ICJ Hears South Africa's Case of Genocide Against Palestinians by Israel

January 11, 2024

South Africa's initial plea to the ICJ seeks an immediate suspension of Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip.
South Africa has invoked the Genocide Convention against Israel over Gaza, with the International Court of Justice holding hearings on Jan 11-12 from both South Africa and Israel. Photo by Anadolu Images.


he International Court of Justice (ICJ) commenced hearings on Thursday regarding South Africa’s accusation that Israel’s conflict with Hamas amounts to genocide against Palestinians. This contentious claim, vehemently denied by Israel, is a case that is expected to unfold over several years.

South Africa’s initial plea to the ICJ seeks an immediate suspension of Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip. The case delves into the core of Israel’s national identity as a state formed in the aftermath of the Holocaust, counterbalanced by South Africa’s history under apartheid, where comparisons have been drawn to Israel’s policies in Gaza and the West Bank.

The African National Congress, South Africa’s ruling party, has long paralleled Israel’s actions with its own apartheid regime, which oppressed the Black majority until its dismantling in 1994.


Pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered outside the court in freezing temperatures, with Israeli supporters planning a march through The Hague. Despite Israel’s usual skepticism about U.N. and international tribunals, it sent a legal team to defend its military operations following the October 7 attacks by Hamas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a video statement, defended the country’s actions, stating Israel has no intention of permanently occupying Gaza and is fighting against Hamas, not the Palestinian population.

The Palestinian Authority’s foreign ministry, in a statement, urged the court to “immediately take action to protect the Palestinian people and call on Israel, the occupying power, to halt its onslaught against the Palestinian people.”

Call to halt to Israel’s military actions

The two days of preliminary hearings began with South African lawyers outlining why they accuse Israel of genocidal acts in the Gaza war and why they are seeking an interim order for an immediate halt to Israel’s military actions.

Israel’s offensive in Gaza, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, has claimed the lives of more than 23,200 Palestinians, with about two-thirds being women and children. Israel argues it is fighting Hamas and accuses them of using Palestinian civilians as human shields.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken dismissed the case as “meritless” during a visit to Tel Aviv, emphasizing that groups attacking Israel, including Hamas and Hezbollah, continue to call for its annihilation.

The ICJ, focused on resolving disputes between nations, has never held a country responsible for genocide. The closest precedent was in 2007 when it ruled that Serbia “violated the obligation to prevent genocide” in the Srebrenica massacre.

South Africa’s case may face challenges in proving genocide, requiring an intent to destroy a group based on race or religion. The hearings mark a significant legal process examining Israel’s conduct in Gaza, with potential implications for future actions. Israel is also scheduled for hearings next month on a U.N. request for an advisory opinion on the legality of its policies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Source: AP

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