conflict with the Palestinian issue, which are: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
South Africa is adding a new dimension to this popular image today with its intervention to save the Palestinian people, as every free and fair human being in this world has no choice but to say from the depths of himself, from the bottom of his heart, and with all his voice: Thank you, South Africa.
Extremism and arrogance
Comparing the position of Mandela’s country with others indicates a general awareness of two basic things: The first is that, as is the case with individuals, there are countries that are honorable and others that are humiliated, and countries that are brave and others that are cowardly, and the second: that all those who aspire to love and respect Mandela stem from the fact that his person, his path, and his people fully deserve this.
All of this makes South Africa’s response to the Israeli aggression through the International Court of Justice have stronger merit and authority, relying on the entity and image of this country, and the role it has played in resolving and settling conflicts on the African continent over the course of nearly a quarter of a century, as well as the popularity it has gained in recent days.
Perhaps for this reason, some Israelis realized that going to the International Court of Justice, for the first time – and in the hands of South Africa in particular – represents severe international pressure on them, which must be dealt with seriously, and this is what actually happened when Israel attended the trial and defended itself, while there were voices within it. Drenched in extremism and arrogance, she calls for not appearing in court at all.
If there are Israelis who mock this entire matter, on the basis that the court will eventually go to the Security Council, and in the end there is the United States of America that will use its veto power, then these reckless people do not realize that what happened at the International Court of Justice is a declaration of the fall of Israel morally, and this represents a prelude to a very high political price that it will inevitably pay, and with it, of course, Washington if it insists on defending the Israeli killing machine without consideration or deliberation.
Fake paint falls off
Israel may not abide by the decision to stop the war if it is issued by the court, but condemning it – and even exposing and denouncing it in front of the world in this way – dedicates its stripping of the positive image it has promoted for itself for decades, and increases the world’s sympathy for the Palestinian cause.
Now it is no longer difficult to redraw the mental image of the Palestinians, which has been severely distorted by Israel and its planning. Before, there were many problems facing this distortion, but now the pushback and response will rely on a legal and logical dimension that South Africa presented before an international court, and its presentation was spread throughout the entire world, through traditional and new media at the same time.
Even if Israel escaped the crime of “genocide,” which requires intent or criminal intent, what it committed against the Gazans is – without any doubt – war crimes and crimes against humanity. It must stop, and do not wait for the court to issue a ruling later, even if it does not. If Israel complies with this, international discontent against it will increase, and all the attractive colorful paints behind which the clear truth is hidden will fall, which is that the Palestinians are under occupation, and that this is the root of the disease and affliction, and without treating it, no settlement or peace will be achieved, and the blood will continue to flow, the fire will burn, and the pain will continue. Screaming.
Perhaps Israel itself is well aware of this, and is trying to hide it, as its defender did before the court, where he did not mention the occupier, either explicitly or implicitly, but rather tried to evade his responsibility for the people under occupation, when he responded to Israel’s accusation of deliberately thirsting and starving the Palestinians by saying: Egypt is responsible for the Rafah crossing, ignoring six crossings between Israel and Gaza, which were closed, to tighten the siege on the Strip.
It is expected that Israel will face pressures in the coming days to push it to carry out the responsibilities of the occupation, and the most important thing is to crystallize the position of the Palestinians as an “occupied people,” a fact that has been obscured, sometimes in the name of the establishment of a formal or sham Palestinian authority, and sometimes by using the pretext of the existence of movements and organizations that reject the existence of Israel, and does not want peace with it.
But most importantly – and this is what is already at hand – the step taken by South Africa will make it difficult for Israel to move forward with the plan to displace the Palestinians, whether outside the Gaza Strip – as is proposed now – or in the West Bank, as Tel Aviv intends in the future.
Yes, this plan is fundamentally foiled by the steadfastness of the people of Gaza, and the overwhelming majority of them insisting on remaining in their land, even if living there is extremely dangerous while the war continues, or extremely difficult after the war ends, due to the destruction of the basic infrastructure of life there, but Israel is accused of “Genocide” – and her having to defend herself – will make her hand tied in expelling the Palestinians from their land.
The image of Israel after January 11, 2024 will be different from what it was before, and this would not have been possible, had it not been for the important step taken by South Africa. It then prepared a compelling argument for it and presented it with a clear language that not only reflects the ability of its elite to manage the crisis, but also Also her belief that confronting killing, injustice and discrimination is a moral duty for states.