February 16, 2024 | Flash Brief

ICJ Rejects South Africa’s New Attack Against Israel

February 16, 2024 | Flash Brief

ICJ Rejects South Africa’s New Attack Against Israel

Latest Developments

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on February 16 rejected South Africa’s “urgent request for additional measures” to restrict Israel’s possible operations in Rafah. South Africa argued in a February 12 submission that Israel’s potential operations in southern Gaza constitute a “significant development” that would warrant the court ordering provisional measures in addition to those that the ICJ ordered on January 26. In those measures, the ICJ largely reminded Israel of its existing legal obligations, with which Jerusalem says it is complying, and rejected South Africa’s request to order an immediate halt to Israel’s military operations in and against Gaza. On February 15, Israel called for the ICJ to dismiss South Africa’s new request. Washington has dismissed as “meritless” South Africa’s case charging Israel with genocide.

Expert Analysis

“South Africa has had many opportunities to hold actual war criminals accountable for their atrocities. Instead of doing so, it sought to shield Sudan’s Omar Bashir, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and Syria’s Bashar Assad from accountability. There is reason to believe that with its case before the ICJ, South Africa is carrying water for the Islamic Republic of Iran. While it may take time to find the smoking gun — which may ultimately be found in a tangled web of front companies — the smoke can’t conceal the two governments’ mutual interest in distracting their populations from their domestic problems and, in doing so, emboldening Iranian proxies like Hamas.” — Toby Dershowitz, Managing Director of FDD Action

The ICJ was right to reject Pretoria’s meritless February 12 submission, which had nothing to do with law and everything to do with South Africa’s domestic politics and partnership with Russia and Iran. Both current ICJ cases against Israel threaten to undermine the ability of the United States, NATO, and Israel to defend themselves against terrorist groups, including Hamas, and authoritarian regimes, including Russia and Iran. The Biden administration should push back hard in these cases and encourage our allies to do likewise.” — Orde Kittrie, FDD Senior Fellow

ICJ Hearing Multiple Cases Against Israel

The ICJ is set to hold public hearings from February 19 to February 26 on a separate case involving Israel. The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution in December 2022 requesting that the ICJ rule on the legal status and consequences of Israel’s presence in “the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.” At least 52 countries and three international governmental organizations are slated to make presentations during the hearings.

The composition of the ICJ shifted in early February. Lebanese judge Nawaf Salam, a known Israel critic, became president, replacing American Joan Donoghue, who was more favorable to Israel. Julia Sebutinde, the Ugandan judge who strongly opposed South Africa’s genocide case, is the court’s new vice-president.

Iran-South Africa Ties Flourishing

While it spars with Israel at the ICJ, South Africa has enjoyed warm relations with Iran. On October 22, soon after Hamas massacred 1,200 Israelis and took hostage over 240 Israelis and foreigners, South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor visited Iran and met with President Ebrahim Raisi. Raisi is slated to visit South Africa on February 27 and meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa. Though Iran congratulated South Africa on its case against Israel, Pandor has denied taking instructions from Tehran.

ICJ Rejects Gaza Ceasefire Demand, Urges Hostages Released,” FDD Flash Brief

The blood libel at The Hague,” by Clifford May

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

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


International Organizations Israel Israel at War Lawfare