Pro-Palestine protests in Sydney, Melbourne cap off week of diplomatic blows for Israel

Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters have taken to the streets of Melbourne and Sydney, condemning Israel’s war in Gaza and demanding the Albanese government take further action to sever ties with the Netanyahu government.

The demonstrations on Sunday cap off a week of diplomatic blows for the Jewish state, after the United Nation’s two highest courts delivered separate reprimands, admonishing Israel’s military offensive in Gaza.

On Friday, the International Court of Justice ordered that Israel halt any actions inside Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza, “which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”.

While the ICJ’s ruling takes its wording from the UN’s convention on genocide, it does not order Israel to halt all military operations in Rafah.

Rather, it is limited to those military actions that would result in the complete or partial destruction of the people of Rafah, where thousands of civilians and units of Hamas militants remain.

The order made by the ICJ is binding, however, the court has no means to enforce its ruling and there is no chance that Israel will comply.

As Israel has expanded its military onslaught of Rafah in recent weeks in an attempt to root out the last of the Hamas militants taking refuge in the city, more than 800,000 Palestinians have fled the city, deepening the humanitarian crisis inside Gaza.

Responding to the ICJ’s ruling, Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-chief executive Peter Wertheim argued that Israel had taken more precautions than any other country in conflict to avoid harm to civilians.

“There is no gentle way of dealing with the butchers and rapists of Hamas. Their capacity for murder and mayhem needs to be destroyed, root and branch,” Mr Wertheim said.

“No democratic country faced with similar circumstances would disempower itself in the face of terrorists, or should call on Israel to do so.“

But Australian Palestinian Action Network president Nasser Mashni said continued Israeli military operations demanded the Australian government take further action including via sanctions, an end to weapons export permits and cutting diplomatic ties with Israel.

“The ICJ cannot enforce these rulings – that is the work of the international community, including the Australian Government,” Mr Mashni said.

“The Australian Government must stop hiding behind diplomatic niceties and preaching about human rights, and instead take meaningful action to apply pressure to this rogue state to compel it to end its atrocities.”

Federal cabinet minister Chris Bowen said the Australian government supported the ICJ’s ruling.

“Rafah has been the closest thing we have to a haven for people escaping within Gaza,” he said.

“We have been very consistent that Rafah should not be attacked.

“We are very consistent that the rulings, the binding rulings of the ICJ should be abided by all parties — including Israel.”

The ruling is separate to an application made by the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor on Monday seeking arrest warrants for Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, alongside senior Hamas figures.

The ICC is yet to rule on the applications, and a decision could take several months.

The ICJ, which is based in the Dutch city of The Hague, rules on disputes between states, in this case between Israel and South Africa, the latter of which has petitioned the court on four separate occasions to halt the former from continuing its military offensive in Gaza.

The ICJ’s determination follows the October 7 attacks by Hamas on Israel that left 1200 dead, most of them civilians, with the listed terrorist organisation taking a further 250 hostages.

In response, Israel has waged a military offensive inside the enclave to eradicate Hamas, resulting in the deaths of more than 35,000 people, most of whom are civilians, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Approximately 121 hostages, alive and dead, remain in the enclave.

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