January 5, 2024 | Flash Brief

U.S. Rejects ‘Meritless’ South Africa ICJ Case Against Israel

January 5, 2024 | Flash Brief

U.S. Rejects ‘Meritless’ South Africa ICJ Case Against Israel

Latest Developments

U.S. National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby on January 3 called South Africa’s case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) “meritless, counterproductive, and completely without any basis in fact whatsoever.” State Department spokesperson Matt Miller also rejected Pretoria’s accusation. South Africa’s submission to the ICJ accuses Israel of “committing genocide” against Palestinians in Gaza, yet this claim relies principally on false allegations by United Nations (UN) officials and other erroneous or misleading content. The ICJ will hold hearings on January 11-12 regarding South Africa’s request that the court quickly order Israel to “immediately suspend its military operations in and against Gaza.”

Expert Analysis

“South Africa’s submission fails to offer substantive evidence, let alone proof, of its false allegation that Israel is committing genocide. Israel’s extensive advance warning and other measures to mitigate harm to Gaza civilians make clear that Israel’s goal is not to commit genocide but, far from it, to instead minimize Palestinian civilian casualties while lawfully exercising Israel’s right to rescue its hostages, apprehend the October 7 perpetrators, and ensure that Israel’s population is secure from further attacks.” — Orde Kittrie, FDD Senior Fellow

“Israel faced the worst massacre of civilians in its history at the hand of a genocidal terrorist group, and yet, South Africa is trying to use instruments of international law to paint Israel’s defense as genocide.” — David May, FDD Research Manager and Senior Research Analyst

South Africa’s Case Against Israel Is Weak

On December 29, 2023, South Africa submitted an application to the ICJ alleging that Israel is violating the Genocide Convention, which defines genocide as one of several specified acts, including killing members of a group, when such acts are “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such.” Israel has called the accusation — that its response to the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust constitutes genocide — a blood libel and appointed British legal expert Malcolm Shaw to present Jerusalem’s defense at the ICJ.

As IDF Chief Spokesperson Daniel Hagari said, and other Israeli officials have echoed, Israel’s “war is against Hamas — not the people of Gaza,” and the IDF is “taking extensive measures to mitigate harm to the civilians that Hamas uses as human shields.”

To mitigate harm to Gaza civilians, Israel has provided advance warnings to civilians ahead of operating in specific areas; urged civilians to evacuate temporarily via designated safe routes; established humanitarian corridors and zones; and aborted operations that were anticipated to result in excessive civilian harm.

South Africa’s Allegations Rely on False Narratives

South Africa bases its claim principally on false allegations by United Nations officials, including the special rapporteur for the Palestinian territories and the commission of inquiry on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, who have been thoroughly discredited for their extreme anti-Israel bias both prior to and during their UN service.

The South African submission also relies on cherry-picked, decontextualized quotes from Israeli officials and troubling remarks from Israelis with no responsibility for war-related decision-making. At the same time, Pretoria’s submission disregards the actual motivation for the IDF’s military actions in Gaza — Israel’s lawful exercise of its rights to rescue its hostages, apprehend the perpetrators of the October 7 atrocities, and ensure that those atrocities cannot be repeated and that Israel’s population is secure against further attacks from Gaza.

Pending ICJ Case Threatens to Demand Unconditional Israeli Withdrawal from West Bank,” Orde Kittrie

The Pending Israel-Palestine ICJ Advisory Opinion: Threats to Legal Principles and Security,” Orde Kittrie and Bruce Rashkow

International Law Accepts No Excuses for Murder, Hostage-Taking,” Orde Kittrie and Natalie Ecanow


International Organizations Israel Israel at War Lawfare