Global Responses to the Israel-Gaza Conflict and the ICJ Ruling

By Valentine M. Moghadam, Isabel Geisler, Makayla Pulliam

Disclaimer: These opinion pieces represent the authors’ personal views, and do not necessarily reflect the official policies or positions of Norwich University or PAWC.

Moghadam-Geisler-Pulliam Article 2024

The October 2023 edition of The Journal of Peace and War Studies appeared just after the Palestinian militant group Hamas had launched a surprise attack on southern Israel, to which the Israeli government and military responded with a ferocity that continues at this writing (April 2024).  The violence of the 7 October Hamas attack was shocking, but for Gazans, death, displacement, and destruction continue with no end in sight, despite outcries from numerous progressive organizations, scholars, students, and feminist peace activists. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) heard charges against Israel’s onslaught through writs by South African legal scholars and legislators and an Irish specialist in international law. At the Court in The Hague on 11-12 January 2024, the legal scholars made a convincing case of probable genocide, with which the ICJ judges concurred, albeit to some extent. (For a summary of the Court’s ruling, see The ICJ deliberations fell on deaf ears within the U.S. political elite, which continued to stand by its ally Israel, deny all the charges, and continue to send weapons to add to Israel’s already formidable arsenal. Pope Francis has consistently called for peace and negotiations, condemning war, but the ostensibly Catholic president Joe Biden has refused to listen, preferring to encourage more war. 

European countries that have converged with the US on foreign policy matters – most notably Germany, France, and the UK – stand by Israel, as does the government of Ukraine, denying the charges and insisting that Israel has the “right to defend itself.”  Yet none of those governments criticized the 1st April 2024 Israeli assault on the Iranian consulate in Damascus. That attack was a double violation of international law in that it not only violated a sovereign state’s borders (Syria) but was an assault on a diplomatic site (belonging to Iran), killing 11 people including an Iranian general.  Instead, after the Iranian government responded on 13 April with drone strikes on Israel – nearly all of which were shot down with no one killed – Western governments and their media constantly referred to “the unprecedented Iranian attacks” on Israel. One wonders if the term “unprecedented” was applied to the Iranian retaliation because Iran has never militarily attacked Israel or any other country, while Israel has a long record of doing so. Perhaps it is precisely because of Israel’s record of aggressive behavior in the region that the term “unprecedented” is not applied to Israel’s attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus. 

Meanwhile, the people of Gaza have been suffering a humanitarian nightmare, documented by numerous international sources. (See, for example, the February 2024 Council on Foreign Relations briefing, For the more recent report by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, see Among the more egregious aspects of the Israeli denial to humanitarian aid is to force Gazans to “beg” for the food and supplies to which they are entitled, or watch people rush toward the aid trucks, and then disparage them for such unruly behavior. This is yet another form of violence to which the people of Gaza have been subjected. As if it had not done enough damage to its own reputation, the Israeli military then attacked a convoy of World Central Kitchen aid workers. Those circuits of violence – across territories, on the bodies of women, men, and children, and the wanton displays of international lawlessness – are further evidence of the argument I made in my article (Moghadam 2023) about the “empty promises” of the UN’s Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda, and especially of the so-called Feminist Foreign Policy (FFP) adopted by the likes of Germany and France. Those events also reveal the extent of Western bias, such as its tolerance of Israel’s violations of international law and humanitarian norms.  

Activism and Advocacy Against War and For Peace

In the months since the bombardments began, numerous petitions and open letters of protest have been issued by progressive organizations worldwide, conscientious scholars of all faiths and nationalities, and Iranian-American academics, among many others – all to express outrage at the Israeli military’s destruction of mosques, churches, hospitals, schools, and universities in Gaza. In April 2024, an “Open Letter from North American Academics Condemning Scholasticide in Gaza” had some 2,300 signatures from over 325 educational institutions. 

Earlier, a group of feminist academics with expertise on the Middle East held an on-line discussion on “Palestine and Transnational Feminist Solidarity: Race, Gender and Genocide.” The group included Dr. Nadera Shalhoub Kevorkian, a Palestinian Israeli who teaches at Hebrew University in Israel. (For an example of her critical but rigorous writing, see Shalhoub-Kevorkian 2015.) Her firing led to a wave of protests from academics, after which she was reinstated. But in mid-April, she was arrested and charged with “incitement to violence.” Another wave of protest letters ensued. 

