South Africa says Israel “dismally failed” in its defence before the ICJ

On the final day of the preliminary hearings in the Israel genocide case, Israel’s defence focused on the brutality of the Oct. 7 attacks.

The team presented chilling video and audio to a hushed audience.

It said Friday (Jan. 11) that it takes measures to protect civilians, such as issuing evacuation orders ahead of strikes. It blames Hamas for the high civilian death toll, saying the group uses residential areas to stage attacks and for other military purposes.

Israel’s critics say that such measures have done little to prevent the high toll and that its bombings are so powerful that they often amount to indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks. 

The said strikes have target locations in so-called safe zone designated by Israel Defence Forces.

South Africa’s justice minister who leads the nation’s delegation stood by his team’s case.

“Today we have heard Israel’s purported justification before the ICJ. Some of the points made are astonishing and are not backed by facts and the situation on the ground,” Ronald Lamola said.

“Israel suggests that the Genocide Convention is primary for their protection, and because of that, is not capable of violating its own provisions. The State of Israel today has failed to disprove South Africa’s compelling case that was presented before the court yesterday,” Lamola added.

Israel says South Africa’s request for an immediate halt to the Gaza fighting, amounts to an attempt to prevent Israel from defending itself against that assault.

Even when acting in self-defence, countries are required by international law to follow the rules of war, which South Africa has argued. 

Judges must decide if Israel has upheld or violated its obligations  as stipulated in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide which it signed in 1949.

Genocide

Table of Contents

Israel often boycotts international tribunals and U.N. investigations, saying they are unfair and biased.

But this time, Israeli leaders took the rare step of sending a high-level legal team — a sign of how seriously they regard the case and likely their fear that any court order to halt operations would be a major blow to the country’s international standing.

Israeli legal advisor Tal Becker told a packed auditorium at the ornate Palace of Peace in The Hague that the country is fighting a “war it did not start and did not want.”

“In these circumstances, there can hardly be a charge more false and more malevolent than the allegation against Israel of genocide,” he added, noting that the horrible suffering of civilians in war was not enough to level that charge.

“Israelis can’t understand how they could be accused of genocide,” reads a headline in Israeli newspaper Haaretz

Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin is the one who introduced the word genocide in 1944 and lobbied tirelessly for its addition as a crime in international law, the Holocaust Encyclopedia reads.

Member of the Knesset -Israel Paliament- Ofer Cassif was targeted for removal from the legislative body Monday (Jan. 08) a day after he said he would back South Africa’s genocide case at the International Court of Justice.

In his Jan. 07 statement, Cassif declared, “My constitutional duty is to Israeli society and all its residents, not to a government whose members and its coalition are calling for ethnic cleansing and even actual genocide.”

The 1948 Convention reads as follow:

Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: Killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

ICJ judges

ICJ President Joan E. Donoghue said the court would rule on the request for urgent measures “as soon as possible.”

Joan E. Donoghue, the president of the International Court of Justice said it would rule on the request for urgent measures “as soon as possible.”

On page 82 and 83 of its application, South Africa has laid out 9 interim orders it seeks the court to grant. Those include the “immediate” end of the military campaign in Gaza.

A decision in the merit of the case could take years.

A panel of 15 judges drawn from around the world plus one each nominated by Israel and South Africa could take days or weeks to issue a decision on preliminary measures.

The 15 current members of the court are: 

President Joan E. DONOGHUE of the United States of America.

Vice-President Kirill GEVORGIAN of the Russian Federation.

Peter TOMKA of Slovakia.

Ronny ABRAHAM of France.

Mohamed BENNOUNA of Morocco.

Abdulqawi Ahmed YUSUF of Somalia.

XUE Hanqin of the People’s Republic of China.

Julia SEBUTINDE of Uganda.

Dalveer BHANDARI of India.

Patrick Lipton ROBINSON of Jamaica.

Nawaf SALAM of Lebanon.

Yuji IWASAWA of Japan.

Georg NOLTE of Germany.

Hilary CHARLESWORTH of Australia.

Leonardo Nemer Caldeira BRANT of Brazil.

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