Two Bitter Anniversaries for Middle Eastern Democracy

Yesterday, writes Elliott Abrams, marked the anniversary of two major events in the recent history of the Middle East: the overthrow of the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and the electoral victory of Hamas in Gaza in 2005. Abrams draws some parallels, and some lessons.

In both cases high hopes were crushed. . . . Egypt today is more repressive than it was under Mubarak, and Palestine is divided between Gaza, ruled by Hamas without a scintilla of democratic practice, and the West Bank, ruled by Fatah just as it was when Yasir Arafat lived. . . .

[I]t is worth noting what the Egyptian picture has in common with the Palestinian one: the lack of strong democratic political parties. The Muslim Brotherhood won [the post-Mubarak election] in good part because it had weak competition, and it had weak competition because Mubarak for three decades made sure centrist or moderate (including moderate Islamist) parties could not be organized. Similarly, Hamas won in 2006 in good part because of the absence of alternatives. . . .

So . . . these fifth and tenth anniversaries are a reminder (among many other things) of the importance of building democratic political parties, or, put otherwise, of the impossibility of achieving democracy when no such parties exist. Efforts to promote democracy in Arab and other lands that count solely on NGOs and “civil society” will not succeed if this crucial ingredient—democratic political parties—are absent.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Arab democracy, Egypt, Gaza, Hamas, Hosni Mubarak, Politics & Current Affairs

The ICJ’s Vice-President Explains What’s Wrong with Its Recent Ruling against Israel

It should be obvious to anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of the Gaza war that Israel is not committing genocide there, or anything even remotely akin to it. In response to such spurious accusations, it’s often best to focus on the mockery they make of international law itself, or on how Israel can most effectively combat them. Still, it is also worth stopping to consider the legal case on its own terms. No one has done this quite so effectively, to my knowledge, as the Ugandan jurist Julia Sebutinde, who is the vice-president of the ICJ and the only one of its judges to rule unequivocally in Israel’s favor both in this case and in the previous one where it found accusations of genocide “plausible.”

Sebutinde begins by questioning the appropriateness of the court ruling on this issue at all:

Once again, South Africa has invited the Court to micromanage the conduct of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Such hostilities are exclusively governed by the laws of war (international humanitarian law) and international human-rights law, areas where the Court lacks jurisdiction in this case.

The Court should also avoid trying to enforce its own orders. . . . Is the Court going to reaffirm its earlier provisional measures every time a party runs to it with allegations of a breach of its provisional measures? I should think not.

Sebutinde also emphasizes the absurdity of hearing this case after Israel has taken “multiple concrete actions” to alleviate the suffering of Gazan civilians since the ICJ’s last ruling. In fact, she points out, “the evidence actually shows a gradual improvement in the humanitarian situation in Gaza since the Court’s order.” She brings much evidence in support of these points.

She concludes her dissent by highlighting the procedural irregularities of the case, including a complete failure to respect the basic rights of the accused:

I find it necessary to note my serious concerns regarding the manner in which South Africa’s request and incidental oral hearings were managed by the Court, resulting in Israel not having sufficient time to file its written observations on the request. In my view, the Court should have consented to Israel’s request to postpone the oral hearings to the following week to allow for Israel to have sufficient time to fully respond to South Africa’s request and engage counsel. Regrettably, as a result of the exceptionally abbreviated timeframe for the hearings, Israel could not be represented by its chosen counsel, who were unavailable on the dates scheduled by the Court.

It is also regrettable that Israel was required to respond to a question posed by a member of the Court over the Jewish Sabbath. The Court’s decisions in this respect bear upon the procedural equality between the parties and the good administration of justice by the Court.

Read more at International Court of Justice

More about: Gaza War 2023, ICC, International Law