January 12, 2024 | Flash Brief

Jerusalem Rejects Pretoria’s Genocide “Libel” at International Court of Justice

January 12, 2024 | Flash Brief

Jerusalem Rejects Pretoria’s Genocide “Libel” at International Court of Justice

Latest Developments

Israel rejected South Africa’s charge of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague on January 12. The court is expected to decide within weeks on whether it will agree to South Africa’s request for a provisional ruling ordering an immediate halt to Israel’s operations in Gaza. Tal Becker, legal advisor to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and co-agent of Israel’s defense, called South Africa’s allegation “a libel.”

Expert Analysis

“Hamas’s lawyer, South Africa, did Israel a favor. It gave Israel the opportunity to lay out in The Hague a powerful indictment of the libel aimed at denying Israel the right to defend itself as well as the genocidal intentions and actions of Hamas itself. If this were a court of true justice, the regime in Iran and its terror proxies would be in the dock for leading a campaign of genocide and crimes against humanity for decades.” — Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO

“Israel’s defense team systematically demolished South Africa’s argument that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. Israel’s advance warnings and other steps to mitigate harm to Gaza civilians make clear Israel’s goal is not genocide but, far from it, to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties while lawfully exercising Israel’s right to free the hostages, apprehend October 7 atrocity perpetrators, and ensure Israel’s population is secure from further attacks.” — Orde Kittrie, FDD Senior Fellow

“The purpose of this charade is to rob Israel of its right to defend itself. By merely initiating this proceeding, South Africa aids Hamas’s strategy of death and destruction and does irreparable damage to international justice.” — David May, FDD Research Manager and Senior Research Analyst

Israel Counters South Africa’s Arguments

Israel outlined “the threat that Israel is facing and the brutality and lawlessness of the armed force confronting it,” demonstrating that Hamas — and not Israel — is the party that should be on trial. “They tortured children in front of parents and parents in front of children, burned people, including infants, alive, and systematically raped and mutilated scores of women, men, and children,” Becker said.

Becker challenged South Africa’s portrayal of the war in Gaza, calling it a “deliberately curated, decontextualized and manipulative description of the reality of current hostilities.” The Israeli defense also highlighted how South Africa falsely cast Israel’s efforts to protect Gazans by moving them out of harm’s way as proof of genocide. Israel shared with the court many other ways in which it works to reduce the loss of civilian life. The Israeli defense reminded the court that much of the civilian loss in Gaza is because “Houses, schools, mosques, UN facilities and shelters are all abused for military purposes by Hamas.”

Israel’s lawyers challenged Pretoria for “choosing random quotes … not in conformity with government policy” to demonstrate supposed genocidal intent. Israel further demonstrated that one of South Africa’s main quotes was taken out of context and that the omitted section actually proved that Israel sought to avoid harm to civilians.

ICJ Ruling Against Israel Would Undermine International Order

In his closing remarks, Israeli Deputy Attorney General Gilad Noam, co-agent of the defense, said, “Entertaining the applicant’s request would weaken efforts to punish genocide and instead of [the court] being an instrument to prevent terrorist horrors would turn it into a weapon in hands of terrorist groups who have no regard for humanity and rule of law.” This would “signal to terrorist organizations that they can commit war crimes and crimes against humanity and then exploit this court to obtain protection,” Noam added.

Related Analysis

Israel Prepares Defense Against ‘Genocide’ Charge as International Court Convenes,” FDD Flash Brief

South Africa Wages Lawfare Against Israel at the ICJ,” by Orde Kittrie and David May

U.S. Rejects ‘Meritless’ South Africa ICJ Case Against Israel,” FDD Flash Brief

Issues:

International Organizations Israel Israel at War Lawfare