May 23, 2024

South Africa Seeks ICJ Ruling Against Israel for Gaza “Genocide”

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Dec 30, 2023

South Africa made headlines Friday by filing a case against Israel at the United Nations’ highest court, accusing the country of committing genocide during last year’s conflict in Gaza. The move sparked outrage from Israeli officials and reignited debate over the intensifying Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

South Africa Petitions ICJ

South Africa’s Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola announced his country was seeking an International Court of Justice (ICJ) order that Israel “must cease genocidal acts targeting Palestinians.” The application concerns Israel’s 2022 air and artillery strikes on Gaza, which killed over 200 Palestinians.

South Africa accused Israel of violating the Genocide Convention through “systematic oppression” and “inhumane acts” towards Palestinians. Their filing claims Israel aims to inflict conditions to cause the “physical destruction” of Palestinians as an ethnic group.

The ICJ holds the power to rule on cases involving alleged breaches of UN conventions like genocide. However, its decisions are non-binding and often ignored. Still, a ruling against Israel would likely further isolate the country diplomatically.

Fierce Condemnation from Israel

Israeli officials reacted with outrage, accusing South Africa of antisemitism and diminishing the Holocaust. One government statement called it a “blood libel” against Israel while dismissing the ICJ’s authority to even rule on the conflict.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the case as “outrageous” and having “not a shred of truth.” Israel maintains its Gaza strikes solely target militants like Hamas. Netanyahu contends the country makes efforts to avoid civilian casualties despite Hamas operations in residential areas.

The Israeli ambassador in South Africa expressed disgust over Pretoria pushing an “extremist anti-Israeli” position globally. Right-wing lawmakers also threatened the African country with diplomatic consequences for the move.

South Africa Draws on Apartheid Struggle

Minister Lamola stated the case follows South Africa’s support for Palestinians “as a matter of conscience,” given its apartheid history fighting an ethnic regime denying rights based on identity.

Indeed, the ruling African National Congress party has long backed Palestine’s cause, including boycotting Israel over its West Bank occupation. The two situations draw frequent comparisons despite criticism that alleging “Israeli apartheid” unfairly delegitimizes and singles out Israel.

South Africa further contends Gaza remains occupied by Israel given its substantial control over the territory despite withdrawing settlers in 2005. As the “occupying power,” South Africa insists Israel must protect civilians under international law.

Year Key Event
1917 Britain issues the Balfour declaration calling for “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine.
1947 UN approves a Palestine partition plan – rejected by Arabs – to create independent Jewish and Arab states.
1948 Israel declares independence, sparking war with Arab states. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians flee or are displaced.
1967 Israel captures the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and other areas in another war, beginning Israel’s occupation of these territories.
1987 First Palestinian intifada (uprising) erupts in West Bank and Gaza, protesting occupation.
1993 Israel, Palestinians sign Oslo peace accords to gradually transfer powers to new Palestinian Authority, aiming for final peace deal in 5 years. No deal is reached.
2000 Israel, Palestinians fail to reach final peace deal. Second intifada starts after Israeli opposition leader visits Jerusalem holy site. Four years of violence ensues.
2005 Israel withdraws settlers and troops from Gaza but retains control over territory’s borders, airspace and sea access. Hamas later takes control in Gaza.
2007 Hamas clashes with Palestinian Authority controlling the West Bank, leading to Hamas rule in Gaza, Palestinian Authority administering parts of West Bank. Gaza blockade imposed with restrictions on goods and people entering/leaving amid Hamas rule.
2021 After weeks of tensions in Jerusalem and exchanges of fire from Gaza, an 11-day war breaks out between Israel and Hamas killing hundreds. Several smaller flareups occur thereafter.
2022 Three-day battle erupts between Israel, Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza in August leaving 49 Palestinians dead. Similar fighting occurs for two days in November.

Table outlining key events in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Likely Headed Towards another Gaza War

While the ICJ case will take years to resolve, current tensions signal another imminent explosion of violence in Gaza. Just weeks ago, Islamic Jihad and Israel fought their third battle in 2022. An uneasy ceasefire remains in place.

With Netanyahu returning as Israel’s most right-wing prime minister ever, he appears positioned to deliver a harsh response to any attacks from Gaza. Meanwhile, Hamas and other militant groups may initiate conflict to gain concessions alleviating Gaza’s dire humanitarian situation stemming from 15 years of Israel’s blockade.

UN officials warn current dynamics are again threatening regional security. However, serious diplomacy appears unlikely given hostility between Palestinian factions and Israel’s new ultra-nationalist government.

Wider Implications: Israel’s Global Standing at Stake

As the first country to invoke the Genocide Convention against Israel, South Africa’s move threatens further erosion of Israel’s global legitimacy beyond strains with Western allies. It may encourage other states to file similar charges or scale up pressure on Israel through boycotts and sanctions.

The case also boosts Palestine’s pursuit for international justice and bid to isolate Israel over occupation policies. This comes as Israel faces growing accusations of apartheid at the UN and International Criminal Court.

While an ICJ ruling may lack enforcement power, a legal pronouncement from the world’s top tribunal declaring Israeli “genocide” would inflict immense political damage on Israel. It risks triggering an exodus of foreign trade, investment and intensified boycott campaigns.

Ultimately, South Africa’s unprecedented action signals escalating internationalization of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It lays bare Israel’s decreasing support worldwide, save for the unconditional alliance with America. This case brings Israel closer to full pariah status – unless somehow rapidly reversing course on its uncompromising approach towards Palestinians. For now, that pivot remains improbable given Israel’s freshly minted regime of ultra-nationalists, settlers and religious zealots.




AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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