Infostani International- Israel and South Africa clash at the ICJ over South Africa’s “genocidal acts” accusations in Gaza. South Africa seeks an immediate halt to Israeli military operations. Israel rejects the charges, terming them “absurd blood libel.” The ICJ, with limited enforcement, faces challenges. Both countries signed the UN Genocide Convention, forming the basis for the case. US Secretary of State Blinken emphasizes civilian protection and a Palestinian state during his Middle East diplomatic tour.
UN Court Showdown: Israel and South Africa Clash Over Gaza Allegations
Israel and South Africa will face off at the UN’s top court on Thursday. Pretoria has accused Israel of “genocidal acts” in Gaza, charges that the Israelis have dismissed as “blood libel.”
In an 84-page submission to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), South Africa has urged judges to order Israel to “immediately suspend its military operations” in Gaza. South Africa alleges that Israel “has engaged in, is engaging in, and risks further engaging in genocidal acts against the Palestinian people in Gaza.”
Israel has angrily hit back at the accusations, with government spokesman Eylon Levy vowing to fight the South African case, describing it as an “absurd blood libel.”
Top officials from the two countries will face off in the ICJ’s Great Hall of Justice housed in the extravagant Peace Palace in The Hague. The ICJ rules on disputes between states, and while its decisions are legally binding, it has limited power to enforce them. The court could theoretically order Israel to stop its invasion, but it is highly doubtful it would be obeyed.
Legal Dispute: South Africa Accuses Israel of Genocide at ICJ
In March 2022, the ICJ ordered Russia to “immediately suspend” its invasion of Ukraine—a directive Moscow has ignored. Lawyer and international justice expert Johann Soufi stated that a ruling against Israel would have an “extremely significant symbolic impact.”
“At the end of the day, there is only international justice left,” Soufi, who worked for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza, said. South Africa has filed the case against Israel because both countries have signed the UN Genocide Convention, created in 1948 as a response to the Holocaust. Any country that has signed the convention can sue another at the ICJ if they disagree on the “interpretation, application, or fulfillment” of the rules designed to prevent genocide.
South Africa, expressing acute awareness of the significant responsibility in initiating proceedings against Israel for Genocide Convention violations, unequivocally condemned the Hamas attack. It asserted that no armed attack, regardless of its severity, can justify breaches of the Genocide Convention.
Pretoria argues that Israel in Gaza intends to destroy a significant part of the Palestinian national, racial, and ethnic group. According to South Africa, Israel’s “genocidal acts” arise from killing thousands of Palestinians in Gaza, causing forced displacement, and obstructing adequate aid access, leading to starvation.
South Africa’s Requests at ICJ and Blinken’s Middle East Diplomacy
South Africa wants the ICJ to impose so-called “provisional measures,” or emergency actions, while the broader case is being considered—which would probably take years. Other measures requested by South Africa include reparations and reconstruction of Gaza, plus the safe return of displaced Palestinian refugees.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Israeli leaders to avoid harming civilians and emphasized that creating a Palestinian state was the key to a long-term solution.
Blinken, on his fourth visit to the Middle East since Israel began its offensive against Gaza in October, stressed “the importance of avoiding further civilian harm and protecting civilian infrastructure in Gaza,” according to State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller. Earlier, Blinken held talks in Jordan, Qatar, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia, stating that Washington’s Arab allies wanted closer relations with Israel but only if that included a “practical pathway” to a Palestinian state.