Tuesday, April 16, 2024 | 15:37 WIB

The Case Against Israel

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Jakarta, IO – Recently the International Court of Justice, or ICJ, based in The Hague opened hearings on South Africa’s lawsuit against Israel which claims in a 84-page document that Israel has committed ‘genocidal acts’ against the Palestinian people. Israel has described South Africa’s allegations as being akin to ‘blood libel* while Washington said the case is “meritless, counterproductive and completely without any basis”. 

Meanwhile the majority of the developing world has openly expressed support for South Africa’s lawsuit. Israel’s allies within the European Union have been conspicuously silent. The United Kingdom has opposed the case, sparking a furore in some quarters with critics accusing London of double standards because it previously supported claims to the ICJ that Myanmar committed genocide against the Rohingya community. 

South Africa opened its case in The Hague by arguing Israel has failed to abide by the 1948 Genocide Convention, an international agreement to which Israel is a signatory. It is critical to keep in mind that proving genocide from a legal standpoint is extremely difficult since the claimant must show there is both intention and implementation of that intention with actions undertaken to eliminate in part or in whole a particular nationality, ethnic or racial group. 

Yet South Africa is not asking the ICJ to try Israel for genocidal acts per sea legal process that could take years but rather to find if there are prima facie plausible reasons to believe Israel has violated the Genocide Convention. According to international humanitarian law experts that have reviewed South Africa’s filing, the case is compelling and therefore it is likely the ICJ will rule in South Africa’s favour. 

Assuming the ICJ does rule against Israel, South Africa will be looking for the ICJ to issue provisional measures which would effectively enjoin Israel to stop its military operations in the Gaza Strip while the case is before the court. Whether or not the ICJ would call for a ceasefire remains to be seen, and even if it does there is little reason to believe Israel would comply since the ICJ’s rulings are not enforceable. And if Israel were to refuse calls for a ceasefire the only means to enforce the ICJ’s provisional measure would be through a vote in the UN Security Council. With the US being able to exercise its veto rights in the Council, this would prove to be yet another dead end for the Palestinians. 

Even though the likelihood of a ceasefire in the near future is practically nil, the significance of South Africa’s case with the ICJ should not be underestimated. First and foremost if the ICJ reaches an opinion in the coming weeks that there are plausible reasons to believe Israel could be committing genocide the entire dialogue about the need to bring the war to an end would shift dramatically in favour of the Palestinians. 

To be fair while a prima facile case is a step far removed from meeting the exacting legal requirements to prove genocide has in fact occurred, there will be serious and far-reaching consequences for the Netanyahu administration. 

Read: Press Communique Of The Co-Chairs Switzerland And Ukraine Of The4th Meeting Of National Security And Foreign Policy Advisors OnKey Principles Of Peace For Ukraine

A ruling in favor of South Africa will play favorably into the hands of pro-Palestinian activists and it would certainly cast an even more negative light on Netanyahu and his ultra-Zionist coalition partners, not only abroad but on the domestic front as well. Netanyahu’s incessant arguments that Israel has the right to defend itself and the IDF takes precautionary measures to minimize civilian casualties will be less credible than ever before. 

Such a scenario would invariably make it more difficult for the United States to give unconditional support for Israel’s war efforts. The Biden administration has boxed itself into a corner by saying South Africa case is meritless. If in fact the ICJ which has a sterling reputation within the international community, sides with South Africa, it would be near impossible for Washington to keep saying allegations of genocide are meritless. In fact such a ruling will place even more pressure on the Biden administration to use its influence with Israel to bring the war to an end, much sooner as opposed to later.


James Van Zorge is a Business consultant in Indonesia that has worked for the Harvard Institute for International Development, Food and Agriculture Organization, McKinsey & Co., and A.T.Kearney’s Global Business Policy Institute. He completed his BA in International Relations, summacum laude, at the State University of New York at Albany, and he holds a Masters of Public Policy, International Economics, from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

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