Wednesday 10 January 2024

Landmark day at the ICJ - will our own politicians now endorse South Africa's admirable case against Israel's genocide in Gaza?

Having invoked the 1948 Genocide Convention, the state of South Africa brings a forensically-detailed 84-page indictment against Israel to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). 

In a landmark intervention, South Africa is seeking to show that statements made by a range of Israel’s top political and military leaders, and the actions which have followed, demonstrate clear intent to commit genocide:

“According to the application, “acts and omissions by Israel … are genocidal in character, as they are committed with the requisite specific intent … to destroy Palestinians in Gaza as a part of the broader Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group” and that “the conduct of Israel – through its state organs, state agents, and other persons and entities acting on its instructions or under its direction, control or influence – in relation to Palestinians in Gaza, is in violation of its obligations under the genocide convention.””

South Africa is also asking for an interim ruling from the ICJ for “special measures” requiring Israel to “immediately suspend its military operations in and against Gaza”, bringing about a durable ceasefire, and for aid to be allowed into Gaza unimpeded by Israel. 

As a signatory to the Convention, and facing growing international pressure, Israel has decided to defend itself at this first hearing in The Hague. 

Whether it complies with any findings against it seems a lot less certain. Yet a test case in June 2001 firmly established that the ICJ’s rulings were binding, given the court’s “basic function of judicial settlement of international disputes.”

Whatever their response, any ruling against Israel by the court would bring not only major ‘reputational’ damage, but an obligation on other states and international bodies to prevent Israel carrying out its genocidal acts.  

Crucially, South Africa's case also puts Israel’s western allies directly in the frame for aiding and abetting their genocidal crimes. As Jonathan Cook notes, citing leaked cables:

“Israel expects support from western capitals because they have nearly as much to fear from a verdict against Israel as Israel itself. They have staunchly backed the killing spree, with the US and UK, in particular, sending weapons that are being used against the people of Gaza, making both potentially complicit.”

Israel's defence lawyers, he points out, also have a more immediate concern:   

“Israel’s “strategic goal” at the court, according to the leaked cable, is to dissuade the judges from making a determination that it is committing genocide. But more pressing is Israel’s need to prevent the Hague court from ordering an interim halt to the attack.”

In other words, Israel is seeking legal authorisation to continue the genocide. 

Over 23,000 people have now been systematically murdered in Gaza, with thousands more still unaccounted for, and over 60,000 wounded. Gaza's entire infrastructure of homes, hospitals, schools, mosques, churches, courts and every other civil building has been decimated. Starved and homeless, over 2 million people face an existential crisis, with generations of trauma to come. 

How much longer will news reports talk of an “impending” humanitarian catastrophe? It’s already here. 

And all of that's after 17 years of brutal siege and concentration camp existence. 

As footage of Israel’s horrific crimes in Gaza continue to emerge, the genocidal intent is now overwhelming. An entire population is being targeted, bombed and erased. Refugee camps are attacked without mercy. Hundreds are being murdered daily, death on an industrial scale. With ruthless precision, over 100 journalists have been targeted and killed. With not the slightest regard for the Geneva Conventions, prisoners are tied, stripped and paraded on the back of trucks. Homes, schools and places of worship, what's left of them, are violated. Mass graves are desecrated. People are randomly shot dead in the street.  

In one such incident, a group of civilians, mainly women and children, walk through a bombed out street waving white flags. 
A shot rings out from above and one of the women, a grandmother, lies dead on the floor, others fleeing and screaming in panic. It's a callous, heartbreaking scene, one of so many, repeated daily across the West Bank too. 

Now the ICJ will finally hear and see vivid evidence of such atrocities. 

Using the 'G' word

While the case for due justice is pursued, the terrible spectacle of Gaza is helping to bring the word ‘genocide’ itself into common usage when speaking about Israel's war crimes. 

From ‘occupation’ to ‘apartheid’ and now to ‘genocide’, all this terminology now has the stamp of international authenticity. It’s an established vocabulary of legal reference, as well as a rising language of public outrage. Despite constant media suppression, the ICJ case gives a massive boost to Israel’s crimes now being talked of specifically as genocidal. 

South Africa's case has also been endorsed by a significant number of other states:

  • The Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC): The 57-member bloc, which includes Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and Morocco, voiced their support for the case on December 30.
  • Malaysia: In a statement released on January 2, the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the South African application. It reiterated a call for an independent Palestinian state “based on the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital”.
  • Turkey: Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Oncu Keceli posted on X on January 3 welcoming South Africa’s move.
  • Jordan: Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on January 4 that Amman would back South Africa.
  • Bolivia: On Sunday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bolivia dubbed South Africa’s move as historic, becoming the first Latin American country to back the ICJ case against Israel.
  • The Maldives, Namibia and Pakistan: The three countries expressed support for the genocide case filed by South Africa during a UN General Assembly session on Tuesday.

All of which provides impetus for forcing our own elected politicians to speak and act accordingly.

