January 26, 2024 | Flash Brief

ICJ Rejects Gaza Ceasefire Demand, Urges Hostages Released

January 26, 2024 | Flash Brief

ICJ Rejects Gaza Ceasefire Demand, Urges Hostages Released

Latest Developments

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on January 26 issued a provisional order that rejected South Africa’s request to order Israel to halt its military operations in Gaza. However, the ICJ did order the Jewish state to engage in actions Israel says it is already performing. These include preventing genocide, preventing and punishing public incitement to genocide, and enabling the provision of humanitarian assistance to Gaza civilians.

The court recognized that Hamas launched the war with its October 7 attack and called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of all Israeli hostages. Yet for this proceeding, in which the court made no definitive ruling on Israel’s culpability, the ICJ merely had to determine if South Africa’s claims were “plausible,” a very low threshold. The terrorist group Hamas, which massacred 1,200 Israelis on October 7, welcomed the ICJ decision.

Expert Analysis

“That the Palestinians and their South African and Islamic Republic sponsors welcomed this ruling is telling. Their case has been fatally flawed from the outset given the abundant evidence of Israel’s extraordinary efforts to prevent civilian casualties in Gaza and Hamas’s brutal use of human shields to kill as many Palestinians as possible. For them, the victory is that Israel, rather than Hamas, is in the dock. The genocidal Palestinian terrorist group has already described the ICJ proceedings as a means of ‘isolating’ the one Jewish state. Any countries that care about the law or basic sanity in geopolitics must now redouble their support for Israel’s justified war of self-defense.” — Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO

“The ICJ rightly rejected South Africa’s attempt to deprive Israel of its right to defend itself. At the same time, the ICJ’s failure to entirely dismiss South Africa’s meritless claims undermines the Western world’s ongoing fight against authoritarian and terrorist leaders who are willing to drive up their own side’s casualties by using their own civilians as human shields.” — Orde Kittrie, FDD Senior Fellow

“It’s quite notable that not a single organization cited by the ICJ in its ruling recognizes Hamas as a terrorist organization. Instead, those sources of information have often been complicit in Hamas’s war crimes. Even so, the lawfare attempt by Hamas and its supporters to stop Israel’s just war against terrorism did not succeed.” Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

“The ICJ’s reputation, not Israel’s, was on trial, and the results were mixed. Declining to dismiss the bogus charges outright will severely handcuff democracies fighting against terrorist groups that cynically use human shields to amplify civilian casualties.” — David May, FDD Research Manager and Senior Research Analyst

Background on the Case

South Africa orally presented its case to the ICJ on January 11, and Israel responded to those charges the following day. Israel’s defense team highlighted the dangers facing Israel, challenged South Africa’s “deliberately curated, decontextualized and manipulative description of the reality of current hostilities,” and recounted the many ways in which Israel seeks to minimize civilian casualties. Rejecting South Africa’s assertion that several statements by Israeli officials demonstrate genocidal intent, Israel’s legal team pointed out that the quotes were taken out of context, rejected by Israel’s war cabinet, or uttered by people with no control over Israel’s decision-making process regarding the war.

ICJ Case Risks Undermining International Law

In its January 12 defense, Israel cautioned the court regarding the dangers of allowing anti-Israel animus to undermine international law. In his concluding remarks, Israeli Deputy Attorney General Gilad Noam warned, “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.” Following the ICJ decision, Israel’s Foreign Ministry denounced South Africa’s spurious genocide charge, which would “empty the word genocide of its unique force and special meaning.”

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


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