Israel faces accusations that it is subjecting Palestinians in Gaza to genocidal acts, as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) commenced a hearing on South Africa’s genocide case against it on Thursday.
Amid Israel’s ongoing three-month war in Gaza, more than 23,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed, lawyers told the top United Nations court. Most of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million has been displaced, and an Israeli blockade severely limiting food, fuel and medicine has caused a humanitarian “catastrophe,” according to the UN.
South Africa’s case in The Hague argues that Israel violated the 1948 genocide convention, established in the aftermath of the Holocaust, which mandates that all countries prevent the recurrence of such crimes. It filed an 84-page document with the court detailing acts it says amount to genocide in Gaza.
Adila Hassim, a lawyer representing South Africa, told the ICJ that Israel had breached Article II of the Genocide Convention, which included the “mass killing” of Palestinians in Gaza.
Also called the World Court, the ICJ is the highest UN legal body that can adjudicate issues between member states.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said his nation was pursuing the case of what he called “the ongoing slaughter of the people of Gaza.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that hypocrisy and lies had been presented to the UN’s top court, adding that South Africa’s accusation against Israel of genocide in Gaza could only happen in a world turned upside-down.
Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, another lawyer for South Africa, tackled the issue of Israel’s “genocidal intent” against the Palestinians in Gaza, usually the most difficult thing to prove in a case of this kind.
Ngcukaitobi brought the court’s attention to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments, urging ground troops preparing to enter Gaza to “remember what Amalek has done to you.“ He added that the evidence of genocidal intent is not only chilling; it is also overwhelming and incontrovertible.
Israel has rejected the accusations of genocide as baseless, with President Isaac Herzog calling the case “preposterous” and saying it constitutes “blood libel.”. On Thursday, Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman, Lior Haiat, called the case “hypocrisy” and accused South Africa of being the “legal arm” of Hamas.
Outside the ICJ, a large number of demonstrators gathered to express solidarity with Palestinians and call for an end to Israel’s war, with people holding Palestinian flags and chanting occasionally.