Corbyn pushes South African genocide case against Israel at The Hague

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has joined the South African government at The Hague in pushing its case accusing Israel of genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza.

Mr Corbyn is standing in support of South Africa at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for the hearings – arguing that the country’s case was “very strong”.

Speaking after the first day’s hearing in the Netherlands court, Mr Corbyn said the South African delegation’s presentation was “brilliantly prepared and brilliantly put forward”.

Mr Corbyn told Al-Jazeera that the South Africans had argued that Israel was “in breach of the convention on genocide” and had embarked on “collective punishment of the people of Gaza”.

He said: “Nobody can call the killing of all these thousands of people and destruction of 70 per cent of all the housing in Gaza a proportionate response – it is an attack on the entire Palestinian population.”

The ex-Labour leader said he hoped the case at the Hague would make an “incremental difference” in winning international support for Gaza.

He added: “If we just walk by on the other and ignore what is happening to the Palestinian people then we become complicit … Is the world going to do nothing about it but continue to supply arms to Israel? Or say this has got to stop?”

Jeremy Corbyn outside ICJ at The Hague (AP)
Jeremy Corbyn outside ICJ at The Hague (AP)

The South African delegation has said that “senior political figures from progressive political parties and movements across the globe” – including Mr Corbyn – were supporting its case.

But the left-wing former Labour leader was the only foreign political figure named in the country’s statement on the case. South African minister of justice Ronald Lamola said the country was “encouraged by leaders of the world who have not blunted their consciousness”.

Earlier this week, Mr Corbyn stood in the Commons called on Rishi Sunak’s government to at least “support South Africa’s process”.

He told MPs that “many people are very pleased that the government of South Africa has taken an initiative … in order to hold Israel to account for the deaths of so many wholly innocent people in Gaza”.

In November, Mr Corbyn finally described Hamas as a “terrorist group” after repeatedly avoiding the term – as he wrote an article accusing the Israeli army of being guilty of “acts of terror too”.

Palestinian supporters outside The Hague court in the Netherlands (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Palestinian supporters outside The Hague court in the Netherlands (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Mr Corbyn remains a Labour member, but sits as an independent MP after he was suspended over his failure to offer an appropriate response to the damning report on antisemitism in the party under his leadership.

The ex-leader has strongly suggested he would run against Labour as an independent at the general election – saying he had “no intention of stopping” representing Islington North.

The two-day case at The Hague continues on Friday. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has that South Africa’s genocide case against Israel in Gaza amounted to “hypocrisy and lies”. And Israel’s president Isaac Herzog called the ICJ case “atrocious and preposterous”.

At a press conference with US secretary of state Antony Blinken this week, Mr Herzog said: “Actually, our enemies, Hamas, in their charter, call for the destruction of our nation, the State of Israel – the only nation-state of the Jewish people.”

Foreign secretary David Cameron has said earlier this week that he is “worried” that Israel may have acted in breach of international law in the Middle East conflict.

Lord Cameron said that he “of course” has concerns about the crisis in Gaza but that it is not his job to make a “legal adjudication”.