“A Slow Burn Ethnic Cleanse”: APAN’s Nasser Mashni on the South African ICJ Genocide Case

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APAN’s Nasser Mashni

South Africa stepped up just before the turning of the new year to lodge an application to initiate proceedings against the Israeli state, charging it with ongoing violations of the Genocide Convention, via the three-month-long wholesale massacre it’s been perpetrating in the Gaza Strip.

The claim has been submitted to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which has fifteen judges on its bench, and if eight of these find that the South African report, which is dense with evidence, is convincing, then an interim restraining order will be issued to Israel.

Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN) president Nasser Mashni has been a key local advocate for Palestine, and on the ICJ case, he states that it’s time the Australian government makes clear that the Genocide Convention applies to Palestinians as much as it does to Ukrainians.

Mashni has also been a vocal critic of the mainstream media coverage of Israeli operations in Gaza, which has conveyed, in tandem with our local government, the message that it is Israel that is under threat and in undertaking the mass killing, it’s merely exercising its right to self-defence.

A genocide-free super

The APAN president is also calling on Australians to contact their own superannuation funds to inquire whether their retirement savings are being used to invest in companies that are linked to the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

This campaign was launched by BDS (Boycott, Sanction and Divestment) Australia, which is modelled on the South African Anti-Apartheid Movement.

In the early 1990s, this global campaign ended the discriminatory South African policy of apartheid, which is now operating in Israel.

“Make sure your money is not invested to support the continuation of this murderous policy,” BDS Australia advises. “Superannuation is compulsory in Australia – so we all have it. What if your super was invested in corporations that directly contributed towards… indiscriminate murder?”

Sydney Criminal Lawyers spoke to APAN president Nasser Mashni about the importance of ensuring that retirement funds from this nation are not being invested in an apartheid regime, the hope he has for the ICJ case, and the significance of South Africa having lodged the genocide claim.

In response to the ongoing genocide in Gaza, Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, in conjunction with BDS Australia, is asking Australians to check their superfund to ensure their retirement savings aren’t being used in relation to invest in UN listed companies operating in illegal Israeli settlements.

Nasser, why should Australians be checking their superfund like this? And what’s the process?

We call upon all Australians with a concern for shared humanity, for a world where everyone is equal, to call out their superfunds and to demand that their superfunds are not complicit in funding the ongoing oppression and genocide of Palestinians.

They can do this at the link: https://bdsaustralia.net.au/check-your-super/

The Israeli state’s assault on the small region of Gaza has continued at an unprecedented scale for three months now. How would you describe the situation in the Gaza Strip today, after so long?

The situation on the ground now is unprecedented. What we have seen is Israel manufacture a situation to make Gaza uninhabitable.

The entire civilian infrastructure is all but destroyed – the education system, the hospital system, roads, sewage, telecommunications.

Gaza is arguably uninhabitable now for perhaps a decade. This is a slow burn ethnic cleanse.

What is required to rebuild Gaza is country-level intervention, UN level.

During the next decade, whilst those schools, hospitals, roads, infrastructure, etc are built, more than 2 million Palestinians will have to be elsewhere, and that could be in Cairo, it might be Amman in Jordan, or they might be in Melbourne or Sydney, Australia.

What Palestinians would go back to Gaza knowing that every two or three years Israel is going to “mow the lawn”?

This is a slow burn ethnic cleanse, and it is despicable that western governments have created the impunity that Israel has and enjoys to create such grave crimes against humanity.

Since the beginning of the Israeli perpetrated genocide, you’ve been a prominent voice for Palestine in the media.

The refusal to honestly report on Gaza on the part of much of the Australian media has been widely criticised. You’ve even fallen foul of it in a discredited hit piece.

What’s your assessment of the Australian media coverage of the carnage three months on?

I continue to find ways to be disappointed, Paul. Overnight, another Palestinian journalist was executed. That brings the number to in excess of 100.

Now, that’s 107 journalists killed in just over 90 days.

Journalists in Australia who are not reporting on their colleagues being killed, let alone giving a fair voice to the Australian Palestinian narrative, or to the Palestinian narrative from Palestine, are just shameful.

The coverage is absolutely painful and has contributed, along with our government’s actions, to a complete breakdown in the social cohesion and the feeling of belonging of Australian Palestinians, but also, so many other people who feel an affinity for the Palestinian people and the injustice that they’re suffering.

The outpouring of grassroots support for Palestine has been massive both here and across the planet. And many older members of the movement have remarked that it’s grown at a much faster pace and with greater numbers than the movement against the Vietnam War.

What are your thoughts on the massive Free Palestine movement that has formed?

I’m heartened, absolutely heartened, by the continued engagement of the wider Australian public with Palestine and the Palestinian cause.

It speaks volumes that, despite the terrible reportage and a government that is running cover for a genocidal Israeli regime, the voices of Palestinians directly from Gaza and from East Palestine, whether that be over WhatsApp or TikTok, those voices are getting to Australians, and they are seeing what Palestinians have been saying for 75 years.

And that is that Zionism unmasked is a genocidal, white supremacist, racist movement, and when given the opportunity, with western consent, to unleash its ferocious racist terror, it will kill and destroy everything in its path.

South Africa has submitted an application to begin proceedings against Israel in regard to its violations of the Genocide Convention in Gaza.

South Africa’s report has been highly welcomed and praised. What are your thoughts on it?

I’m proud of the South African people, who through decades of apartheid and oppression, those people who fought for their freedom, are now echoing the words of Nelson Mandela, who said, “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinian people.”

I’m proud that those people who have been oppressed for so long have grown and been educated and are now, as lawyers and international law experts, at the forefront of speaking out for Palestine and have taken Israel to the International Criminal Court.

And lastly, Nasser, South Africa is putting its case to the ICJ on Thursday and Israel states its position on Friday. If the World Court is satisfied with the South African argument a temporary restraining order will be issued against Israel.

The ICJ is made up of 15 justices from 15 different nations. Currently, Australia has a judge on the panel.

What would you say to the Australian government right now in regard to its position, at a time when the nation’s vote is vital in ending the greatest humanitarian crisis of recent times?

I’d urge the Australian government to support South Africa’s case against Israel – to issue a letter of public support of the case.

I hope and trust that the justice that is representing Australia on the ICJ panel will hear the evidence impartially and won’t follow a dictate from our government and judge the case based on its merits.

Anyone that has read, or even scanned, the 84 page report that South Africa has put together cannot but come away convinced that Israel is committing genocide.

Main photo: APAN (Australia Palestine Advocacy Network) president Nasser Mashni addresses the 10 December 2023 Gaza Ceasefire rally in Sydney’s Hyde Park

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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