Last Friday the International Court of Justice rejected the South African government’s request to explicitly order a ceasefire in the Gaza war on the grounds of genocide — although the SA government apparently interprets the ruling as effectively ordering Israel to suspend its war.
The ICJ did accept the possibility that Israel might be committing genocide and issued several interim measures calling on Israel to prevent genocide, allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza and to punish those inciting genocidal acts. The measures granted are, in fact, what Israel vehemently maintains it is committed to and is doing already. The court said Israel must provide a report within a month on what it is doing to meet the measures.
The judges’ ruling was not the outright victory that the SA government hoped for and may yet cost SA dearly in lost trade and investment. But for Israel, which maintains it is waging a defensive war after suffering the worst unprovoked atrocities and loss of lives since the Holocaust, the ruling was indeed a case of adding insult to injury — especially as it was made on the day before a memorial day to remember the genocide of six million European Jews during World War 2.
According to thinc, a network of international law experts, it will take years to finalise the case but the court’s acceptance that Israel might be committing genocide creates a dangerous public opinion problem for Israel. Thinc noted that it was strange that the court relied heavily on UN and Hamas statements and data in reaching its conclusions.
The ICJ did call for the immediate and unconditional release of hostages held by Hamas, but, according to thinc, Hamas is not legally bound by the ruling, because the case is not about crimes of Hamas, but about whether or not Israel is violating the Genocide Convention.
The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) expressed its “utter dismay” at the ICJ’s ruling.
“The world was shocked and repulsed by the evil atrocities committed by Hamas against innocent Israelis last October 7, and today’s ruling by the International Court of Justice only compounds the shock and pain of that dark day,” said David Parsons, Vice President and Senior International Spokesman on Friday.
“That the wide majority of justices on the Court would sit calmly at the reading of its rulings on the eve of 27 January, set aside by the international community as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, only deepens our disappointment at the world’s betrayal of the Jewish state and people,” Parsons said.
“This decision inverts justice and is built on decades of the United Nations and all its forums becoming the world’s most cunning purveyors of antisemitism. These global institutions were founded with honorable intentions, including to prevent a repeat of the Nazi genocide against the Jews, yet these very forums are now placing Israel in grave danger by giving credence to these outrageous claims it is committing genocide in Gaza,” he continued.
“Israel is justly defending its citizens from massacres, rapes, mutilations and torture, yet it is now rebuked by the World Court, even while Hamas and other armed Palestinian militias are let completely off the hook. Nonetheless, we trust the Lord God to keep and protect Israel as He has promised ,” he added.
A standout dissenting voice among the 17 ICJ judges was Judge Julia Sebutinde of Uganda, who was the only judge who voted against all six emergency measures adopted by the court – alongside the Israeli representative to the judicial panel, Aharon Barak, who also opposed most of the measures.
In her minority opinion she wrote: “In my respectful dissenting opinion, the dispute between the State of Israel and the people of Palestine is essentially and historically a political one… It is not a legal dispute susceptible of judicial settlement by the court.”
She said “South Africa has not demonstrated, even on a prima facie basis, that the acts allegedly committed by Israel … were committed with the necessary genocidal intent and that, as a result, they are capable of falling within the scope of the Genocide Convention.”
Sebutinde reportedly said the failure of states to reach a political solution to conflicts “may sometimes lead them to resort to a pretextual invocation of treaties like the Genocide Convention, in a desperate bid to force a case into the context of such a treaty, in order to foster its judicial settlement… In my view, the present case falls in this category.”
She said a careful review of Israel’s war policy “demonstrates the absence of a genocidal intent,” though she stressed that Israel is bound by international law in its conduct of the war.
“Unfortunately, the scale of suffering and death experienced in Gaza is exacerbated not by genocidal intent, but rather by several factors, including the tactics of the Hamas organisation itself which often entails its forces embedding amongst the civilian population and installations, rendering them vulnerable to legitimate military attack,” she said.
Uganda’s ambassador to the UN, Adonia Ayebare, subsequently stated that Sebutinde’s position “does not represent the Government of Uganda’s position on the situation in Palestine.”
Yesterday, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem Director, South Africa, Vivienne Myburgh updated Gateway News on her impressions on the ground in southern Israel border communities which bore the brunt of the murderous Hamas onslaught in October.
Myburgh was in Israel at the time of the Hamas massacre as she was leading a SA group at the international Christian celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles.
She is currently on a solidarity mission with ICEJ and church leaders from around the world.
She said: “It is really good to be here but very hard to say I am from.South Africa. And yet they appreciate me coming.
“They are rebuilding their lives but still traumatised and still trying to understand how it could have happened. Hearts are broken for those who died, their hostages and their soldiers dying,” she said.
In other breaking news around the Gaza war, a growing number of nations have been suspending funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency over accusations that a number of its employees took part in Hamas’s October 7 massacre. The UN agency is responsible for relief and human development of Palestinian refugees. According to US intelligence sources 10% of the 12 000 UNRWA employees in the Gaza Strip, are Hamas or Islamic Jihad operatives, and another 50% are first-degree relatives of a Hamas operative.
Media reports have also been surfacing of Israel agreeing to a six-weeks ceasefire in exchange for the release of all the remaining hostages.
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