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Why the UN and ICJ Cannot Halt the Gaza Bloodshed?

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The Gaza conflict, a long-standing and deeply rooted geopolitical issue, has highlighted significant limitations in the capabilities of international institutions such as the United Nations (UN) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in halting warfare and securing lasting peace. Despite their mandates to maintain international peace and security, several factors have hampered their effectiveness in the Gaza context. These include the political dynamics within the UN, the legal and jurisdictional constraints of the ICJ, the strategic interests of powerful nations, and the profound humanitarian impact of the conflict.

Political Dynamics and Veto Power in the UN

A key factor in the UN’s failure to stop the Gaza war is the political dynamics within its most influential body, the Security Council. The Security Council’s structure allows any of its five permanent members—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—to veto any substantive resolution. This veto power has been a major obstacle to passing resolutions aimed at ceasing hostilities or imposing sanctions on the warring parties.

For instance, the United States, a staunch ally of Israel, has frequently used its veto to block resolutions critical of Israeli actions in Gaza. According to a Reuters report, the U.S. has historically exercised its veto power to shield Israel from international criticism and sanctions, citing its right to self-defense against what it describes as terrorist actions by Hamas​ (United Nations Press)​ . This dynamic has effectively paralyzed the Security Council’s ability to take decisive action to stop the conflict.

Legal and Jurisdictional Limitations of the ICJ

The ICJ, while an important body for adjudicating international disputes and issuing rulings based on international law, faces significant jurisdictional and enforcement challenges. The ICJ can issue provisional measures, such as ordering states to take steps to prevent genocide or allow humanitarian aid. However, these measures rely on the compliance of the involved states and lack direct enforcement mechanisms.

Israel, for example, has contested the ICJ’s jurisdiction and the merit of the cases brought against it. According to Al Jazeera, Israel argues that it has the right to defend itself against terrorism and that the ICJ lacks the authority to intervene in what it considers domestic security matters​ (DW)​. This stance undermines the ICJ’s ability to enforce its rulings and reduces its effectiveness in halting the conflict.

Strategic Interests and Alliances

Strategic interests and alliances significantly influence the international response to the Gaza conflict. Countries such as the United States have substantial geopolitical stakes in supporting Israel, which affects their willingness to push for actions that might constrain Israeli military operations. This alliance impacts the ability of international bodies to function impartially and effectively.

Moreover, other major powers like China and Russia, while critical of Western policies in the Middle East, also have their own strategic interests that shape their positions and actions within the UN and other forums. This complex web of alliances and interests often leads to a deadlock in international decision-making processes​ (United Nations Press)​.

Humanitarian and Civilian Impact

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza adds urgency to calls for international intervention. The blockade and continuous military operations have led to severe shortages of food, medical supplies, and basic services for the civilian population. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire, with significant impacts on the health and well-being of its residents .

The ICJ and other international bodies have highlighted the severe impact on civilians, but without effective enforcement mechanisms, these declarations have limited practical impact. The ongoing conflict exacerbates the humanitarian situation, leading to further loss of life and suffering.

Political dynamics, legal limitations

The failure of the UN and the ICJ to stop the Gaza war can be attributed to a combination of political dynamics, legal limitations, and the strategic interests of powerful nations. The use of veto power by permanent members of the UN Security Council, particularly the United States, and the enforcement challenges faced by the ICJ have hindered effective international intervention. Furthermore, the complex web of strategic alliances and interests often leads to deadlock, preventing decisive action.

Until these structural and political issues are addressed, the international community will likely continue to struggle in its efforts to resolve the conflict and alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Effective intervention requires not only legal and diplomatic measures but also a commitment to overcoming political barriers and prioritizing humanitarian needs.

References

Abu Bakr Alvi
Abu Bakr Alvi
Mr. Abu Bakr Alvi, Senior Journalist Based in Faisalabad

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