Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, assesses Israeli defence submitted at the ICJ over South Africa’s genocide allegations. Image: AJ
Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst Marwan Bishara says Israel’s legal team “started off weak” but made a few strong points near the end.
Bishara said the lawyers’ efforts at the genocide hearings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague yesterday to deflect blame for Israel’s attacks and ignore the context of Israel’s 75-year occupation of Palestine came across as “illogical”, the Al Jazeera video clip reports.
Their claims that Israel’s forces are “trying to protect, rather than harm”, civilians were also unconvincing, he said, given the toll of the war: 23,357 Palestinians, including 9,600 children, since October 7.
- READ MORE: South Africa’s genocide case against Israel over Gaza ‘chilling’ in detail
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However, Bishara said Israel’s lawyers did well to zero in on the jurisdiction of the ICJ — pointing out that the court must specifically prove Israel was guilty of genocidal intent, not any other violations.
“You can claim Israel has committed heinous crimes, but if they do not fall under the framework of genocide, the court has no jurisdiction,” Bishara said.
Speaking to reporters outside the ICJ in The Hague, Palestinian Foreign Ministry official Ammar Hijazi said Israel’s legal team was not “able to provide any solid arguments on the basis of fact and law”.
“What Israel has provided today are many of the already debunked lies,” he added, referring to, among others, Israeli clams that hospitals in Gaza were being used as military bases.
“Additionally, we think that what the Israeli team today has tried to provide is the exact thing that South Africa came to the court for — and that is, nothing at all justifies genocide.”
Thomas MacManus, a senior lecturer in state crime at Queen Mary University of London, said the ICJ was likely to see a “massive disconnect” between the picture Israel painted of its humanitarian concern for Gaza and “the reality on the ground where UN agencies say people are starving, lacking water, and seeing attacks on hospitals, schools, and universities.”
‘Nothing can ever justify genocide’
South Africa’s Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola told media “Self-defence is no answer to genocide”.
Here are the main points from his interaction:
- “”Israel failed to disprove South Africa’s compelling case that was presented;
- Israel tells the court that statements read out by senior Israeli political, military and civilian society leaders are simply rhetorical, and we shall not ascribe them any importance;
- “There is no debate about what Prime Minister Netanyahu’s term ‘Amalek’ means and how it is understood by soldiers fighting on the ground and by the Israelis;
- “How can you ignore Netanyahu’s statement, the statement of the defence minister and the ground forces? That is a clear implementation of policy.
- “Israel chose to focus extensively on the events of October 7. South Africa has not ignored this event as Israel alleged because it has unequivocally condemned and continues to condemn October 7; and
- “Self-defence is no answer to genocide. Nothing can ever justify genocide.”
Marwan Bishara comments on the Israeli ICJ defence. Video: Al Jazeera