That task looks like an onerous one with regard to Sunak and Starmer, who won’t even bring themselves to approve a ceasefire. But, as noted, they will also now be deeply aware of the potential legal - as well as political - consequences of withholding such support and facilitating the genocide.    

In Scotland, First Minister Humza Yousaf has gone considerably beyond the UK and called Israel’s actions in Gaza “a textbook case of ethnic cleansing”. A welcome statement. But he could have been even more specific and accurate in calling it “a textbook case of genocide”.

Despite voting for a ceasefire and an UNRWA-led aid/refugee programme, the Scottish Government has also failed to use its available powers to break ties with, and sanction, Israel, including over the production of weapons/components in Scotland for supply to the regime. 

The task of calling out genocide is also being actioned across many cities. Just as Barcelona now stands in dedicated support of Gaza and the Palestinians, pressure is being mounted in Glasgow for its council to denounce the genocide and initiate a motion of meaningful support for Gaza and the Palestinian people.

Four months into this catastrophic emergency, it's truly shameful that so many of our political class continue to utter unctuous words about ‘humanitarian concerns’. 

Until they speak about Israel’s blanket slaughter, physical destruction and ethnic expulsion as precisely genocidal, they are effectively complicit in those crimes. 

Indeed - not that they should need it - South Africa’s admirable case before the ICJ now gives them the most perfect ‘political cover’ to do so. How afraid must they be to raise their heads above the political parapet when the nation that momentously broke apartheid is now standing up against the apartheid oppression and genocidal killing of Palestinians? As Mandela himself famously said: 

“We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

As South Africa’s historic case opens at the ICJ, here are some simple words you can ask your own local councillor, MSP or MP to endorse and propose:

This Council/Parliament welcomes the application of the South African government to the International Court of Justice calling for formal investigation of Israel under the 1948 Genocide Convention. 

We condemn Israel's genocide in Gaza, and affirm our support for the Palestinian people. 

The responses we get back, if any, will allow us to hand down our own verdict on their compliance or complicity.   

Whatever the ultimate outcome at the ICJ, we will at least know that we asked the right questions, denounced the genocide in Gaza, and stood on the right side of history. 

Glasgow for Gaza - street performance at City Chambers

"Last weekend, we held the first demo of the year 2024 in front of Glasgow City Chambers, and it was truly a momentous occasion. The energy and passion were palpable as we came together to raise our voices for justice and solidarity. One of the highlights of the day was a thought-provoking role play, where kids bravely depicted the harsh reality of what’s happening in Palestine. Their performance served as a powerful reminder of the urgency and importance of standing up against injustice." 

Watch here on X 

Watch here on Instagram 

Watch here on Facebook

Produced by Gaza Genocide Emergency Committee (GGEC)

Tuesday 19 December 2023

Final word from the establishment club: BBC's false headline claim on October 7 deaths upheld by BBC's Executive Complaints Unit

The BBC's Executive Complaints Unit have rejected my complaint over the BBC's headline claims that Hamas forces alone were responsible for the deaths of Israelis on 7 October 2023.     

The original complaint and preceding set of exchanges can be read here, here and here

The ECU's letter, followed by my observations:

British Broadcasting Corporation Level 1, 

Executive Complaints Unit

99 Great Portland Street, 

London W1W 7NY

Telephone: 020 8743 8000


BBC News

Our ref: CAS-7679120

13 December 2023 

Dear Mr Hilley

Thank you for your email to the Executive Complaints Unit. 

You complained about the BBC’s coverage of the 7 October attacks, which you said failed to cover claims that some of those who died in Israel had died because of IDF actions, and it was therefore misleading to report the numbers of dead (initially 1,400, revised to 1,200) as having been killed by Hamas.

As your complaint does not cite any one specific programme/online material, it isn’t possible to assess in detail here whether any particular output met the corporation’s editorial standards. 

We therefore considered yours as a “general” complaint, in line with the process set out in the BBC’s complaints framework.

The BBC’s guidelines describe a requirement to meet “due” accuracy – that which is “adequate and appropriate” in the context. Audiences should not be “materially misled”. 

As I say, you have not pointed to any single piece of content where this may have happened. 

Specifically, you have not shown how the idea that some (you do not say how many) of those who died in the Hamas attacks may have been victims of IDF actions would give audiences a misleading impression of what happened. 

Without specific content to investigate we can only consider your complaint in general terms, or look at the context of what was aired. 

It may, for instance, be that the figures which you dispute were assigned to the Israeli military, rather than presented as statements of uncontested fact.

It is a matter of fact the attacks occurred, as reported here and here and that many civilians died from Hamas actions. It is not clear to me how you feel audiences would be materially misled about those actions because some of the many hundreds who died may have been casualties of “friendly fire”, or how what you call the “public perception” of subsequent events in Gaza would be impacted on, given you do not appear to dispute that Hamas fighters attacked, killed, and kidnapped civilians including children and the elderly.

In support of your complaint you cite an article on The Electronic Intifada, a partisan campaigning website. By contrast I am not aware of any respected news organisation or impartial body which has cast significant doubt on the official figures – the UN referred to over 1,200 people having died. 

