Syed Hamid Albar
Children react following an Israeli air strike on Palestinian houses, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip December 12, 2023.
Since October 2023, the world has witnessed Israel’s unrelenting assault on the Palestinian people. At the time of writing, at least 18.000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem, all of which have been under Israeli occupation since 1967.
In the Gaza Strip, over 1.7 million Palestinians have been displaced by Israel’s bombardment and ground offensive.
It is clear that Israel’s assault upon Gaza has been indiscriminately targeting both civilians and civilian infrastructure, including protected buildings such as hospitals, United Nations (UN) schools and facilities, residential buildings, universities, mosques, and churches.
The damage caused by these actions has been exacerbated by Israel’s deliberate withholding of water, electricity, food, medicine, fuel, internet access, and other supplies necessary for the survival of the population.
In its supposed “humanitarian” actions, Israel ordered millions of Palestinians from the north of Gaza to the “safe zone” in the south within a 24-hour period, displacing millions of civilians from their homes, forcing them to walk for miles to promised safety from bombardment.
The UN described this order as “impossible”. Israel then targeted those seeking safety, including those who were unable to leave the north due to injuries or caring for dying family members in hospitals.
Israel did not maintain its promise of safety in the south of Gaza, targeting the entirety of the Gaza Strip, forcing the sick and wounded to leave hospitals and starving a civilian population in one of the most densely populated areas of the world.
Calling it for what it is — A genocide
The situation is clear; there is no question as to whether Israel is committing genocide. Israel is conducting a genocide against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.
Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to which your country is a contracting party, defines genocide as “the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.”
Israel’s actions, both in the Gaza Strip and towards Palestinians there, are preceded by explicit declarations of intent by high-ranking officials, among them Prime Minister Netanyahu, Minister of Defence Gallant and several other Israeli Government Ministers.
Israeli officials do not hide the fact that what they are seeking in a genocide of Palestinians, employing language highlighting their intent to conduct this genocide.
Language from Israeli officials highlights their complete dehumanisation of the Palestinian people, with rhetoric that calls Palestinians “human animals” and “children of darkness,” while also using biblical references to indiscriminate killing and clear notions of genocidal intent to describe their military operations.
Israeli Knesset members have called for a “Nakba that will overshadow the Nakba of (19)48” and the IDF has explained that its emphasis in on “damage and not accuracy” — clear intents to commit genocide against Palestinians.
Taking Israel to the International Court of Justice for genocide
Malaysia, as a nation with respected democratic values and judicial traditions, cannot sit idle while genocide is committed so blatantly and callously. To fail to take action now would be to act too late.
We in Malaysia have long been a friend to Palestine and the Palestinian people. While commendable actions have been taken by our government, there is much more that needs to be done in defence of both Palestine and international law.
I call upon our prime minister to continue his strong and principled advocacy for Palestine by further mobilising support for the Palestinian people within international institutions.
As a State Party to the Genocide Convention, Malaysia, with allied states, can activate Article IX of the Genocide Convention.
This would allow a case to be referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), including provisional measures to indicate to third states of their responsibility towards the prevention of Genocide, which so far has gone unheeded by too many countries around the world.
The principle of universality, rooted in the condemnation of genocide as a peremptory norm, asserts that crimes of this nature are the concern of all nations.
The ICJ expressly stated that the prohibition of genocide is an obligation erga omnes owed by each State to the international community as a whole, i.e., an obligation of universal applicability.
As such, the crime of genocide is subject to universal jurisdiction. Thus, Israel’s genocidal crimes can be tried in our courts.
Malaysia is in a position to support the Palestinian people and galvanise the international community into action against a state that shows no regard the rule of law and basic humanitarian principles.
Malaysia should make clear that any Israeli leader, commander, official or soldier within Malaysia’s jurisdiction would be prosecuted for genocide under universal jurisdiction on behalf of the Palestinian people of Gaza. There should be no tolerance for the impunity and blatant violations of human rights and the foundations of international law.
The world has seen in Rwanda and Bosnia the fruits of inaction in response to genocidal intent. I beg that we act now to prevent Israel’s heinous crime rather than weakly mutter after the slaughter “never again” once more.
* Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar was formerly Malaysia’s minister of foreign affairs and defence minister.