The narrative has changed because people are revolting. The Western person in the street and the impoverished and abused global citizen are the ones revolting. (Photo by Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images)
South Africa’s ethical position at The Hague can be viewed as a manifestation of historical karma. Our legal team presented a case in the world’s highest court, situated in the Netherlands, a country that had previously colonised us. The essence of the case was on behalf of an oppressed population that had supported the black majority during the days of apartheid. Specifically, the case targeted Israel, a country that had collaborated with the apartheid regime.
After Israel’s triumph in the Six-Day War, Die Burger, the mouthpiece of the National Party government, asserted a shared struggle for existence between Israel and South Africa. According to Sasha Polakow-Suransky’s book, The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies commented in Jewish Affairs, “The destinies of the two countries are … so alike in a much more meaningful sense than any enemy propagandist could conceive.”
The parallels between those who supported apartheid in South Africa and those supporting apartheid in Israel persist. Colonial powers appear to subscribe to a “back your buddy club”. They believe that as long as they pretend that they are the forces of good and repeat the same, the lie will become a truth and everyone will consider them as a civilised moral authority to aspire to.
Germany, a colonial power with its own historical baggage, is the first country to support Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the case brought by South Africa. This alignment suggests a continuity in the dynamics of international alliances shaped by historical legacies and political interests.
The statement issued by the Namibian president noted, “Germany committed the first genocide of the 20th century in 1904-1908, in which tens of thousands of innocent Namibians died in the most inhumane and brutal conditions. The German government is yet to fully atone for the genocide it committed on Namibian soil.”
What most people don’t know is that before the Jewish Holocaust, there was the Shark Island Concentration camp opened by the German colonial forces in 1905 which was used to hold Herero and Nama people during the Herero and Namaqua Genocide.
Social media users lashed out. @PositiveEritrea commented, “#Namibia leave it to the settler people of a nation that murdered 6 million European Jews to tell Africans that killing 70,000 Namibians is not #Genocide.” @Tasetireloaded2 was bolder in his criticism, stating “Germans (Europeans in general) are not remorseful that they committed genocide in Africa. Germans are regretful that they were unable to continue genocide with impunity. #Namibia.”
When the Houthis of Yemen announced their intention to undertake a humanitarian intervention in the Red Sea to address the ongoing genocide in Gaza — a responsibility imposed by the Genocide Convention on all state parties — the response from the traditional bloc of Western states (including the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Italy, Australia and the Netherlands) was one of strong opposition. In swift reaction, the United States formed a coalition, a “multinational security initiative” named Operation Prosperity Guardian, aimed at countering the Houthis. Notably, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates opted not to join this coalition.
In the face of these geopolitical developments, the Biden administration moved swiftly, prioritising economic interests over the humanitarian concerns associated with the ongoing genocide in Gaza.
Mick Wallace, an Irish member of the European Parliament, contributed to the discourse by asserting that the Yemeni humanitarian intervention in the Red Sea had resulted in no casualties, and that only ships bound for or owned by Israelis would be targeted. This nuanced perspective sought to bring attention to the specific objectives of the Houthi intervention, challenging prevailing narratives regarding the situation.
According to French-British director and broadcaster Myriam François, “The West needs to start to understand, you cannot go around playing cowboys in the world. There are consequences to people’s actions. You cannot go around bombing people’s countries, ignoring international law, and expect no repercussions. 25 000 people are dead in #Gaza right now, over 60 000 injured with no access to food, water, aid … How dare we have a conversation about trade when children are being treated without anaesthetics?”
Genocide serves as a foundational element within the framework of Western imperialism, constituting a fundamental pillar of Western dominance that is often veiled in ostensibly humanitarian rhetoric promoting “freedom, democracy, and civilisation”. The assertion challenges the prevailing narrative of Western democracies, contending that what exists is a globalist liberal dictatorship rather than genuine democratic governance.
The sustainability and moral authority claimed by most Western states are intricately tied to a narrative built on the perpetuation of violence grounded in falsehoods. The situation in Gaza has become a focal point for unmasking these lies, which are argued to be not only deceptive but also systematically reinforced and reiterated across various contexts.
South Africa and Yemen stand at the forefront of advancing justice, human rights and human dignity. The current actions taken by South Africa and the Brics+ nations mark a significant departure from the geopolitical landscape of just two years ago. The perceptible shift in gravity towards the East and South is indicative of a changing global order. The ongoing developments in Ukraine and Gaza suggest that Brics+, encompassing a coalition of political and economic forces, is evolving into a de facto alternate institutional order, forging alliances with a new generation of politically sophisticated, young Arab leaders who are redirecting the script written for the Middle East.
Leaders such as HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Tamim ibn Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar, and Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, have demonstrated astute political manoeuvring, collaborating meticulously with Brics+ countries and their allies within the international rules-based system. These leaders have studied the violence of Western barbarity and ugliness that insults them, mocks their culture, humiliates their women, kills their children, and disrespects their tradition.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the League of Arab States, consisting of 57 member states, and the African Union together with most Asian states support South Africa’s lawsuit against Israel for alleged genocide, a move indicative of broad international backing. China’s call for full United Nations membership for Palestine raises the question of a potential US veto, posing a test of ethical standing in the US’s purported support for a two-state solution. If anything, it will once again show the double-speak and hypocrisy of the US.
The narrative crafted by Brics+ nations, and the legal path followed, including by those of Muslim, Arab, Asian and African countries, has strategically checkmated the global discourse. The adherence to international humanitarian law and the path to seeking consensus and peace starkly contrasts with the violence of the US-UK-Israel axis. Now ask, Now ask, “Who are the savages?” For the international community, which now comprises the Global South and some enlightened Europeans, when we speak about the Barbarians at the Gate, it is a reference to the Axis of Evil — the US, UK and Israel with tag-alongs like Germany, Italy, Australia and Canada.
Social media users have observed that “every Zionist accusation is a confession”, a sentiment that extends to the comments of the political elite in the Global North. So when Africans were described as “monkeys”, black people as “violent”, Palestinians as “animals”, Arabs as “uncivilised and undemocratic” and Muslims as “terrorists” the reality is that these descriptors depicted the character and true nature of the Global North actors.
The narrative has changed because people are revolting. The Western person in the street and the impoverished and abused global citizen are the ones revolting. Those revolting do not identify with the degeneration and degradation of their societies that their elites demand of them. When Israeli President Isaac Herzog said, “This war is not only a war between Israel and Hamas, it’s a war that is intended, really, truly, to save Western civilisation. To save the values of Western civilisation” we, the global citizens of the world, ask, “Was there ever a value of Western civilisation in the first place?”
For those who know a little bit about history, Herzog’s comment is reminiscent of Hitler’s proclamation of war against the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, when he said: “Formations of the German Eastern Front extend from East Prussia to the Carpathians … The task of this front, therefore, no longer is the protection of single countries, but the safeguarding of Europe and thereby the salvation of all.”
As we anticipate the ICJ verdict, let it be shouted from the rooftops, “South Africa, Brics+ and the allies are on the right side of history. We, the international community, salute you. It is time to chase away those barbarians at our gates.”
Dr Quraysha Ismail Sooliman is a National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences post-doctoral researcher in the department of political sciences at the University of Pretoria.