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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 5 February 3, 2024

Palestinians have a right to self defence | Venkatesh Narayanan and Sandeep Pandey

Saturday 3 February 2024, by Sandeep Pandey


After having pounded Gaza for over three months killing more than 26,000 Palestinians, during the course of which Israel also attacked Children’s hospitals and refugee camps in West Bank, on the pretext of flushing out Hamas fighters from there, Israel, with the help of its western allies, is doing the most unthinkable thing – trying to stop the humanitarian help to the beleaguered citizens of Gaza reaching through United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. If in the opinion of International Court of Justice what is happening in Gaza is not genocide yet - it merely said that Israel’s conduct in the Gaza war risked acts of genocide - then this effort of Israel would certainly convince the world that indeed Israel is committing genocide by preventing food and medical aid reach the hapless Gazans.

During the ICJ hearing, Israel’s Prime Minister - Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been almost universally reviled globally and within Israel, reiterated that Israel would continue to bomb Gaza regardless of the ICJ verdict, or ongoing global outrage at his genocidal military campaign. He reiterated the "No one will stop us, not The Hague, not the axis of evil and not anyone else". To clarify to the confused billions, the "Axis of Evil" he was referring to was not Israel, the US, UK, and the western governments but the international community’s near universal condemnation of and pressure to end Israel’s crimes in Gaza. Netanyahu furthered claimed that he would continue the heinous massacres till the population of Gaza thinned out to about 200,000 from its current 2.2 Million: Netanyahu’s Goal for Gaza: “Thin” Population “to a Minimum”

South Africa’s courageous decision to take Israel to the Hague has given a legal forum for the international advocacy for a ceasefire, and beyond that, advocacy to end the ongoing Nakba, Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians since 1948. Both South Africa and Israel are signatories to the 1948 Genocide Convention which gives the ICJ the jurisdiction to rule on disputes over the treaty.

Ironically, the Genocide Convention was the first human rights treaty adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 9 December 1948 and signified the international community’s commitment to prevent the atrocities committed against Jews in the Holocaust from repeating - for any group - under the rallying cry of “never again”. Israel has ratified the convention. Israel thumbs its nose at this convention, perpetrating the same crime committed against the very people in whose name it now claims to act. Jewish groups like JVP and Rabbis for Ceasefire have vocally protested against Israel, insisting that never again means never again for anyone and that genocide will not be committed in their name.

At least a dozen countries backed the South African legal team - Belgium, Maldives, Namibia, Bolivia, Turkey, Jordan, Malaysia, Pakistan Columbia, Bangladesh, Brazil, and more than 50 countries of the OIC and the Arab League. The Indian government - probably wary of its participative background of pogroms in Gujarat and its occupation of Kashmir- stayed noncommittal on the sidelines. A shameful episode which many of us noticed.

The ICJ has ruled that Israel must take all possible measures to prevent acts as outlined in Article 2 of the 1948 Genocide Convention. This entails not killing Palestinians, not causing physical or psychological harm to them, not inflicting living conditions which will be fatal, etc. Israeli military has been told to desist from such actions. Israel is to ensure delivery of basic services and essential humanitrian aid to civilians in Gaza. Within a month Israel has been asked to submit a compliance report. United States has seen this as a vindication of its decision to support Israel’s right of self-defense in wake of the 7 October, 2023 attack by Hamas on Israel. But the side which has been defending before, since 1947, and after 7 October is mostly Palestine, not Israel which has been on the offensive more often than not.

ICJ ruling is an opportunity for the Israeli Government to see what it is doing it nothing short of genocide, 75 years of apartheid and ethnic cleansing, and it must use the ICJ judgement to put an end to the atrocities it has been committing on Palestinians. Israeli government has used horrific munitions such as white phosphorus and starvation by preventing aid from reaching Gazans through the Rafah border making it a war criminal under the Geneva convention. It should not make the matters worse by now targeting UNRWA and choking whatever little is reaching Gaza in the form of relief and medical aid.

Role of Indian government now, after taking a clear cut position against Israel since its creation in 1947 to about four decades, is equally condemnable for being complicit in this genocide - silent againt the acts of Israel, refusing to vocally call out Israel’s actions. India is conspicuous by its absence among the countries supporting South Africa in ICJ. Narendra Modi has not offered the ‘it is not the time for war’ advice to Benjamin Netanyahu that he had for Vladimir Putin when Russia attacked Ukraine. The Indian people are aware of the Home Minister Amit Shah’s purchases of surveillance software products such as Pegasus and Predator from Israel, and its oligarchic backer Adani’s business interests in Haifa port. That makes India’s position morally indefensible.

There is a need to stand with the Palestinian people, the people of Gaza and the resistance against its occupiers - according to UN Resolution 2625 of 1970, Resolution 3314 of the UNGA, and UNGA resolution 37/43, Palestinians have the right to armed resistance. Israel as an occupying force has no right to self-defense. Israel can only be condemned in the harshest possible terms and India for reversing its long standing support for Palestine and not standing up on the right side of history.

(Authors: Venkatesh Narayanan is a self-employed professional, Email: venkatesh.narayanan[at] and Sandeep Pandey is General Secretary of Socialist Party (India), who recently returned his Magsaysay Award and degrees from U.S. universities in opposition to blatant and shameless U.S. support of Israel in its relentless onslaught on Gaza. Email: ashaashram[at]

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