How can Canada have “no clear position” on genocide, in light of World Court ruling?

ICJ decision holds that Israel’s siege on Gaza is “plausible” genocide  

By Dave McKee  

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled today that Israel’s siege on Gaza is a “plausible” genocide and has ordered a series of emergency, provisional measures that Israel must take.

Shamefully, the Canadian government’s response to the decision by the highest court in the world was to say it had “no clear position.”

Instead, after waiting several hours to respond, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly stated that Ottawa would wait to hear the court’s final decision. This is expected to take several years, which is why South Africa requested an emergency interim court decision on the “plausibility” of the genocide charge.

Joly’s statement did not mention Canada’s obligations under the Genocide Convention which it has signed, and which compel the government to take action to stop genocide including plausible genocidal actions as the ICJ has determined exist in Israel’s siege of Gaza.

The ruling, which was decided by an overwhelming majority of the court, orders a series of immediate measures which Israel must implement. These include taking action to prevent and ensure that the military does not commit genocidal killings and other actions, as described in the 1948 Genocide Convention; that it prevent and punish genocidal incitement; that it ensure adequate humanitarian access; and that it regularly report back to the ICJ on the implementation of these measures.

The court did not specifically order a ceasefire by Israel and withdrawal of its forces from Gaza, something which anti-war and solidarity movements worldwide have been calling for.

While Ottawa is cowardly shirking its responsibility, South Africa’s High Commissioner to Canada, Rieaz Shaik, said at a press conference today that the court ruling confirms his country’s decision to bring the case forward and that it is a call for all countries to act.

Calling the decision a “remarkably strong judgement,” Shaik said that South Africa’s advice to Israel now is to comply with and implement the measures from the ICJ. “Those measures include, although they were not expressed specifically, a ceasefire – all measures include a ceasefire,” he said. “Our advice to the Israeli government is to desist from any further military action and start the process of peace today.”

Although he didn’t name them, the High Commissioner also had a warning for those governments – which include Canada – that said the South African case was without merit and baseless. “The International Court of Justice found that we were correct, and therefore it is incumbent on those politicians to publicly admit that they were wrong. They have to do so, because those statements which they issued in the past will stand as complicity in plausible genocide.”

Speaking at the same press conference, which was jointly organized by the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute and Just Peace Advocates, was Mona Abuamara, Ambassador and Chief Representative of the Palestinian General Delegation to Canada. She said that the court decision “affirms what Palestinians have been telling international community for decades – that Israel is committing genocide, ethnic cleansing and forcible displacement.”

Abuamara pointed out that many countries have shielded Israel from accountability, and that the ICJ has now put onus on those same countries to act on their responsibilities to prevent genocide.

“We call on Canada to be the leader and champion of the international rules-based order and as a defender of human rights, women’s rights and children’s rights, to practice what it preaches. We call on Canada to stop arms sales to Israel, to stop communicating with those who incite genocide, to stop trade of goods with those who declare every day that they want to wipe out Palestinian people.”

In the light of the ICJ decision, anti-war and solidarity movements in Canada will be escalating their pressure on the government to take the kind of concrete action outlined by Abuamara. All democratic-minded people, all progressive organizations and, especially, the labour movement, must stand with the Palestinian people in forcing Ottawa to demand Israel’s accountability, beginning with an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of its military.

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