Genocide case against Israel gets underway at International Court of Justice
By Cassie B. // Jan 12, 2024

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is currently hearing a case brought up by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide in its actions in Gaza.

January 11 marked the first day of a two-day hearing at the ICJ, which is at The Hague in the Netherlands. South Africa claims that Israel’s ground and air assaults on Gaza are aimed at causing the “destruction” of the Palestinian population. Both Israel and South Africa are signatories to the Genocide Convention of 1948, which means that they cannot commit genocide and must prevent it from taking place.

Lawyers for South Africa asked the ICJ to order Israel to suspend its campaign in Gaza to protect Palestinians. In their opening remarks, they said they place “Israel’s genocidal acts and omissions within the broader context of Israel’s 25-year apartheid, 56-year occupation, and 16-year siege imposed on the Gaza Strip.”

South African lawyer Adila Hassim said: “Israel deployed 6,000 bombs per week … No one is spared. Not even newborns. UN chiefs have described it as a graveyard for children. Nothing will stop the suffering, except an order from this court.”

Israel launched a war against the terror group Hamas in Gaza after they killed more than 1,200 people and took more than 200 hostages in a surprise attack on Israel on October 7. Although South Africa has condemned the Hamas attacks, they maintain that “nothing” that happened justifies Israel’s response. According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, Israel has killed more than 23,000 people in the enclave since the war began.

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South Africa maintained that restricting the availability of food, water, electricity and medicine to those in Gaza is further evidence of Israel’s intention to destroy Palestinians. Most of their population of 2.3 million people has been displaced.

Furthermore, South Africa argued that comments made by some Israeli leaders indicate the country’s “genocidal intent.” Several high-profile Israeli politicians have made incendiary comments recently calling for the destruction of Gaza.

Israel remains defiant and insists it is not committing genocide

Israel’s attitude toward the case has been somewhat dismissive, with government spokesperson Eylon Levy saying that it’s “tragic that the rainbow nation that prides itself on fighting racism will be fighting pro-bono for the anti-Jewish racists.”

They have also accused South Africa of hypocrisy because they did not also bring genocide charges against Hamas, even though the terror group’s founding charter calls for destroying the Jewish state and killing its people.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “the hypocrisy of South Africa screams to the heavens.”

He stated: "We are fighting terrorists, we are fighting lies... Today we saw an upside-down world. Israel is accused of genocide while it is fighting against genocide."

Tomorrow, Israel will provide its response. President Isaac Herzog has said that they will argue the war is self-defense and demonstrate that they are taking measures to prevent civilian casualties.

This is the first time Israel has been tried under the Genocide Convention, which was originally established following the events of World War II when more than 6 million Jews were murdered.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the case was “meritless,” while National Security Council spokesman John Kirby claimed the allegations were “unfounded.”

It could take several years before a final ruling is reached on the full case for whether Israel is committing genocide, and the ICJ does not have any way of enforcing its rulings. However, a decision on South Africa’s request for “provisional measures” compelling Israel to end its military campaign could be made within a few weeks. If Israel does not heed the order to stop fighting, it could face sanctions by the UN, although a U.S. veto could block them.

Sources for this article include:

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