Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The International Court of Justice ruled Friday that Israel must immediately cease its ongoing invasion of Rafah governorate in southern Gaza on the grounds that it is having a genocidal impact. The court’s ruling went this way:

    The State of Israel shall, in conformity with its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and in view of the worsening conditions of life faced by civilians in the Rafah Governorate:

    (a) By thirteen votes to two,

    Immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

    IN FAVOUR: President Salam; Judges Abraham, Yusuf, Xue, Bhandari, Iwasawa, Nolte, Charlesworth, Brant, Gómez Robledo, Cleveland, Aurescu, Tladi; – 2 – AGAINST : Vice-President Sebutinde; Judge ad hoc Barak

Some observers were disappointed that the court did not order an immediate ceasefire but limited itself to forbidding the Rafah campaign. Apparently the judges were concerned to distinguish firmly between war-fighting and its inevitable toll, and genocidal actions having the effect of bringing about the destruction of a people in whole or part. They judged that a full-scale Rafah invasion would have that effect but didn’t go so far as to see the war itself in that light.

President Joe Biden had also said that invading Rafah would be a red line because there is no way to ensure the welfare of the civilian, noncombatant population. Israel had ethnically cleansed northern Gaza and forced over a million Palestinians to the south, where they were living in tents impossibly crowded tenement buildings amidst squalor. The population of Rafah had only been about 300,000 but it swelled to a million and a half. Shooting into their midst or bombing these dense settlements, as Israel is now doing, is sure to inflict massive killing and wounding on women, children and noncombatant men.

Biden, having set a red line, however, has watched helplessly as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rogues gallery of ultra-right cabinet members have ordered several brigades into Rafah. Some 900,000 civilians have now again been ethnically cleansed and are seeking shelter in largely destroyed cities in the middle of the Strip, or are being forced with no food or water into the wilderness. Israel has largely halted food and aid shipments as part of the invasion.

If Biden is serious about his red line, he will abstain when the UN Security Council takes up the ICJ ruling, and allow it to place sanctions on Israel for showing contempt of court.

The likelihood, however, is that Israel will continue to enjoy impunity, guaranteed by the United States.

Al Jazeera English Video:”ICJ orders Israel to end its Rafah offensive | Al Jazeera Newsfeed”

The ICJ was set up after WW II to adjudicate disputes between United Nations members. South Africa prevailed in convincing the court last winter that since both Israel and South Africa are signatories to the 1948 Genocide convention, Pretoria has standing to sue the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over its actions in the Gaza Strip. In January, South Africa sought what we in this country would call a preliminary injunction. For instance, say you sue a company for polluting a river, but you know that it will take years for the court to issue a verdict. You can ask the judge to issue a preliminary injunction against the company spewing pollution into the river until the case can be decided. On January 26, the court ruled again in South Africa’s favor, judging that there is a plausible case that Israel is committing genocide and it should cease immediately those war strategies that would potentially come under that heading.

The Netanyahu government has thumbed its nose at these rulings, and despite some tut-tutting, the Biden administration has fully backed the continuation of the war, resupplying Israel with arms and ammunition for it in real time.

Aid NGOS active in Gaza now say that as a result of the Israeli attack on Rafah, people are thirsting to death or getting sick because they are being denied potable water and hygiene.

The UN’s OCHA reports,

    On 22 May, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) reported that some displaced people in central Gaza are surviving on just three per cent of the internationally recognized minimum requirements. According to humanitarian standards, the minimum amount of water needed in an emergency is 15 litres, which includes water for drinking, washing, and cooking. For survival alone, the estimated minimum is three litres per day.

    This is the case, for instance, at a shelter visited by the IRC [International Rescue Committee] that houses 10,000 people and receives just 4,000 litres of water per day, translating to about 0.4 litres per person, for drinking, washing, cooking and cleaning.

    The IRC stressed that this situation is forcing people to rely on unsafe water sources like seawater and agricultural wells, and the lack of adequate water quantities is contributing to dehydration.

    In the absence of sanitation facilities, displaced people are also building their own makeshift latrines, with up to 600 individuals sharing a single latrine, a situation exacerbated by the scarcity or unaffordability of hygiene supplies.

    Within this context, communicable diseases, including diarrhoea and suspected Hepatitis A, continue to increase, with children under the age of five being particularly affected.

If you don’t think putting hundreds of thousands of people in this situation is genocidal, then frankly there’s nothing I can do for you because you are either not being honest with yourself and the world, or you are a sociopath lacking basic empathy.

CARE reports that the new flood of refugees to places such as Deir al-Balah lack basic medical facilities for maternal and pediatric care, and there is a danger of a lot of dead babies and mothers.

Interfering in a people’s ability safely to reproduce themselves is an element of genocide to which the International Court of Justice refered in its January 26 ruling.

The likelihood is that despite the coourt ruling, Washington will run interference for the genocidal policies of Tel Aviv, and that this carnage will continue for months to come. In the next stage, more people will die of disease, given the lack of hygienic facilities, than have been killed by Israel’s indiscriminate bombing and shelling — over 35,000 at present not counting thousands more under the rubble, the majority of them women and children.