Haaretz quoted a police source as suggesting a helicopter may have hit some festival attendees, but this falls some way short of disproving the number to which you object.

Again, it is not clear to me how the idea that some (presumably, from the reporting you cite, a relatively low number) of the many hundreds who died and the thousands who were wounded might have been unintentional victims of IDF responses to the attack serves to materially mislead audiences. 

A distinction can be made between innocent people killed by terrorists in an attack and innocent people accidentally killed by forces seeking to repel a terror attack. 

I do not however believe this has the significance you assign to it, since in both cases the fatalities arise as a result of the attack and given it is in any case inarguable that many hundreds of people were brutally killed by Hamas fighters. 

That is the salient fact of the attack and you have not cast doubt on it.

This represents the final word of the BBC on this issue and general complaints of the kind you have raised would not usually fall within Ofcom’s remit. 

But you can, if you wish, ask for their opinion. Details of how they assess complaints about the BBC can be found here.

Yours sincerely

Richard Hutt 

Complaints Director


Unsurprisingly, the ECU has not upheld my complaint. To do so would have been to expose the BBC’s lamentable journalism, its failure to report open source evidence, and its service to establishment power. In peddling this set of excuses for the BBC, the ECU shows that it is no less a part of the same establishment. 

Richard Hutt's convoluted reasons for rejecting my complaint starts with the falsehood that it included no specific example of BBC output. 

In fact, my original letter of complaint - which is what the ECU were tasked with considering - references two clear examples:


I offered another linked reference in my second letter to the BBC.

And my final letter to the ECU itself referenced a further updated piece drawing together all the main sources and evidence to date, most importantly evidence drawn from Israeli media sources. 

So much for diligent observation and adjudication. 


The ECU letter states:

“In support of your complaint you cite an article on The Electronic Intifada, a partisan campaigning website. By contrast I am not aware of any respected news organisation or impartial body which has cast significant doubt on the official figures – the UN referred to over 1,200 people having died.”

The ECU may dismiss Electronic Intifada as “partisan”, but won’t address the actual evidence cited by it, or point to any faults in its journalism.  Likewise with the Grayzone and other notable journalists covering this story.  

Many reading this will also note the dark irony of the BBC itself being elevated, in supposed contrast, as a “respected news organisation”. 

Yes, Electronic Intifada is “partisan” in its defence of Palestine. In lodging this complaint, I too am “partisan”. But the BBC has also shown itself to be no less partisan in its selective reporting of this issue. And Richard Hutt for the ECU is equally partisan in his tortured reasons for defending it. 

The ECU letter goes on:

“Haaretz quoted a police source as suggesting a helicopter may have hit some festival attendees, but this falls some way short of disproving the number to which you object.”

So, at least a token acknowledgment of a report from the Israeli press, as cited by Electronic Intifada, but quickly dismissed as failing to “[disprove] the number to which you object.” 

Yet the point of my complaint wasn’t to ‘prove’ any actual number. It was to ask that the BBC investigate the claims behind the stated number, and report with due journalistic integrity any part of that number that may have included killings by Israel. 

Incredibly, the ECU letter proceeds to dismiss the actual significance of whether Israel killed other Israelis in the course of its military response on 7 October, and what relevance any such evidence would have for BBC audiences:

“Again, it is not clear to me how the idea that some (presumably, from the reporting you cite, a relatively low number) of the many hundreds who died and the thousands who were wounded might have been unintentional victims of IDF responses to the attack serves to materially mislead audiences.”

So it’s enough, apparently, for the BBC and ECU to take Israel’s word that it didn’t kill other Israelis. And even if it did kill its own civilians, the ECU concludes, this too must be laid at the door of Hamas. 

The issue here isn’t about Israel’s supposed “friendly fire”. It’s about deployment of Israel's “Hannibal Directive”, wherein Israeli forces took conscious decisions to sacrifice Israeli civilians in the course of their attacks

The BBC’s part in denying that this happened most certainly “serves to materially mislead audiences.”

Facing growing criticism from within Israel, its military now concedes that, indeed, it did kill Israelis “in immense and complex quantity”Relatives of those killed in Israel are now calling for a formal investigation into the circumstances of 7 October. 

In another rigorous piece, Asa Winstanley for Electronic Intifada reveals more damning admissions that Israel killed many of its own people in Hannibal-type attacks. 

And a further key article from prize-winning journalist Jonathan Cook reaffirms the evidence of Israel’s Hannibal-minded killings, asking why major news outlets like the BBC have failed to investigate or highlight such evidence. 

As Cook notes, in refusing to question Israel’s unchecked atrocity stories, the BBC and many other journalists have allowed the regime a significant degree of ‘legitimacy’ for its horror attacks, and are thus complicit in the slaughter of Gaza. 

With strong and growing evidence that Israel deliberately killed many of its own people on 7 October, the ECU’s upholding of the BBC's false headline claims stands as yet another blatant deception, giving a further green light to the continued mass killing of Palestinians.