Across the U.S., university students have been protesting – often at great risk of suspension or arrests – with rallies and encampments calling for an immediate ceasefire and an end to arms sales to Israel. Labor has also responded. In February 2024, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the United Auto Workers, the Chicago Teachers Union, the Minnesota Nurses Association, and many other U.S. labor unions issued “The US Labor Movement Calls for Ceasefire in Israel and Palestine.” 

Support for Palestine seems to be strong in Puerto Rico. According to my former student Dr. Isabel Geisler, many of the expressions of Puerto Rican-Palestinian solidarity occur on social media, given that pro-Palestinian opinions and journalism are often denied access to mainstream media outlets. However, expressions of solidarity are also made at public rallies, and Puerto Rican-Palestinian mutual support is longstanding. In 2001, at the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York, the Palestine Right to Return Commission expressed support for Puerto Ricans struggling against the US military operations in Vieques. In Puerto Rico, the Red de Solidaridad con Palestina (Solidarity Network with Palestina) has existed since 2008. More recently, the network joined with Madres en Contra Guerra (Mothers Against War) in support of Palestine, with protests at the capital in San Juan and in front of the Israeli consulate there, and before the Puerto Rican branch of Lockheed Martin. Moreover, Puerto Rican feminist organizations have issued strong statements decrying the assault on Gaza. La Colectiva Feminista en Construccion (known as La Cole) has organized several marches and events in support of Palestine. A mural by La Cole reads “Y Será Libre Puerto Rico Y Palestina.”

In the midst of the ICJ deliberations in January 2024, several activist groups issued the “Organizational Sign-on Letter Calling on States to Support South Africa’s Genocide Convention Case Against Israel at the ICJ”. Having met earlier, the group included the U.S.-based Code Pink, Veterans for Peace, the National Lawyers Guild, Black Alliance for Peace, and the U.S. section of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Beyond the U.S., initiating organizations included Progressive International (co-founded by the former Greek finance minister, Yannis Varoufakis) and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers.   

Some 1,006 organizations had signed by the time I decided to analyze the list of signatories with a student research assistant, Makayla Pulliam. We classified the signatories by world-region location and type of activism. The latter typology was complicated by some overlap across the categories we constructed – civil society, political parties, labor/unions, peace, feminist, religious, and cultural signatories. For example, “Palestine Christian Alliance for Peace” and “Jewish Voice for Peace” span both peace and religious signatories. Also included was an array of organizational signatories that fell in the interstices of the other more obvious categories (e.g., Charlottetown Mutual Aid, Canada). We thus constructed a more inclusive “social justice” category for those groups. 

Our preliminary analysis shows that “social justice organizations” appear to dominate the signatories (442 signatories) followed by civil society organizations (155). The next largest categories were peace (93) and feminist (81) signatories. (NB: In some cases, the latter two categories overlapped.) 

In terms of geographic location, most of the signatories are from North America and predominantly from the U.S. (with 288 organizational signatories). This is indicative of the vast political and moral gulf separating those signatories and the Biden Administration. Although the U.S. dominates, Makayla and I were pleasantly surprised to find 132 organizational signatories from Spain (out of 261 from Europe). Other organizational signatories come from (in descending order) Palestine, the UK, Australia, Canada, France, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, Tunisia, and Jordan. As a world-region, Latin America is well represented among the signatories, most of which are in the “social justice” category, although labor/unions also have a strong showing. 

We plan to revisit our categories and conduct further analysis, this time with the use of software. For now, our analysis of the 1,009 Organizational Signatories letter, when combined with the open letters and other initiatives mentioned in this essay, shows considerable global consternation with the conduct of the Israeli military in Gaza, and it shows considerable solidarity with Palestinians in general. 

Valentine M. Moghadam, Professor of Sociology and International Affairs, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115. Born in Tehran, Iran, Prof. Moghadam is the author of many books (single-authored and edited), research articles, and policy papers. 

Isabel Geisler, Ph.D., Sociology, Northeastern University (May 2024) specializes in qualitative methods, Puerto Rico’s political history and feminist movements, and social movements in Latin America, and has undertaken extensive fieldwork in Honduras, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.

Makayla Pulliam majors in Political Science and International Affairs at Northeastern University and will earn a B.A. in May 2024. Among her interests are environmental issues, international law, and quantitative techniques.

References Cited:

Moghadam, Valentine M. “Women, Peace, and Security in the Middle East: An Agenda of Empty Promises?” In Journal of Peace and War Studies, 5th ed., October 2023, pp. 36-59. journal-peace-war-studies-5th-edition ( 

Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Nadera. 2015. Security Theology, Surveillance, and the Politics of Fear. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.