This past week, we all became South Africans

Meanwhile, the hypocrisy of Western leaders was out on display for all to see.

People gather as they wait for the arrival of the legal team representing South Africa's case against Israel at the Court of Justice at Johannesburg international airport, South Africa on January 14, 2024
People gather as they wait for the arrival of the legal team representing South Africa's case against Israel at the Court of Justice at Johannesburg international airport, South Africa on January 14, 2024 [Alet Pretorius/Reuters]

Inevitably, contempt breeds disgust.

Anyone with a scintilla of awareness and sympathy for the horrors that Palestinians have endured for generations knows the abiding ache that churns inside of us like a dormant volcano ready to blow with righteous anger.

So, we take to the streets, bridges and national malls in a necessary display of irenic solidarity and to point an accusatory finger at the hypocrites and their enablers who deny the inhumanity and injustices that we can all see being perpetrated in Gaza and the West Bank with deliberate, lethal efficiency by a fanatical regime seized with a “killing rage”.

Lately, the hypocrites and their enablers, have worked hard – as they always do – to deny or discredit our South African allies who have done the right and honourable thing by holding Israel to account finally for the crimes it committed yesterday and the outrages it is sure to commit today and tomorrow.

South Africa is keen on seeing through its principled charge in a courtroom: that Israel has, by careful and deliberate design, carried out genocide and turned much of Gaza into dust.

The result: despite the risks and recriminations, South Africa has succeeded in putting Israel in the dock – where scores of nations who signed on to the historic legal gambit believe it has long belonged.

The hypocrites and their enablers have responded – as they are also apt to do – with howls of hyperbole and indignation instead of addressing the substance of South Africa’s detailed, persuasive indictment delivered with quiet, devastating precision at The Hague.

True to condescending, colonial attitude-reeking form, the hypocrites, and their enablers – who believe that Israel is never at fault, never responsible, never to blame, and, of course, never guilty – have derided South Africa’s stinging submission as misguided, “unhelpful,” and “counterproductive.”

Their pat, predictable reaction not only fuels sweeping disgust, but invites an admittedly rhetorical question: When is the pursuit of justice and accountability ever misguided, “unhelpful”, and “counterproductive”?

And what, in the disingenuous calculus of the hypocrites and their enablers, would constitute being “helpful” and “productive” in the odious, prevailing circumstances?

Silence? Blindness? Apathy?

That may be their choice. It is not ours.

While the hypocrites and their enablers are content to spout meaningless bromides and feign concern for the innocent casualties of an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe, we, along with our steadfast South African friends, are prepared to raise our voice, to act, and to demonstrate because history and decency demand it.

Those of us who witness genocide and are moved by our conscience to stop it, became South Africans in spirit this past week. We ought to be grateful to a nation and a people who know and have experienced the calumnies and indignities inherent to a diseased, apartheid ideology.

South Africa’s good fight is our fight. South Africa, to its eternal credit, took the lead when others refused or hesitated to come to the defence of imprisoned Palestinians, bearing the gifts of hope and empathy.

In shameful contrast, the presidents and prime ministers of so-called enlightened Western democracies have opted to enable, encourage, and excuse the perpetrator’s wanton wrath rather than to protect, provide for, and console its mostly young, profoundly damaged victims.

South Africa was compelled to take a stand, since, as the immortal freedom fighter Nelson Mandela once said, “The histories of our two peoples, Palestinian and South African, correspond in such painful and poignant ways.”

The pain is evident day after dreadful day. The scenes of death, destruction, and humiliation in Gaza and the occupied West Bank are reminiscent of the awful images that several decades ago dominated TV screens and pierced the heart and soul.

We remember when the leaders of so-called enlightened Western democracies played collaborator to an apartheid state brimming with racists out of “strategic” interest.

Their complicity was as repugnant then as it is today.

Still, in a poignant reminder of their shared struggle for freedom and self-determination, a gathering of Palestinians who have made a home in South Africa welcomed back members of the country’s legal team at an airport in Johannesburg on Sunday.

“We need to stand against oppression irrespective of where it is,” a woman sporting a keffiyeh and holding a Palestinian flag said, smiling.

In that moment, on that day, South Africans and Palestinians stood together as one people bound by one conviction: that justice, however belated, can be done and will be done if the will exists to pursue it.

Meanwhile, a gallery of timorous presidents and prime ministers have, on cue, closed ranks behind Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rejecting South Africa’s accusations that Israel has committed a litany of crimes against humanity in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

Their unanimity reveals their rank hypocrisy.

In early April 2022, US President Joe Biden declared that Russia had engaged in “genocide” in Ukraine.

“Yes, I called it genocide,” Biden said on an airport tarmac amid the whir of nearby engines. “It’s become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being Ukrainian and the evidence is mounting.”

Biden did not share any of his “evidence” beyond insisting that Russia had done “horrible things” in Ukraine.

“We’ll let the lawyers decide internationally whether or not it qualifies, but it sure seems that way to me,” Biden said.

Ever the reliable “junior partner”, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau parroted – near verbatim – Biden’s “genocide” writ.

“I think, as President Biden highlighted, there are official processes around determinations of genocide. But I think it’s absolutely right that more and more people be talking and using the word ‘genocide’ in terms of what Russia is doing, what Vladimir Putin has done,” Trudeau told reporters.

He cited Russia’s “targeted attacks” against civilians and Ukraine’s culture and identity as “evidence” of genocide.

Who needs a panel of judges at the International Court of Justice when the law firm of Biden, Trudeau, and Quickdraw decides unilaterally that Russia is guilty as charged?

When South African lawyers presented a brief filled with concrete, not bombastic, “evidence” of Israel’s intent and execution of genocide, Biden, Trudeau, and company retreated to the comfort of denial and ignorance.

Just like “apartheid”, “genocide” is a verboten word among the craven leaders of enlightened Western democracies when Israel is accused of “horrible things”, including the targeting of civilians and the wholesale erasure of the culture and identity of Palestinians throughout their ancestral lands.

If Israel receives its comeuppance, South Africa should take a well-earned bow on behalf of humanity and the tattered remnants of international law.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.