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Israel’s lawless attacks cannot continue if we want international peace (Part 2 of series on Israel’s war against the Palestinians)


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Israel’s lawless attacks cannot continue if we want international peace (Part 2 of series on Israel’s war against the Palestinians)

Raymond Suttner
Photo by Madelene Cronje
Raymond Suttner

2nd April 2024

By: Raymond Suttner


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I appeal once again that access to humanitarian aid be ensured to Gaza, and call once more for the prompt release of the hostages seized on 7 October last and for an immediate cease-fire in the strip – Pope Francis, Easter message

Read Part 1 here.


At the conclusion to the first part of this series, I argued that the effectiveness of international law depends on consensus, mainly between state actors. In order to achieve a consensus that underpins a rule-based international order and does not tolerate the lawlessness of any state and in this case, Israel (and it could be argued, states allied to it, especially the United States), a new consensus needs to be developed.

There are a range of new or revived alignments that may be emerging in international relations, and these may have an impact on broader conditions, where many speak of existing in a unipolar world, dominated by the United States.


US hegemony challenged

United States hegemony is definitely being challenged. Not only is it being contested by China, Russia and the Global South (which may not -at this stage - be militarily or economically strong or united beyond the Gaza issue). But there is a range of tensions within the Western Alliance (the North) itself.

There are also new state groupings like BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) that sometimes explicitly describes itself as a challenge to the North. The original members did not include South Africa, and was then known as BRIC. Dr Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s Minister for International relations “revealed that 34 countries have expressed their interest in joining the bloc of the largest developing economies; however, she refrained from revealing the specific countries.

“[E]arlier this year… Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Ethiopia and Egypt became official members.” (

US hegemony may also be challenged by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which held its summit in Uganda in January. It may be that it will become an important player in any resurgence there may be in the South. Significantly, the summit criticised Israel’s campaign in Gaza and called for an immediate ceasefire. The African Union, attending the meeting, joined the attacks on Israeli military activities. (

Tensions within the North

There is a range of states that one would classify as part of the West/North that are taking a different position from the United States, for example, Ireland and Spain, on the Israeli/ Palestinian issue. Some states like Germany appear to blow hot and cold on the Gaza war, sometimes suggesting the ICJ January 26 decision should be implemented, but standing by while Israel and its allies, notably the US, defy it.

Developments within states of the North, notably demonstrations on a regular basis, may become an increasingly important factor in determining whether or not any state shifts its alignments.

In the United States itself there is a lot of instability. There is the possibility of former President Donald Trump returning as president in the 2024 elections, a semi-fascist alternative to the ineffectual Democratic Party leadership. Some of the reasons for loss of support for the Democratic Party lies in alienation of what polls say are the majority of citizens over President Joe Biden’s apparently unconditional support for Israel (or where there are supposed to be conditions for such support, these are not applied). That is not to suggest a Trump presidency would be any less fervent in support of Israel. In reality, it may be more enthusiastic about any military aggression.

Mass demonstrations against Israeli genocide and complicity

At the level of mass struggle, it has been a very long time since international mass action of this type has been seen and never before on anything like this scale in support of the Palestinians. Two or three years ago it may be that hardly anyone outside of the Middle East knew the colours of the Palestinians. Hardly anyone knew the phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, banned in Israel, Germany and parts of the US.

There was not only a political assault on Palestinian rights - starting even before the 1948 Nakba. But there was also an erasure of the identities of the Palestinian people, as many, including respected commentator Peter Beinart, remark. When there were articles on the Palestinians, only some 1% of those were written by Palestinians. As Edward Said said about 20 years ago, “We must tell our own story”. (

What has happened in recent years and especially after 7 October is that Palestinians always knew that they had a rich cultural heritage, but people who were not exposed to the cultures and literatures of the Palestinian people are seeing that it is not just a question of erasure of a generalised voice. It has been erasure of a number of voices that expressed themselves through a range of cultural forms, literary forms, musical genres and forms of fine art and scholarship.

The number of Palestinian poets is very extensive. Now and again in reading a political article one sees a name that one may not have heard of, and the person is referred to as a “well-known Palestinian poet”. The person may have been well known among the Palestinians and among people very close to the Palestinian solidarity movements. But many who were freedom fighters, even though supporting the Palestinians, were not always aware of this cultural richness that is now emerging at an international level.

Susan Abulhawa, a leading Palestinian novelist, in one of her interviews, says that the Israelis were aware of this respect for the arts and cultural resources among the Palestinians, and they were very intent in their attacks to destroy all archives, libraries, and places where Palestinian cultural resources were stored. (

Surfacing of Palestinian identities and assertiveness of Global South

Since the South African case at the ICJ against Israel last year there has been a much greater assertiveness of the Global South.

The Global South may still not have anything like the economic or political power of many states of the West, but a number of these states and organisations have joined South Africa as a party in the ICJ against Israel or have expressed support for the case in other ways. This is an example of emerging Global South consensus.

Which countries have welcomed and/or augmented South Africa’s ICJ case against Israel?

  • 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”.
  • TurkeyTurkish 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.
  • The Arab League: The 22-member alliance also affirmed its support for the South African case on Wednesday in an X post made by Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit.
  • Colombia and Brazil: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia and Brazil expressed their countries’ support in individual press releases on Wednesday.
  • Besides countries, many advocacy groups and civil society groups worldwide have also joined South Africa’s call. These include Terreiro Pindorama in Brazil, Asociacion Nacional de Amistad Italia-Cuba in Italy, and Collectif Judeo Arabe et Citoyen pour la Palestine in France, reported independent outlet Common Dreams. ( The list has grown since 9 January when this was reported).
  • This question of building the Global South as a force to restore international legality will be returned to in parts that follow.

Raymond Suttner is an Emeritus Professor at the University of South Africa and a Research Associate in the English Department at University of the Witwatersrand. He served lengthy periods as a political prisoner. His current writings cover mainly contemporary politics, history, and social questions. He was originally a legal academic. His twitter/X handle is @raymondsuttner.


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