South Africa’s genocide case against Israel over Gaza ‘chilling’ in detail

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South African Justice Minister Ronald Lamola
South African Justice Minister Ronald Lamola addressing a media conference outside the ICJ in The Hague . . . also “unequivocally condemn[ed] Hamas” for the October 7 attack on Israel. Image: AJ screenshot APR

Asia Pacific Report

South Africa has accused Israel of “genocidal intent” over its war on the besieged enclave Gaza Strip, and pleaded with judges at the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue an interim order demanding Israel halt its military offensive in the embattled territory, reports Middle East Eye.

South African lawyer Adila Hassim told judges at The Hague that “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”.

“Israel deployed 6000 bombs per week . . . No one is spared. Not even newborns.

UN chiefs have described it as a graveyard for children,” she said told the court on the opening session of the two-day preliminary hearing.

“Nothing will stop the suffering except an order from this court.”

Israel’s ongoing three-month war in Gaza has killed more than 23,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, lawyers told the 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.

‘Genocidal in character’
South Africa submitted its case against Israel at the ICJ last month and has said Israel’s actions in Gaza are “genocidal in character because they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnic group”.

Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, another South African lawyer and legal scholar at the hearing, said Pretoria was not alone in drawing attention to Israel’s genocidal rhetoric.

He said that at least 15 UN special rapporteurs and 21 members of the UN working groups had warned that what was happening in Gaza reflected a genocide in the making.


Video: Middle East Eye

Ngcukaitobi added that genocidal intent was evident in the way Israel’s military was conducting attacks, including the targeting of family homes and civilian infrastructure.

“Israel’s political leaders, military commanders and persons holding official positions have systematically and in explicit terms declared their genocidal intent.”

Ngcukaitobi said the “genocidal rhetoric” had become common within the Israeli Knesset, with several MPs calling for Gaza to be “wiped out, flattened, erased and crushed”.

Israeli defence
On Wednesday, Nissim Vaturi, a member of Israel’s ruling Likud party, said it was a “privilege” for his country to appear at The Hague as he doubled down on earlier remarks where he said there were “no innocent people” in Gaza.

This is the first time Israel is being tried under the United Nations’ Genocide Convention, which was drawn up after the Second World War in light of the atrocities committed against Jews and other persecuted minorities during the Holocaust.

During yesterday’s proceedings, Professor Max du Plessis, another lawyer representing South Africa, said Israel had subjected the Palestinian people to an oppressive and prolonged violation of their rights to self-determination for more than half a century.

Dr Du Plessis added that based on materials shown before the court, the acts of Israel were plausibly characterised as genocidal.

“South Africa’s obligation is motivated by the need to protect Palestinians in Gaza and their absolute rights not to be subjected to genocidal acts.”

Genocide cases, which are notoriously hard to prove, can take years to resolve, but South Africa is asking the court to speedily implement “provisional measures” and “order Israel to cease killing and causing serious mental and bodily harm to Palestinian people in Gaza”.

Three hour hearing
Yesterday’s hearing consisted of three hours of detailed descriptions detailing what South Africa says is a clear example of genocide. Israel will today have three hours to respond on Friday.

The spokesperson of the Israeli Foreign Affairs, Lior Haiat, hit out at the comments made in the hearing, calling it “one of the greatest shows of hypocrisy,” and demonstrated “false and baseless claims.”

He also accused South Africa of “functioning as the legal arm of the Hamas terrorist organisation”.

As South Africa did in its 84-page legal filing ahead of the case, the country’s Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola repeated that he “unequivocally condemns Hamas” for the October 7 attack on southern Israel.

Republished from Middle East Eye.


The full first day hearing – South Africa’s submissions. Video: Middle East Eye

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