Israel Says South Africa Distorting, Israel claims South Africa manipulated the truth in its case before the International Court of Justice, where it accuses Israel of genocide.
Israel Says South Africa Distorting the Truth in Genocide Case
According to Israeli lawyer Tal Becker, South Africa submitted “a sweeping counter-factual description” of the Israel-Palestinian conflict before the International Criminal Court.
South Africa accuses Israel of perpetrating genocide against Palestinians during its campaign in Gaza. It also asks the court to require Israel to suspend its military operations.
The International Court of Justice is the United Nations’ highest court. Its verdicts are potentially legally binding on ICJ parties, including Israel and South Africa, although they are not enforceable.
A day after South Africa presented its case, Israel delivered its defense to the court. Outside the ICJ’s legal battleground, police set up cordons to keep competing parties apart.
On one side, Palestinian flags were waved in front of a large screen that showed a live video from the courtroom. Banners depicting Nelson Mandela were unfurled, reflecting analogies drawn by South Africa’s legal team between the situation in Gaza and the former apartheid regime in South Africa.
A few hundred meters away, a symbolic Sabbath table had been set. Photographs were fastened to the backs of vacant seats. These images depict some of the more than 130 Israelis who are still being held captive by Hamas, a terrorist organization banned in the United States, United Kingdom, the European Union, and other countries.
South Africa claims that Israel violates the 1948 Genocide Convention, to which both countries are signatories and which requires parties to prevent genocide from occurring.
Israel has been at war with Gaza’s ruling faction, Hamas, since October 7, when hundreds of Hamas terrorists stormed Israel, murdering approximately 1300 people and capturing approximately 240 others captive. Members of the captives’ families gathered in the ICJ courtroom to hear Israel’s case.
According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, Israel has murdered around 23,350 individuals, the majority of them women and children, during the conflict.
In his opening remarks on Friday, Tal Becker told the court that while human suffering was “tragic,” Hamas wanted “to maximize civilian harm to both Israelis and Palestinians, even as Israel seeks to minimize it.”
The government of South Africa, he stated, “has regrettably put before the court a profoundly distorted factual and legal picture, [and] the entirety of its case hinges on a deliberately curated, decontextualized and manipulative description of the reality of current hostilities”.
Becker accused South Africa of “an attempt to weaponize the term genocide against Israel”.
He claimed that South Africa was also attempting “to thwart Israel’s inherent right to defend itself” by requesting that the court force Israel to halt its military action against Hamas.
In its testimony before the hearing, South Africa stated that Israel’s activities were “intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial, and ethnic group.”
On Friday, the German government issued a statement stating that it “expressly rejects the accusation of genocide” against Israel and that the accusation had “no basis whatsoever”.
“Given Germany’s history and the crime against humanity of the Shoah [Holocaust], the Federal Government considers itself particularly committed to the Convention against Genocide… “We strongly oppose [its] political instrumentalization.”
Germany will speak in the main hearing at the International Court of Justice, according to government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit. A representative for UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated that Sunak thought South Africa’s lawsuit was “completely unjustified and wrong”.
“The UK government stands by Israel’s clear right to defend itself within the framework of international law,” the prime minister stated.
The ICJ’s decision on the genocide claim will simply be an opinion, but it will be keenly monitored. A final decision on this could take years, while the court could rule more quickly on South Africa’s plea that Israel cease its military assault.