Statement of Walden Bello at the Emergency Conference of Global Intellectuals of Conscience, London, January 27, 2024

Good afternoon.

My trial for cyberlibel will take place on Feb 1, a few days from now. But when the invitation to this emergency conference came from Prof Richard Falk and former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davotoglu, there was no question in my mind I had to attend, even if there was a risk I might not be able to make it back to Manila for the first day of my trial. Solidarity with the Palestinian people is the preeminent demand on all of us at the moment.

First of all, I would like to make what could be called a collective apology for the people of the Philippines for the actions of their government. The Philippine government cast the tie-breaking vote in the United Nations vote on the creation of the state of Israel in 1947. It was the only Asian country that voted for the resolution, and this was owing to the tremendous pressure exercised on it by the United States. The Philippines also abstained from the October 2023 General Assembly calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, again owing to pressure from the United States.

Israel is its own worst enemy. The more it kills, the more it destroys whatever is left of its legitimacy as a state, the farther away peace and security are from its grasp. The genocide that is happening in Gaza is not fortuitous. It does not spring from mistaken policies. It stems from the very logic of the Zionist project.

Don’t take it from me. This insight came from one of the greatest Jewish intellectuals of the 20th century, Hannah Arendt. Arendt was one of the more far-sighted critics of the Zionist project. She raised three key points. One was that the Zionist project of creating a Jewish state would involve dispossessing the majority population of Palestinians, and this was not only morally wrong but also an invitation to long-term trouble. The second was that such a settler state could only be maintained by the protection afforded by a Big Brother state. The third was that the Zionist project was racist. Back in early 1940’s, at the height of the Second World War, Arendt was already equating Zionism to Nazi racism. At that time of Jewish persecution, that charge, which she made in public debate with Zionists, seemed to many almost indecent and certainly very unfair. But now, in the context of recent events, it was brave and prescient, for indeed, Israel is now acting like Nazi Germany, engaged in apartheid and genocide.

But let me proceed to what we can do to contribute to the immediate halt to the genocide and the beginning of a real solution to the Israel-Palestine issue.

The ICJ ruling that there is substance to the South African charge of genocide provides global civil society with the momentum to engage in pressuring governments to more decisive acts aimed at changing Israel’s behavior and achieving a lasting solution to the Palestine-Israel issue.

Here are some examples of what grassroots civil society campaigns can do:

Following a campaign by BDS Malaysia, the Malaysian government banned vessels from the deeply complicit Israeli shipping company ZIM, as well as any other vessel flying the Israeli flag from docking at Malaysian ports.

The government of South Africa’s action in bringing the charge of genocide against Israel in the Hague followed years of civil society activism. In 2021, for instance, dockworkers belonging to the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) would not off-load the cargo from the Israeli vessel following a call from the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions.

Just two days ago, The Minneapolis City Council on Thursday passed a resolution calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war. The resolution passed on a 9-3 vote with one abstention. The symbolic resolution calls for an immediate and permanent cease-fire; humanitarian aid; an end to U.S. military funding to Israel; and the release of Israeli hostages taken by Hamas and the release of Palestinians held in Israeli military prisons. This is just one example of activists getting local governments in the US to act to subvert Washington’s despicable support for Israel’s genocidal military campaign.

Some 130 governments have bought weapons from Israel, which produces notably the Pegasus spyware technology as well as nearly two thirds of global military drone exports. Most of these governments voted for the UN ceasefire resolution last October. Civil society in these countries must ensure that their governments must back up their words with deeds and stop providing Israel with resources to carry out the genocide in Gaza.

Following the ICJ’s historic decision that Israel is plausibly committing genocide, and given that States Parties to the Genocide Convention have an erga omnes obligation to prevent and punish the crime of genocide, Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Coordinating Committee (PAACC) has pointed out the way forward for civil society action to pressure their governments.

  • Impose a two-way military embargo on Israel, work to adopt a mandatory arms embargo on it at the UN, and adopt other punitive measures to prevent and suppress its acts of genocide. and end the provision of economic and diplomatic support to it.
  • Impose lawful and proportionate economic sanctions and other countermeasures on Israel, including canceling all free-trade and cooperation agreements, until it adheres to its obligations under international law.
  • Take immediate action to expel Israel from international fora including the UNGA, International Olympic Committee, FIFA, and others, as apartheid South Africa was.
  • States Parties to the International Criminal Court (ICC) must pressure the Prosecutor to swiftly advance investigation into all war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide carried out by Israeli perpetrators against the Palestinian people, and to immediately and without further delay issue arrest warrants for the case files before the Court, since 2014. They must also ensure the Court is fully resourced to ensure the viability of the investigation into the Situation in Palestine.
  • Arrest and prosecute, including by applying Universal Jurisdiction, Israeli nationals, including government officials, or persons present on their territory or within their jurisdiction, who have incited to genocide, supported genocide, or carried out genocidal acts against the Palestinian people.
  • Act on their responsibility to ensure that corporate entities and institutions domiciled in their territory or under their jurisdiction will cease and desist from aiding and abetting Israel’s genocide and other crimes under international law, including the crime against humanity of apartheid, against the Palestinian people.
  • Join the large and increasing number of states in the Global South in supporting South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the ICJ.

Let this meeting of global intellectuals of conscience come out in unanimous support of these demands.

Let me end by expressing my deep admiration for the Palestinian resistance. As Comrade Ramzi Baroud has pointed out, after 100 days of genocide, Israel has not achieved its military and political objectives. It certainly has not destroyed Hamas. I interviewed the Hamas leader Usama Hamdan in Beirut in 2004, and his answer to my question on whether he feared assassination by the Israelis provides the key to why the Palestinians will triumph in the end: “I am on two [assassination] lists, one with six names and another with 12 names. But I am living my own life normally. I eat breakfast with my children, I always try to do this because this is when I can talk to them and ask them about their day and their plans. I visit my friends and my friends visit me. I just recently went out with my children to swim in the sea. You just die once, and it can be from cancer, in a car accident, or by assassination. Given these choices, I prefer assassination.”

Thank you.