Photo: Hon. Francis Fonseca, Minister of Foreign Affairs
“What’s going on?” – Marvin Gaye
BELIZE CITY, Wed. Jan. 31, 2024
Even as some strong voices, former prime ministers and foreign ministers, have raised the call for Belize to join the move by South Africa and list our country’s name among those who support the charge of genocide against Israel at the International Court of Justice in order to force an end to its merciless slaughter of innocent women, children and babies in Gaza while imposing cruel and heartless conditions that are quickly leading to mass starvation and disease among the captive Palestinian population; there are some other voices who still cling to the garments of biblical Israel and are agitating for Belize to rekindle diplomatic relations with the Jewish apartheid state. Some global pharmaceutical corporations raked in obscene profits in the billions from their vaccine sales during the recent Covid-19 pandemic; and the corporations of the so-called “military industrial complex” are amassing billions from their sales of weapons of war that are presently being unleashed in the Middle East. Meanwhile, a drowned out, quiet voice whispers: “Suffer the little children to come unto Me.” Who is listening?
Belize, at this time, has not indicated any interest in joining South Africa in its genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). This was confirmed today by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Francis Fonseca who told Amandala that Government is merely monitoring the case closely. When asked if joining the South Africa case has been considered, Fonseca replied, “We have discussed it. You know, Belize – let’s be very clear – Belize has taken unprecedented steps. Belize has been a leader in CARICOM on standing up in support of the people of Gaza.” He made reference to Belize’s suspension of diplomatic relations with Israel on November 14, 2023, which he described as a bold, clear, and principled move.
Fonseca further explained that the entire CARICOM bloc is monitoring the South Africa case which was lodged at the ICJ on December 29, 2023, calling on Israel to “immediately cease hostilities in Gaza and to refrain from conduct constituting or failing to prevent violations of its obligations under the [Genocide] Convention.” Fonseca commented, “We find that it’s very often best to do these things, to take steps and to take action in coordination with our CARICOM brothers and sisters. That, we believe, is the most effective approach.”
While Fonseca called for an immediate cease fire of Israel’s continued onslaught in Gaza since Hamas’ October 7, 2023 surprise attack on southern Israel, and he condemns that innocent people are being killed, he does not view it as a natural next step for Belize to join South Africa at the ICJ after Belize’s suspension of diplomatic ties with Israel. He remarked, “No other country in CARICOM took Belize’s position. Remember that. No other country in CARICOM followed Belize’s lead. We are the only country in CARICOM who has suspended diplomatic relations with Israel. In terms of the case, there are specific legal implications that flow from that case. Belize is monitoring that case. We are watching it very carefully. But no one should question Belize’s bold, principled position that we have taken on this issue.”
Fonseca’s predecessor, Senator Eamon Courtenay has joined former foreign ministers Godfrey Smith and Assad Shoman alongside our only two living former prime ministers, Dean Barrow and Said Musa, in calling for Belize to join the South Africa case. The group of 5 open their three-page letter dated January 29, 2024, expressing “… the highest admiration for the Republic of South Africa for charging Israel before the ICJ with the crime of genocide.” They then highlight that South Africa went it alone in “fulfilling their obligation under the Genocide Convention” which requires that Contracting Parties “confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.” The five former ministers say the South Africa case is a “reminder and spur for others to do everything possible to prevent a genocide in progress.”
On Friday, January 26, the ICJ, in handing down provisional measures requested by South Africa to “protect against further, severe and irreparable harm to the rights of the Palestinian people under the Genocide Convention,” stopped short of ordering a cease fire in Gaza. However, it ordered that Israel prevent and punish acts of genocide against Palestinians and that it effectively enable “the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance …” for Palestinians being adversely affected in the Gaza Strip. The provisional measures are considered a setback for Israel who hoped to have the case thrown out. The five Belize former ministers lamented the lack of an order for a ceasefire, but indicated that the provisional measures order “… vindicates the decision of the government of Belize to have suspended relations with Israel.”
The ex-ministers have also called for the Evangelical Churches and others who condemned Belize’s decision to suspend diplomatic relations with Israel to reconsider their position and to instead join the call for Israel to prevent continuing genocide. The group points to the ICJ judgment which quotes a UN report which states that “People are facing the highest levels of food insecurity ever recorded. Famine is around the corner. For children in particular, the past 12 weeks have been traumatic: No food. No water. No school. Nothing but the terrifying sounds of war, day in and day out”.
The former ministers also highlight South Africa’s ease in securing plausible evidence that Israel is committing genocide, and that its leaders have expressed such intent. They point to the ICJ citing multiple incriminating statements of Israeli leaders: “The Defence Minister promised a ‘complete siege’ and said that there would be ‘no electricity, no food, no fuel’. He told his troops ‘I have released all restraints … We are fighting human animals … We will eliminate everything’. And the Israeli President: ‘It is an entire nation out there that is responsible … And we will fight until we’ll break their backbone’. And the Minister of Energy and Infrastructure: ‘All the civilian population in [G]aza is ordered to leave immediately. We will win. They will not receive a drop of water or a single battery until they leave the world’.”
The ICJ has ordered that Israel submit reports on all the measures it takes to give effect to the provisional measures. However, the five former ministers of Belize say no one expects Israel to comply, hence why it is important for pressure to be brought on them to do so. The former ministers affirm that Belize and CARICOM are duty bound by the Convention to “ensure a genocide in progress stops.” They add, “And we Belizeans who have faced the threat of Guatemalan forces armed and trained by Israel should step up and defend the right of the Palestinian people to life and to self-determination. By defending them we defend ourselves and all mankind.” They note that if Belize joins South Africa, our name would be inscribed “in the rolls of countries that fight for individual and universal justice.”
Importantly, the former ministers also call for the reinstatement of funding by several western powers to the UNRWA which is the UN agency that assists the 4 million plus Palestinian refugees “created by Israel’s ethnic cleansing.” The decision by those western powers to cease funding of the UNRWA was made based on Israel’s allegation, one day after the ICJ’s preliminary ruling, that over 9 UNRWA employees (of 30,000) had participated in Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel.