How the ICJ case against Israel impacts South African politics ahead of the elections

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Solly Moeng explains how South Africa’s lawsuit against Israel could impact local politics in the run-up to crucial 2024 national elections.

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By Solly Moeng

Few would dispute that Israel’s massive massacre of Palestinian civilians – now numbering some 24,000 since Hamas’ unexpected attack on Israel on October 7, 2023 – cannot be considered justifiable revenge. This is indiscriminate collective punishment against innocent civilians, entirely consistent with several recorded public statements by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other leaders. Recent reports that the Israeli military is wantonly desecrating Palestinian cemeteries do not give Israel any positive reputation in much of the world, particularly in the Global South, even if Israeli leaders and their supporters do not care. none of that.

On the other hand, the African National Congress (ANC), which has historically (poorly) governed South Africa, may have lost its reputation on most issues domestically – having single-handedly brought it to its knees. the country’s vital democratic institutions and, in some cases, flat on its face, over the past two decades – but it has struck emotional gold in much of the “global South” in standing up to Israel, without clearly worried about the looming specter of its powerful financial and military supporters of the State of Israel. so-called established democracies.

Many people from all over the world continue to send thank you messages to their South African friends, no matter where they live. Many of these messages are addressed to the “people of South Africa” in video clips circulating on various social media platforms. But all of this is both complicated and comforting. This last point is especially true for those who sympathize with the plight of the Palestinian people on humanitarian grounds without feeling any obvious antipathy toward the State of Israel. For them, it feels good that their government is recognized internationally for daring where so many others – particularly Arab countries in the Middle East – feared to tread, and for defending Palestinian human rights .

There is of course a part of the South African population, probably a minority, who does not agree with the measures taken by the South African government before the ICJ and who unconditionally supports Israel. Many of them believe that South Africa should mind its own internal affairs and devote its scarce resources to solving its own internal problems which, few will argue, are increasingly innumerable. But it’s a difficult argument to make to people who, during apartheid, relied on the support of people around the world to ensure their own plight remained in the headlines. This seemingly intractable conflict in the Middle East will always spark heated debate among South Africa’s diverse population. However, the overall South African reality is that there is no love lost between a growing number of South Africans and the institutional wrecking ball of the ANC. Many would even like to see him lose the next election and see a different group of leaders take over, repair broken institutions and gradually implement policies that will put the country back on the path to economic recovery. A military confrontation with US-backed Israel would have been unthinkable, but going to the UN’s highest court, the International Court of Justice, was a smart card to play, as it appealed to the moral nobility of protecting fundamental human rights. It was also the right thing to do because, whether one agrees or not, the action taken by the South African government created space for the plight of the long-suffering Palestinian people to be exposed in a rational manner. , in open court, and supported by facts. all before the eyes of the whole world. Israel had the opportunity to respond to the accusations with counterarguments. It is now up to the 17 judges of the International Court of Justice to consider the arguments and counter-arguments presented to them – and, hopefully, not the emotional diatribes that swirl in the courts’ public opinion – and render a considered verdict.

Judging by a plethora of social media conversations in South Africa, particularly among the local Muslim community, there is a concerted desire to make foreign policy a major point of contestation during the campaign electoral. Having failed and continuing to fail on domestic issues, ANC leaders and supporters appear poised to revive the global aura of the Mandela years by emphasizing what some see as the low-hanging fruit of successes on the international front.

They will remind their supporters that South Africa – described by some observers as punching well above its weight on the world stage – emerged unscathed after being accused by the US of selling/donating arms to Russia and to have led an African delegation to negotiate peace. between Russia and Ukraine, although no peace resulted from this effort. It was a fine public relations campaign, with some embarrassing moments for the South African delegation whose built-in media contingencies and cache of weapons supposed to accompany the president’s security guards found themselves caught up in Poland. The visit by the South African-led African mission nevertheless generated necessary public relations.

They will also discuss South Africa’s role in the formation of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and recent announcements that the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Egypt and Ethiopia would soon join them. The BRICS are presented as a possible counterweight to the West led by the United States.
domination of the agenda of global politics and the global economy.

The sad reality is that South Africa’s 2024 general elections will not be just for the ANC. It is mainly up to the opposition parties to win. But the confusing and growing number of alternative policy offerings only ensures that the existing pie is split in so many ways that many average voters will struggle to make informed choices, other than whether to stay home in larger numbers or vote for him. devils they already know. It won’t help much that the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), second only to the ANC, is known to be pro-Israeli at best and ambivalent on the issue of rights at worst. of man. Palestinians. This will likely cost him many votes in the Colored and Muslim communities of the Western Cape, the only province he has successfully governed for many years.

The 2024 general elections will undoubtedly mark a watershed moment and play a historic role in whether South Africa continues on the proven path of constant and unfettered destruction under the regime of the ANC’s failed policies, or whether she chooses to stop the tentacles of kakistocracy and begin a possible path towards recovery and socio-economic growth.

Defending human rights in faraway lands is good, but it will never be enough when successive ANC governments have turned their eyes away from human rights abuses closer to home, in places like Zimbabwe, Uganda, Sudan and elsewhere in Africa. The South African electorate should not be deceived or emotionally beaten into believing that the ICJ’s otherwise laudable coup justifies an ANC re-election in 2024. This is not the case.

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