Namibia condemned Germany’s decision to support Israel in South Africa’s genocide case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Germany announced Friday that it plans to intervene at the ICJ on Israel’s behalf, and said South Africa’s case had “no basis whatsoever.”
In response, Namibian President Hage Geingob said that Berlin was ignoring “the deaths of 23,000 Palestinians in Gaza” and had failed to learn the lessons of its own colonial rule in Namibia, where the first genocide of the 20th century took place.
Namibia’s criticism came after the first days of the hearing last week, where South Africa accused Israel of seeking to bring about the “destruction of the population” of Gaza. Israel has vehemently denied South Africa’s genocide accusations, saying their military operation is aimed at Hamas soldiers and arguing that Israel has taken concrete steps such as delivering food, water, and medical supplies to Gaza to mitigate civilian harm. Israel’s foreign ministry called the case “one of the greatest shows of hypocrisy in history.”
The ICJ’s final ruling may be years down the road
Although reaching a final decision in the case will take years, the ICJ is expected to present a ruling before Feb. 5 on South Africa’s request for “provisional measures,” which include the court asking Israel to stop its operations in Gaza. If the court were to grant South Africa’s petition, “the direct impact would probably be limited given that the ICJ lacks any sort of enforcement power,” David Simon, director of the Genocide Studies Program at Yale, wrote. An earlier ICJ ruling ordering the removal of the Israeli barrier in the West Bank has been defied for almost 20 years, he noted.
The ICJ has never found a country to be responsible for genocide before, but in 2007 it ruled that Serbia had failed to prevent the 1995 genocide at Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where more than 8,000 men and boys were killed. The case, which took 14 years to conclude, did not lead to any significant repercussions for Serbia.
Germany’s ardent pro-Israel stance ignites cultural debate
Namibia’s criticism comes amid staunch German support for Israel, which has shaped its domestic politics and cultural life in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks. Germany banned most public gatherings in support of Palestinians, with the Vice Chancellor and president calling on Muslims in Germany to distance themselves publicly from Hamas. Cultural life has been especially impacted by the tension between Germany’s desire to show public support for Israel and the country’s commitment to freedom of expression. Several artists and writers have had shows and events cancelled for expressing support for a boycott of Israel, Masha Gessen wrote for the New Yorker. Shortly after penning her essay, in which she also compared Gaza to Jewish ghettos in Nazi Germany, the prestigious Hannah Arendt prize cancelled its award to Gessen. More than 500 cultural figures, including Nobel prize winner Annie Ernaux and Turner Prize winner Tai Shani, signed a petition calling for a boycott of German cultural institutions for adopting “McCarthyist policies that suppress freedom of expression, specifically expressions of solidarity with Palestine.”