Saturday, February 24, 2024

How to Interpret Israel’s Stand on Genocide Charges


The Hague, January 12 (Reuters) – Israel’s firmly dismissed allegations made by South Africa at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday, labeling them as false and “grossly distorted.” South Africa had accused Israel of conducting a state-led genocide campaign against Palestinians during its military operation in Gaza.

Israel vehemently argued that its actions were in self-defense and targeted Hamas militants rather than the Palestinian population. Lawyer Malcolm Shaw emphatically stated, “This is no genocide.”

South Africa had presented its case to the ICJ on Thursday, asserting that Israel’s aerial and ground offensive, which had caused significant devastation in Gaza and resulted in the reported deaths of nearly 24,000 people according to Gaza health authorities, aimed at “the destruction of the population” of Gaza.

Israel rejects genocide charges, tells World Court it must defend itself

Israel countered these accusations by emphasizing its commitment to international law and its right to defend itself. The Israeli foreign ministry’s legal adviser, Tal Becker, pointed out that the suffering of civilians, both Israeli and Palestinian, primarily stemmed from Hamas’ strategy. He argued, “If there were acts of genocide, they have been perpetrated against Israel,” further asserting that “Hamas seeks genocide against Israel.”

The 1948 Genocide Convention, established in response to the Holocaust, defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.” Israel’s defense team argued that it was actively working to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Gaza, including urging Palestinians to evacuate.

Israel genocide
Israel genocide

The ICJ is expected to make a ruling later this month regarding potential emergency measures, including South Africa’s request for an order to halt Israel’s offensive. However, the court will not make a determination on the genocide accusations at this time, as those proceedings could extend over several years.

While the ICJ’s decisions are final and without appeal, the court lacks enforcement mechanisms.

Supporters of the Palestinian cause, holding flags, marched through The Hague and watched the court proceedings on a large screen in front of the Peace Palace. As the Israeli delegation presented its case, they chanted, “Liar! Liar!”

Responding to Israel’s argument of self-defense, Neen Haijjawi, a Palestinian residing in the Netherlands, questioned, “How can an occupier that’s been oppressing people for 75 years say it’s self-defense?”

Israeli supporters also held a separate gathering featuring family members of hostages taken by Hamas. Israel has alleged that South Africa is acting as a mouthpiece for the designated terrorist group Hamas, a classification shared by the United States, the European Union, Britain, and several other nations. South Africa has refuted this accusation.

Since the initiation of Israeli forces’ offensive, nearly all of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been displaced from their homes at least once, leading to a humanitarian crisis.

Post-apartheid South Africa has long been an advocate for the Palestinian cause, with ties formed during the African National Congress’ struggle against white-minority rule, supported by Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organisation.

Mandla Mandela, a grandson of the late South African President Nelson Mandela, expressed his support for the Palestinians at a rally in Cape Town, stating, “My grandfather always regarded the Palestinian struggle as the greatest moral issue of our time.”

Reporting by Anthony Deutsch, Stephanie van den Berg, Toby Sterling, Bart Meijer; Additional reporting by Esa Alexander in Cape Town; Writing by Ingrid Melander and Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Alex Richardson, Philippa Fletcher, Angus MacSwan, and Andrew Heavens.



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