ICJ Ruling: Symbolic or Substantive?

Sun May 26 2024
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Naveed Miraj

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The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has issued a strongly-worded judgment, ordering Israel to halt military operations in Rafah.

This ruling, delivered amidst the ongoing crisis in Gaza, carries profound implications, marking a critical juncture in the international response to the conflict. However, it also underscores the inherent limitations of international legal mechanisms in enforcing such decisions.

ICJ Ruling Symbolic or Substantive

The ICJ, often referred to as the World Court, serves as the highest United Nations body for hearing disputes between states. Its rulings are deemed final and binding, yet it lacks enforcement powers — a reality that has allowed past rulings to be ignored.

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Despite its authority, the ICJ relies on member states to uphold its decisions, leaving room for non-compliance.

South Africa had brought the case before the ICJ last year, emphasizing Israel’s Gaza offensive violated the 1948 UN Genocide Convention. In a ruling on January 26 that made headlines worldwide, the ICJ ordered Israel to do everything it could to prevent acts of genocide during its military operation in Gaza.

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South Africa returned several times to the ICJ arguing that the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza compels the court to issue further fresh emergency measures. The court did so in March, ordering new measures compelling Israel to ensure the “unhindered provision at scale” of humanitarian aid.

The way previous rulings have been ignored by the aggressor, nothing much is expected over the efficacy of the latest ruling as well. In fact, soon after the ICJ ruling, Israel carried out yet another offensive in Rafah. Israeli officials have also openly stated their intention to persist with the war, demonstrating a blatant disregard for international norms and legal mandates.

ICJ Ruling Symbolic or Substantive

While the ICJ ruling has garnered praise from some quarters, including South Africa and various international rights organizations, skepticism remains about its practical impact. Until influential Western capitals, particularly Washington, demonstrate genuine commitment to resolving the conflict, the ICJ’s decisions may not translate into tangible change on the ground.

Western nations, often vocal on human rights issues, are duly criticized for their selective interventionism in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Despite repeated violations of international law by Israel, rhetoric often outweighs substantive action from Western powers.

ICJ Ruling Symbolic or Substantive

Instead of providing military equipment and other assistance to Israeli, they must reassess their relationship with it and exert pressure for an immediate cessation of hostilities. The people protesting around the world are raising genuine questions as for how long the US will stand by the oppressor rather than the oppressed ones.

The toll of Israel’s offensive in Gaza is staggering, with thousands of innocent lives lost, including women and children. The ongoing suffering of the Palestinian people underscores the urgent need for accountability and justice.

ICJ Ruling Symbolic or Substantive

It is imperative that those who support Israel reassess their stance in light of its repeated defiance of international law. Israel’s actions not only undermine the credibility of the ICJ but also erode the principles of justice upheld by the United Nations.

Failure to intervene effectively risks exacerbating an already volatile situation, with dire consequences for the wider region. The time has come for concrete action to hold Israel accountable and pave the way for a just and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this regard, the Muslim countries especially the influential ones also need to raise a stronger voice in support of Palestinian people.

It is time to listen to the heartfelt cries and woes of the Palestinian people, including children.

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