Thousands march in Cape Town in support of ICJ order against Israel

Case to stop Israeli attack on Rafah was brought by South African government

By Matthew Hirsch and Nathan Geffen

26 May 2024

On Saturday protesters in Cape Town called for genocide in the Gaza Strip to be stopped. Photos: Matthew Hirsch

Thousands of people marched through Cape Town on Saturday calling for an end to genocide in the Gaza Strip and a halt to the invasion of Rafah.

The protest follows a week of three hard-hitting actions against the Israeli government, in one of which the South African government had a pivotal role.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to Immediately “halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”. South Africa brought the case which resulted in this order.

In response the Israeli government stated: “The charges of genocide brought by South Africa against Israel at the International Court of Justice in the Hague are false, outrageous and morally repugnant.” It said: “Israel has not and will not conduct military actions in the Rafah area which may inflict on the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

The South African government welcomed the order. President Cyril Ramaphosa said, “We are gravely concerned that Israel has restricted necessary levels of aid from entering Gaza and has systematically targeted aid and aid infrastructure within Gaza.”

He further said, “This case is thus focused on the ordinary Palestinians in Gaza, who are now facing their seventh month of suffering through collective punishment for something for which they have no individual responsibility.”

Earlier in the week International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim Khan applied for arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He also applied for arrest warrants against three Hamas leaders: Yahya Sinwar, the head of the organisation in Gaza; Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri, head of the military wing of Hamas; and Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas’s political bureau.

In response Netanyahu accused Kahn of antisemitism.

And on 28 May Ireland, Norway and Spain will recognise Palestine as an independent state.

At least 35,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in the war since 7 October, the majority women and children. Over 80,000 have been injured. Many more remain unaccounted for and excess mortality due to the collapse of health services, displacement of nearly two million people, and other effects of war are also unknown. At least two studies estimate that between 60 to 70% of those killed in Gaza are noncombatants.

Over 1,000 Israelis were also killed on 7 October. Nearly 500 people, the vast majority Palestinians, have also been killed in the West Bank. Since the war started about 260 Israeli soldiers have been killed, over 100 people in Lebanon have been killed and about 200 people of other nationalities have been killed. (source)

Palestinian flags were abundant in Cape Town on Saturday.

At Saturday’s march placards read: “No one can claim I didn’t know” and “the ICJ has ruled that Israel Must Comply”. Chants of “Not a conflict not a war, say it louder say it more” and “Gaza don’t you cry, Palestine will never die” were heard.

The march started at the Muir Street Mosque in District Six and ended at the Provincial Legislature. It was organised by the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) and the Al-Quds Foundation. It was supported by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and several political parties including the ANC, GOOD, PAC and Al-Jama-ah.

Outside the provincial legislature, several political parties signed a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) pledge. Speakers urged protestors to use their vote on election day and vote against parties who sided with Israel.

Usuf Chikte of the PSC told the crowd they were calling for the attack on the entire Gaza Strip to stop. “We are calling for a ceasefire … We are calling for the free flow of aid into Gaza. We are calling for a free Palestine,” he said.

Sheikh Ebrahim Gabriels of the Al-Quds Foundation also addressed the protestors. “The oppressors will never succeed … the apartheid state of Israel will fall. We will one day walk in a free Palestine,” he said.

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