The International Court of Justice has issued its ruling on the South African charge that Israel’s war on Gaza is on its way to genocide.
One of the more common mistakes in the reporting on this case has to do with the actual charge. The claim is often made that in order to prove genocide one must be able to determine Israel’s “intent.” It is argued that since “intent” is hard to prove, the claim of genocide is baseless.
The problem here is that this is not what South Africa is contending. The SA charge is that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that Israel is on its way towards a genocide—not that they are committing a genocide—and that the Court should intervene and demand a ceasefire before this becomes an actual genocide.
The ICJ ruling (15-2; only the Ugandan and the Israeli judges voted negatively) affirmed that the SA claim was warranted. The court, however, failed to include a demand for a ceasefire.
Another common misunderstanding pertains to cries for genocide made by “loudmouth politicians” in Israel. Many, even within Israel, have argued that these politicians don’t represent the government or official Israeli policy and that they just need to shut up. Alon Pinkas (a former Israeli Consul General in New York) during a recent CNN interview made this precise claim.
The problem with this response is that the genocidal rhetoric has come from the mouths of leading members of the Israeli government; including the Prime Minister and members of the war cabinet. Netanyahu himself invoked a reference to the genocide of the “Amalekites”. Netanyahu also, in a tweet later deleted, described the battle with Hamas as a “struggle between the children of light and the children of darkness, between humanity and the law of the jungle.”
Isaac Herzog, the Israeli President stated, “There are no innocent civilians.”
It was Yoav Gallant, Israeli defense minister, who claimed, “We are fighting human animals.”
NB: Interestingly, this part of the ruling was approved 16-1—the one negative came from the Ugandan judge—meaning: the Israeli-appointed judge—appointed by Netanyahu himself—ruled against Israel.
The ruling specifically stated, “Israel must take measures within its power to prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide in relation to the members of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip.”
Such a ruling would not have been handed down by the ICJ if these comments were made by one-off officials.
Netanyahu was quick to respond to the ruling. He began by asserting, “Israel’s commitment to international law is unwavering.” He was quick to follow this up with the claim that “equally unwavering is our commitment to defend our country and our people.”
These two statements make Israel and Netanyahu seem reasonable. Essentially he contends: “We do follow international law. And we are merely acting in self-defense.”
The problem is that these claims blatantly contradict the ruling of the court.
After all, If the court’s ruling is correct then Israel stands in violation, or in danger of violating, international law. In particular, the excessive civilian casualties indicate that Israel is in violation of international law and on the path towards genocide.
In addition, the court’s ruling explicitly declares that Israel has transcended the bounds of self-defense. They are on the path towards genocide.
Netanyahu then fired back by contending that the motive was the court’s opposition to the “Jewish state.” This accusation is both revealing and troublesome. It is troublesome because 20% of Israeli citizens are Arabs and not Jews. And it is revealing because it accords with Israel’s recent law declaring Israel to be a state for the Jewish people.
Another problem with Netanyahu’s assertion of the right to self-defense is that self-defense goes both ways. After all, do the people of Gaza not have the right to self-defense? Or is this a right that is exclusive to Israel regardless of how they treat those in the occupied territories?
Playing the antisemitism card
Netanyahu continued his response to the court’s ruling by claiming that it was “blatant discrimination against the Jewish state.” Interestingly, Netanyahu’s response began by referring to “Israel.” In the opening 19 seconds of his speech, Netanyahu referred to “Israel” three times. However, once he began to claim that this was “discrimination” he immediately referred to Israel as “the Jewish state.” This was then followed by a reference to the fact that it was the “Eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.” The implications are evident: the court’s ruling was not simply mistaken, it was the result of antisemitism.
The problem is that one cannot simply hide by the antisemitism card. It is as though Israel can act with impunity because if anyone challenges their acts, they will cry, “Foul! That’s antisemitism.” But it’s not antisemitic to challenge the acts of a nation.
What is troubling about Netanyahu’s appeal to antisemitism is that it robs the meaning of antisemitism. Peter Beinart, an American Jewish political commentator and professor at CUNY, recently noted that we must respect the label ‘antisemitism’ because if we do not then we diminish the heinous acts of antisemitism from the past.
A group of Jewish writers respond, “We are Jewish writers, artists, and activists who wish to disavow the widespread narrative that any criticism of Israel is inherently antisemitic. Israel and its defenders have long used this rhetorical tactic to shield Israel from accountability, dignify the US’s multibillion-dollar investment in Israel’s military, obscure the deadly reality of occupation, and deny Palestinian sovereignty. Now, this insidious gagging of free speech is being used to justify Israel’s ongoing military bombardment of Gaza and to silence criticism from the international community.” They conclude, “In our grief, we are horrified to see the fight against antisemitism weaponized as a pretext for war crimes with stated genocidal intent.”
Not only is it not antisemitism but criticizing Israel and the US can be an act of love. I fear more for Israel and the US today than I did before Oct 7. At some point in history, I believe that Israel and the US will pay for what they are doing now. We will not always have the luxury of being the only superpower.
Netanyahu then attempted to turn the tables by claiming that the real perpetrator of genocide is Hamas. He called Hamas a “genocidal organization.” His assertion implies that the court is not only wrong in its conclusion that Israel is guilty of actions that are leading toward genocide, but that Israel is actually the victim of an attempted genocide for which they are merely defending themselves.
There is, of course, no doubt that Hamas’ stated goal is to eliminate Israel. Hamas’ actions on Oct 7, though barbaric and damnable, can hardly be classified as genocidal. The simple fact is that Hamas does not even have the capacity to commit genocide. Sure Hamas wants to eliminate Israel, but they lack the capability to do so.
Where do we go from here?
The court’s ruling is intended to have force. Although the court did not use the word “ceasefire”, most legal experts affirm that is essentially what the ruling calls for. Sadly, we know how this will play out. The decision will go to the UN Security Council and the US will use its veto power to effectively overrule the court’s decision. Is this right? No. A court comprised of 17 of the most esteemed international judges has ruled 15-2 that Israel must stop the killing of civilians. Sadly, the US believes that such laws apply only when it deems fit. In other words, the ICJ is not the highest court in the world, the US is.
Problem: the world is watching. The US will not be the highest court in the world for long if it continues to sponsor genocidal behavior.
One of the points that I have tried to make (see the determinetruth’s livestream #13 Jan 11, 2024) is that Israel’s excessive destruction of Gaza is only making Israel less secure. The surrounding nations have become increasingly angered by Israel’s actions and the result is that Israel is in danger of reprisals against which they may not be able to defend themselves.
If only the world would listen to Jesus: violence begets violence (Matt 26:52). The events of October 7 were a vile response to oppression. Israel’s response has been equally heinous. Diplomacy is the only hope—if there still is any hope.
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