International Action on Gaza


A Conversation With Ardi Imseis

Stopping Genocide

Wars are easy to start and supposedly hard to stop.

In fact, it’s easy to bring bloody conflicts to a halt, if the most powerful nations resolve to do so.


Consider Israel’s war on Gaza, now into Day 85. If the US demanded that it stop, immediately, it would.

According to an application filed yesterday by the Republic of South Africa at the International Court of Justice, Israeli violence amounts to the crime of genocide. The court could take preliminary action as early as next week.

Pablo Picasso’s Guernica

South Africa’s application to the world’s highest judicial body lays out the carnage:

Israel has now killed over 21,000 Gazans, including almost 8000 children.

Another 8000 are missing and presumed dead under the rubble. Fifty-five thousand have been injured.

Amidst the carnage, vast areas of Gaza have been laid to waste; over 355,000 Palestinian homes have been rendered uninhabitable or destroyed — almost three quarters of Gaza’s housing stock.

So have bakeries, schools, universities, businesses, mosques, churches, cemeteries, cultural and archaeological sites, municipal buildings, and critical infrastructure, including water, sanitation and power facilities.

Gaza’s healthcare system has come under relentless assault, South Africa has told the court, creating conditions of life “calculated to bring about the physical destruction of the Palestinian people as a group.”

The very definition of genocide.

Annihilating the Amalekites

How to halt the carnage? A sharply worded, categorical order from the ICJ order will not do it.

On the other hand, a Chapter VII resolution at the UN Security Council almost certainly would.

“Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression,” Chapter VII of the UN Charter is entitled. Such action would unfold in three steps. Under Article 40, the Security Council would “call upon the parties concerned to comply with such provisional measures as it deems necessary or desirable.”

Failing compliance, Article 41 would be invoked: “complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.”

If sanctions didn’t work, Article 42 would bring out the big guns: “[Action] by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations.”

El 3 de Mayo, Madrid. Francisco Goya

Imagine such a thing! US, British, French, Spanish, Italian and Canadian naval forces assembling off the coast of Gaza. A no-fly zone established over Israel’s brutally besieged concentration camp; an armed international contingent entering the battered and bloodied splinter of land, followed within hours by an army of international aid workers.

Reconstruction would follow, along with the brokered establishment of stable, autonomous Palestinian governance, guaranteed by a long-term peacekeeping mission.

The Chapter VII resolution would also ask the International Criminal Court to enter Gaza, in order to document Rome Statute crimes committed by both Israel and Gaza militants.

Israel would be completely out of the game. Fifty-six years of Israeli occupation, subjugation and oppression over.

Unknown photographer. Please reveal yourself.

Sound like a fantasy? Of course it is. The UNSC can’t even pass a ceasefire resolution. The US won’t allow it.

There is an alternative, perfectly likely, though with less teeth. The Uniting for Peace Resolution, it’s called.

Passed on November 3, 1950, four months into the Korean War, UNGA Resolution 377 lays out measures the UN General Assembly can undertake, if the UN Security Council is unable to act, as the result of a veto from one of its five permanent members (US, UK, France, Russia and China).

Failure of the UNSC to discharge its duties “does not relieve Member States of their obligations … to maintain international peace and security,” Resolution 377 says. “The United Nations has at its disposal means for maintaining international peace and security.”

These include the “use of armed force when necessary, to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

Short of armed force, the Uniting for Peace Resolution provides for the establishment of a Peace Observation Commission, by a two-thirds vote of Member States present in UN General Assembly session. That Commission could then be invited into a territory on the invitation of a State where the conflict was unfolding (e.g. Palestine).

To learn more about all this — and talk about the International Court of Justice — the GPM spoke with Ardi Imseis.

Imseis is Assistant Professor of Law at Queen’s University, in Ontario, specializing in public international law. Between 2002 and 2014, Imseis served in senior legal and policy capacities with the UN Relief & Works Agency (UNRWA), in the occupied Palestinian territory. Imseis has provided expert testimony to the UN Security Council, members of the UK House of Lords and the French Senate. His scholarship has appeared in a wide array of international journals, including the American Journal of International Law, the Harvard International Law Journal, and the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies.

Imseis’s latest book — The United Nations and the Question of Palestine — has just been published by Cambridge University Press.

Listen to our conversation with Ardi Imseis here: