Lining up behind Palestine

Hussein Haridy
Tuesday 28 May 2024

Both the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice are holding Israel to account for the war on Gaza, while more and more European countries are recognising the State of Palestine, writes Hussein Haridy


Last week was not the best of weeks for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or for extreme right-wing ministers Bezalel Smotrich, the finance minister, and Itamer Ben-Gvir, the national security minister.

On 20 May, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Karim Khan requested that the court judges issue arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Israeli Minister of Defence Yaov Gallant, indicting them on charges of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

On 22 May, three European countries announced that they would recognise the State of Palestine – Norway, Ireland, and Spain. Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said that his country would take this highly significant step by 28 May.

Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris made a very strong case for the recognition of the State of Palestine, drawing important parallels between the fight of the Palestinians for self-determination and that of the Irish people.

“From our own history we know what it means, recognition is an act of powerful political and symbolic value,” Harris said, noting that on 21 January, 1919, Ireland had also asked the world to recognise its right to independence.

He added that the intended message to the free world had been a plea for the international recognition of Irish independence “emphasising our distinct national identity, our historical struggle, and our right to self-determination and justice.”

He said that the Irish decision to recognise the State of Palestine was an acknowledgement that Israel and the State of Palestine had an equal right to exist. Ireland “has for many decades recognised the State of Israel and its right to exist in peace and security. We had hoped to recognise Palestine as part of a two-state peace deal but instead we recognise Palestine to keep the hope of that two-state solution alive,” he added.

Another important element in his remarks was the acknowledgement that “Hamas is not the Palestinian people, and here in Ireland, better than in most countries in the world, we know what it is like when a terrorist organisation seeks to highjack your identity and seeks to speak for you.”

It goes without saying that I do not consider Hamas to be a “terrorist organisation.”

At the same time Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said that Spain would recognise the State of Palestine on 28 May, adding that he believed that Netanyahu has put the two-state solution at risk.

In March, Norway, Ireland, Spain, Slovenia, and Malta announced in a joint statement that they would recognise the State of Palestine. Slovenia declared officially on 9 May that its government would request the approval of parliament for the official recognition of the State of Palestine by 13 June.

The Israeli reactions were unsurprising in their vehemence and their disconnection from reality.

Smotrich said on 2 May that he had told Netanyahu that he would no longer send due tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Speaking of the three European countries that had made the recognition announcements on 22 May, Israeli Spokesperson Eytan Fuld said that “they are acting against Israel legally, diplomatically and for unilateral recognition,” before issuing the usual hollow warnings. “When they act against the state of Israel, there must be a response.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz, an extremist member of the Likud Party, said undiplomatically that he was “sending a clear and unequivocal message to Ireland and Norway: Israel will not remain silent in the face of those undermining its sovereignty and endangering its security.”

He threatened Spain that Israel would retaliate if it recognises the State of Palestine. “Israel will not remain silent – there will be further severe consequences,” he said. “If Spain follows through on its intention to recognise a Palestinian state, a similar step will be taken against it.”

On 24 May, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), taking up a request by the South African government, ordered Israel to end its military operations in the Rafah area, which “may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

The ruling, approved by 13 of the court’s 15 judges, came in response to the “disastrous” humanitarian situation in Gaza. The court also asked the Israeli government to ensure “unimpeded access into the Gaza Strip of any commission of inquiry, fact-finding mission or other investigative body” mandated by the UN to investigate allegations of genocide.

It required the Israeli government to submit a report within a month on the implementation of the rulings of the court, which had called at the same time for the immediate and unconditional release of the Israeli hostages held in Gaza.

Netanyahu’s office described the genocide accusations as “false, outrageous, and disgusting.” Israel would not “carry out a military campaign in the Rafah area that creates living conditions that could lead to the destruction of the Palestinian civilian population, in whole or in part,” it said.

However, this is exactly what the Israeli army has been doing in Gaza for the last eight months. There has been a campaign of eradication there that has cost the lives of thousands of innocent Palestinians with more than 75,000 wounded and maimed, particularly women and children.

The history of Israel since its establishment in 1948 after the first Palestinian Nakba has taught us never to trust Israeli promises. And the Israelis have never missed a chance to prove us wrong.

On 26 May, the Israeli army targeted a Palestinian encampment in Rafah, killing 40 people and wounding scores of others. As usual, the Israeli army said it was targeting “terrorists.”

No one should believe a word it says. The ultimate Israeli objective is to push the Palestinians out of their homes and the land of their ancestors. We are witnessing a second Nakba.


The writer is former assistant foreign minister.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 29 May, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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