By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network
NEW YORK | 15 January 2024 (IDN) — The many familiar words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr., one of the most important and influential civil rights leaders in the United States, will be recalled this month by people of diverse ages, beliefs and nationalities.
King also advocated on behalf of other oppressed groups, from Black South Africans living under apartheid to Palestinians when their territory was confiscated in 1967. His views on Palestine, while not explicit, were the subject of a NY Times column, “Time to Break the Silence about Palestine,” by Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow and visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary.
Alexander wrote: “There will be those who say that we can’t know for sure what King would do or think regarding Israel-Palestine today. This is true. . . (However) I find myself in agreement with [UCLA] historian Robin D.G. Kelley, that if King had the opportunity to study the current situation in the same way he studied [the war in] Vietnam, “his unequivocal opposition to violence, colonialism, racism, and militarism would have made him an incisive critic of Israel’s current policies.”
Daughter Bernice King added: “MLK denounced antisemitism and defended Israel’s right to exist and would have backed a ceasefire in Palestine if he were alive today.
“Certainly, my father was against antisemitism, as am I,” said Ms. King, a lawyer and theologian. “He also believed militarism (along with racism and poverty) to be among the interconnected Triple Evils.”
“I am certain he would call for Israel’s bombing of Palestinians to cease, for hostages to be released and for us to work for true peace, which includes justice,” she said.
On 8 October 2023, a relentless military campaign was launched by the State of Israel against Gazans one day after an attack by Hamas, a Palestinian militant group, that took 1,200 Israeli lives and 240 hostages. The Israeli war against Gazans has now taken 23,000 Palestinian lives, about 1% of the 2.3 million population there, according to Gaza health authorities.
On 29 December, South Africa presented a claim of genocide against Israel before the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ). While the case revolves around the occupied Palestinian territories, Palestinians have no official role in the proceedings because they are not a UN member state.
All states that signed the Genocide Convention are obliged to not commit genocide and also to prevent and punish it. The treaty defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.
In its 84-page filing, South Africa says that by killing Palestinians in Gaza, causing them serious mental and bodily harm and by creating conditions on life “calculated to bring about their physical destruction”, Israel is committing genocide against them.
It lists Israel’s failure to provide essential food, water, medicine, fuel, shelter and other humanitarian assistance to the Gaza strip during the more than three-month-old war with Hamas. It also points to the sustained bombing campaign which has laid much of the enclave to waste and forced the evacuation of some 1.9 million Palestinians.
“The acts are all attributable to Israel, which has failed to prevent genocide and is committing genocide in manifest violation of the Genocide Convention,” the filing says, adding that Israel also failed to curb incitement to genocide by its own officials in violation of the convention.
“For the past 96 days, Israel has subjected Gaza to what has been described as one of the heaviest conventional bombing campaigns in the history of modern warfare,” said South African lawyer Adila Hassim. “Palestinians in Gaza are being killed by Israeli weaponry and bombs from air, land and sea.”
“They are also at immediate risk of death by starvation, dehydration and disease as a result of the ongoing siege by Israel, the destruction of Palestinian towns, the insufficient aid being allowed through to the Palestinian population, and the impossibility of distributing this limited aid while bombs fall.
“This conduct renders essentials to life unobtainable.”
According to Hassim, ‘the first genocidal act committed by Israel was the mass killing of Palestinians in Gaza, in violation of Article II (a) of the Genocide Convention. As the U.N. secretary-general explained five weeks ago, the level of Israel’s killing is so extensive that nowhere is safe in Gaza.”
“As I stand before you today, 23,210 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces during the sustained attacks over the last three months, at least 70% of whom are believed to be women and children. Some 7,000 Palestinians are still missing, presumed dead under the rubble.”
More than 1,800 families in Gaza have lost multiple family members, she added, and 85% of all Gazans have been forced to flee their homes.
” Palestinians in Gaza are subjected to relentless bombing wherever they go,” she continued. “They are killed in their homes, in places where they seek shelter, in hospitals, in schools, in mosques, in churches, and as they try to find food and water for their families.
“This killing is nothing short of destruction of Palestinian life,” said Ms. Hassim. “It is inflicted deliberately. No one is spared. Not even newborn babies. The scale of Palestinian child killings in Gaza is such that U.N. chiefs have described it as a ‘graveyard for children.’ ”
“They have been killed if they failed to evacuate, in the places to which they have fled, and even while they attempt to flee along Israeli-declared safe routes. The level of killing is so extensive that those whose bodies are found are buried in mass graves, often unidentified.
“In the first three weeks following 7 October Israel deployed 6,000 bombs per week. At least 200 times, it has deployed 2,000-pound bombs in southern areas of Palestine designated as safe. These bombs have also decimated the north, including refugee camps.
South Africa’s delegation argues that genocidal intent is also shown by comments from leaders like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other ministers and key figures that dehumanize Palestinians or refuse to distinguish between Hamas fighters and civilians.
South Africa urged the court to order an emergency injunction to protect the Palestinian people in Gaza, including by calling upon Israel to immediately halt military attacks that “constitute or give rise to violations of the Genocide Convention” and to rescind related measures amounting to collective punishment and forced displacement.
In response, Israeli lawyer Tal Becker told the court that South Africa’s case hinges on a “deliberately curated, decontextualized and manipulative description of the reality of current hostilities,” and that it intentionally ignored the role of Hamas in Israel’s military response.
“The applicant’s submissions sounded barely distinguishable from Hamas’ own rejectionist rhetoric,” Becker said of South Africa’s case.
Initial hearings for an emergency injunction to stop the fighting were heard at the ICJ in The Hague on 11 and 12 January.
At a recent protest outside the U.S. consulate in Johannesburg, demonstrators, many of them waving Palestinian flags, said they felt proud of their government for seeking to end the Israeli military’s campaign in Gaza. Speakers at the rally also condemned the U.S. for continuing to supply Israel with weapons. [IDN-InDepthNews]
Photo: Martin Luther King at a press conference in March 1964. Public Domain | Wikimedia Commons.
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