Genocide Case Against Israel: UN’s Top Legal Body Hears Powerful Arguments

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has concluded two days of hearings on the allegation of genocide committed by Israel in its war in Gaza. The ICJ, the highest legal body of the United Nations, must now determine whether Israel is guilty of attempting to “destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, in whole or in part,” as defined by the 1948 Convention on Genocide.

The case was brought to the ICJ by South Africa, which accused Israel of a litany of offenses, including indiscriminate killing of Palestinian civilians and the destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure. However, Israel countered the allegations, arguing that if anyone was guilty of genocide, it was Hamas, the Palestinian militant group.

The hearings were emotionally charged and centered on the conflict in Gaza that erupted on October 7, in which 1,300 people, mostly civilians, were killed. South Africa’s lawyers argued that Israel’s military campaign in Gaza must be stopped to prevent further destruction of Palestinian lives. They painted a grim picture of the consequences if the violence continued, warning of multi-generational families being obliterated.

Israel, on the other hand, presented images of 132 missing Israelis, most of whom were still being held hostage in Gaza. Israel’s legal adviser at the Foreign Ministry, Tal Becker, questioned why these individuals were not considered worthy of protection.

The ICJ’s verdict on the charge of genocide is expected to take several years. Genocide is notoriously difficult to prove, requiring compelling evidence of intent by those in charge of Israel’s military campaign and patterns of behavior by the Israel Defense Forces that can only be explained as genocidal.

Notably, the case at hand focuses solely on the allegation of genocide and does not address war crimes or ethnic cleansing. It remains to be seen how the ICJ will rule on the issue, but there is growing international pressure on Israel to put an end to the violence in Gaza.

South Africa has also appealed to the ICJ to issue provisional measures, including the immediate suspension of Israel’s military operation in Gaza. If these measures are implemented, Israel’s military campaign could come to a halt before achieving its objective of eliminating Hamas as a political and military force in Gaza.

The ICJ has no powers of enforcement, but Israel hopes to win the legal argument rather than ignore the court’s decision. The verdict will have significant implications for the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.