Israel rejects genocide allegations in Gaza conflict, urges world court to dismiss South Africa’s claims

The legal proceedings revealed a sharp divide, with Israeli supporters maintaining that South Africa was acting as a mouthpiece for the designated terrorist group Hamas.

IDuring a tense session at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Israel vehemently denied accusations of genocide made by South Africa, categorizing the claims as “false” and “grossly distorted.” The legal dispute centres around Israel’s military operation in Gaza, which South Africa claims amounts to a state-led genocide campaign against the Palestinian population.

Israel’s foreign ministry’s legal adviser, Tal Becker, argued before the court that South Africa’s interpretation of events was deeply flawed. He contended that if there were acts of genocide, they had been perpetrated against Israel, emphasizing that “Hamas seeks genocide against Israel.”

South Africa, which filed the lawsuit in December, urged the ICJ to impose emergency measures ordering Israel to immediately halt its offensive. The lawsuit asserts that Israel’s actions have led to the destruction of Gaza’s population, with over 23,000 reported casualties, according to Gaza health authorities.

Israel countered by emphasizing its right to self-defence, citing the 1948 Genocide Convention, which defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” Becker argued that the key component of genocide, the intent to destroy a people, is lacking in Israel’s actions.

The legal proceedings revealed a sharp divide, with Israeli supporters maintaining that South Africa was acting as a mouthpiece for the designated terrorist group Hamas. South Africa rejected these accusations, asserting its longstanding advocacy for the Palestinian cause, a relationship forged during the struggle against apartheid when the African National Congress received support from the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

The court is expected to rule on possible emergency measures later this month, but the genocide allegations will not be addressed until further proceedings, which could take years. Despite the ICJ’s decisions being final and without appeal, there is no mechanism for enforcement.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered outside the Peace Palace in The Hague, expressing scepticism towards Israel’s arguments. Palestinian supporters chanted “Liar! Liar!” as the Israeli delegation presented its case in court. Meanwhile, Israeli supporters, including family members of hostages taken by Hamas, held a separate gathering.

The conflict in Gaza has led to a humanitarian catastrophe, with nearly all of Gaza’s 2.3 million people being displaced at least once since the start of the Israeli offensive. The court’s upcoming decision on emergency measures will be closely watched, but the broader legal battle over genocide allegations is poised to unfold over an extended period.

Amid this legal clash, global attention remains fixed on the ongoing complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, highlighting the challenges of addressing deeply entrenched geopolitical issues within the framework of international law.