/ 28 May 2024

US support for genocidal Israel increases isolation

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An Israeli soldier sits on a tank before entering into the Gaza Strip on April 10, 2024 in Southern Israel. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

About half of the world’s population is making a mark on ballot papers this year. This includes the people of South Africa this week, the United Kingdom in July and the United States in November. 

In South Africa the Democratic Alliance (DA) has taken out its trusty shotgun to shoot itself in what remains of its feet after previous election debacles. In the 2021 local government elections the DA, with emotions still high after the murderous violence against black people in Phoenix by local Indian gangsters during the July 2021 riots, thought it prudent to put up posters that seemed to praise the killers. 

This year the DA decided that they would burn the national flag, the one symbol that all South Africans coalesce around, a symbol that marks a clear break with the past. These actions, among others, indicate that the party prefers pandering to the worst instincts of its conservative base in the racial minorities rather than growing its support among the majority.

In the past few elections the DA has shed voters to the right and will probably lose more of its more right leaning supporters in these elections. The disillusioned black middle class constituency that it could have grown has been turned off by its constant anti-black and anti-transformation policies. The DA’s donors are also losing confidence in the party and are increasingly turning to funding new liberal parties such as ActionSA, Rise Mzansi and Build One South Africa, along with the whole farce of the Change Starts Now fiasco. 

The DA has no sense of vision, no sense of a historical mission beyond holding on to what it has. The same lack of vision is evident in Keir Starmer’s Labour Party in the UK which has nothing significant to say to voters other than that it is not the Tory party. Across the pond Joe Biden’s Democratic Party has little to say or offer aside from not being Donald Trump’s now wholly unhinged Republican Party.

Like the DA and the Labour Party the Democrats are unable to realise that the old world in which white was always right is giving way to more cosmopolitan sensibilities. Despite large swathes of Democratic supporters telling the party and Biden’s administration that they do not want their government supporting the genocide in Gaza, they have been ignored.

Not only has the Biden administration continued to support, fund and defend the genocidal government in Tel Aviv, it has now also decided to criticise the International Criminal Court (ICC). In much the same way that the Biden administration rubbished South Africa’s case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and called it “baseless” and “without merit” it has now come out guns blazing against the ICC for daring to seek arrest warrants against the Israeli leadership for war crimes. 

The ICC prosecutor Karim Khan’s quest for arrest warrants for Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, shows an important turn in the ICC’s chequered past. Until now the ICC has solely prosecuted cases against African leaders and those disliked by the West, such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin. The ICC prosecutor recently said as much: “I’ve had some elected leaders speak to me and be very blunt: ‘This court [the ICC] is built for Africa and for thugs like Putin,’ is what one senior leader told me.”

Despite the numerous wars that have been perpetrated by the West since the ICC came into being no Western leader has ever been indicted by the court. There has been no attempt by the court to prosecute George W Bush and Tony Blair for war crimes against the people of Iraq. 

The response by the Biden administration was to move quickly to denounce the ICC’s decision to act against Netanyahu. No doubt they are alarmed at the prospect that if Israel, which has the protection and support of the US, can be taken on by the ICC, then perhaps the US will be next and its leaders will also be censured. For the Biden administration the ICC can no longer be seen to be a legitimate body.

Its standing has to be tarnished so that current, past and future American leaders will not have to answer for the atrocities that Washington has been party to in its forever wars around the world.

Washington’s condemnation of the ICC prosecutors’ request for arrest warrants against Netanyahu shows that the US doesn’t believe in justice as a universal principle, but rather it believes in action against those it doesn’t like in the name of “justice”. This double standard is made very clear by the fact that the ICC’s prosecution of Putin was roundly welcomed by the US, with Biden declaring that the warrant was “justified”. 

As liberal parties like the Democrats, Labour and the DA fail to adapt to new realities it is becoming clear that their liberalism never meant the extension of rights for all, that it was never based on principles of universal justice, but that it always meant rights for some and the denial of rights for others in an often very sharply racialised double standard.

The Biden administration has been left flatfooted by the youth rebellion against its support for the genocide being perpetrated by the Israeli state with backing from the US state. In the so-called land of the free, state repression has been unleashed on students standing up for a simple and ethically unimpeachable demand to stop the state backed murder of civilians in Gaza. 

As Biden, dubbed “Genocide Joe” by protestors at home, denounces a world court now beginning to assert that international law must apply to all, and not just to Africans and Putin, the emperor increasingly appears naked and his empire a brutal force rather than the shining city on the hill of so much American fantasy.

Biden is not only losing support at home, he’s also losing moral and political authority among states that were once reliable allies of the US. Ireland, Norway and Spain have indicated their willingness to recognise a Palestinian state, showing that they will make their own independent decisions without the old deference to the US. Even staunch US allies such as France and Germany have supported the ICC’s independence in its decision to prosecute Netanyahu. 

South Africa’s defence of the people of Gaza at the ICC marked a significant moment in the geopolitical shifts underway as a country in the Global South gave leadership on an issue of critical global importance.

This shift is leaving the liberal parties in the US, the UK and here at home looking little more than representatives of an old and discredited order. None of these parties have any sense of a progressive mission. It is fitting that the US, a country that supports and enables genocide, is slowly but surely being isolated.

Here at home, as the entrenched assumption of Western and liberal moral superiority in many elite circles rapidly frays, it is incumbent on us to develop new ideas for a democratic future after the ongoing collapse of liberal hegemony and the decline of the moral and political authority of the West.

Nontobeko Hlela is a research fellow with the Institute for Pan African Thought & Conversation and a PhD candidate in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Johannesburg.