South Africa Makes the Case for Genocide in Gaza

Netanyahu defends military campaign as being 'in full compliance with international law'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 11, 2024 9:40 AM CST
South Africa Makes the Case for Genocide in Gaza
People prepare to install a banner outside the International Court of Justice prior to a hearing in The Hague, Netherlands, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024.   (AP Photo/Patrick Post)

A continent away from the fighting between Israel and Hamas, South Africa told judges at the United Nations' top court on Thursday that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza and pleaded with the court to urgently order Israel to halt its military operation, per the AP. "Genocides are never declared in advance, but this court has the benefit of the past 13 weeks of evidence that shows incontrovertibly a pattern of conduct and related intention that justifies as a plausible claim of genocidal acts," South African lawyer Adila Hassim said at the UN court in The Hague. More than 23,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to Gaza's Hamas-run Health Ministry. "This killing is nothing short of destruction of Palestinian life. It is inflicted deliberately. No one is spared. Not even newborn babies," said Hassim.

Israel has vehemently denied such arguments, even ahead of the opening arguments. Although it normally considers UN and international tribunals unfair and biased, the country has sent a strong legal team to defend its military operation launched in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas. Israel has always focused attention on Oct. 7, when Hamas fighters stormed through several communities in Israel and killed some 1,200 people, mainly civilians. Yet Israel's attacks on Gaza have left it "uninhabitable," the UN humanitarian chief said last week. "People are facing the highest levels of food insecurity ever recorded, [and] famine is around the corner."

Despite that, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a video statement Wednesday night defending his country's actions as "in full compliance with international law." "Israel has no intention of permanently occupying Gaza or displacing its civilian population," he said. "Israel is fighting Hamas terrorists, not the Palestinian population." He said the Israeli military is "doing its utmost to minimize civilian casualties, while Hamas is doing its utmost to maximize them by using Palestinian civilians as human shields." US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also dismissed the case as "meritless" during a visit to Tel Aviv on Tuesday, saying "those who are attacking Israel—Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis, as well as their supporter Iran—continue to call for the annihilation of Israel and the mass murder of Jews."

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South Africa's governing party, the African National Congress, has long compared Israel's policies in Gaza and the West Bank to its own history under the apartheid regime of white minority rule. "The Palestinians have experienced systematic oppression and violence for the last 76 years," said South African Justice Minister Ronald Lamola. Lawyers for South Africa asked judges at Thursday's hearings to impose binding preliminary orders on Israel, including an immediate halt to Israel's military campaign in Gaza. "Nothing will stop the suffering except an order from this court," said Hassim. A decision will likely take weeks. The world court, which rules on disputes between nations, has never judged a country to be responsible for genocide. (More Israel-Hamas war stories.)

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