Israel denied the accusation of genocide against the Palestinian population and claimed the legitimate right of defense in oral arguments this Friday (12) at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in The Hague, against the complaint presented by South Africa. The team The Israeli defense ministry said that Hamas is the one committing genocidal acts and asked the judges to ignore the prosecution’s request for so-called emergency measures for Israel to suspend the offensive in the Gaza Strip, claiming that this would leave the country vulnerable.
Israel’s defense came a day after South Africa’s legal team filed its complaint. “If there were genocidal acts, they were perpetrated against Israel. Hamas carries out genocide against Israel,” claimed lawyer Tal Becker. The legal team also stated that Israel would wage a “war of defense” against Hamas and not against the Palestinian people. Therefore, according to the defense, the intention to destroy a people could not be observed, as provided for in article 2 of the Genocide Convention, which addresses acts committed with the intention of destroying, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic group , racial or religious.
The lawyers also said South Africa is acting as a “mouthpiece for Hamas.” The day before, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had already accused the South African party and accused it of “hypocrisy”.
Researchers, protesters, social organizations and even a descendant of former South African president Nelson Mandela criticized the Israeli stance in the Court and the military onslaught against the Palestinians. To the Brazil in fact, Reginaldo Nasser, professor of International Relations at PUC-SP and researcher on the topic, said that blaming Hamas is part of the Israeli tactic of diverting attention from the aggressions in Gaza.
“That [culpar o Hamas] it is a narrative constructed by Israel that tries to divert the issue by always bringing up the topic of Hamas”, he said. For Nasser, “Israel, like any nation in the world, has the right to defend itself and is doing so, but it is necessary to distinguish what is defense.” “Defense is protecting your population and, ultimately, attacking those who attacked you, but when you have 23 thousand people dead, including 8 thousand children, it is clear that they are not the ones who caused the massacre of October 7th”, he stated.
Accusation of genocide
On October 7, 2023, Hamas carried out an attack on Israeli territory that killed 1,200 people and kidnapped 240, according to Israel. Since then, Israeli troops have attacked the Gaza Strip and created a massacre in the Palestinian territory that has left around 2,300 people dead, 70% of them women and children.
In view of this, South Africa decided to file a charge of genocide against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the most important judicial body of the UN located in The Hague. The court is expected to rule on possible emergency measures later this month, but there are expected to be no rulings at this time on allegations of genocide, which could take years to prosecute. The ICJ’s decisions are final and unappealable, but the court has no means of enforcing them.
“To characterize genocide it is necessary to articulate the facts with the intentionality”, explains Nasser. “That’s what South Africa did: it collected a series of statements from Israeli authorities that have to do with the events, therefore a strong argument. Whether or not Hamas commits genocidal acts, let Hamas be judged,” he said.
Regarding relations between South Africa and Palestine, the researcher recalls that South Africans “suffered a horrible apartheid system for a long time and suffered sanctions until it was suspended, so South Africa has had points in common with the Palestinian issue for a long time”.
“This even depreciates the defense of Israel, because it is not by accusing someone who brings consistent arguments that you will disregard what is happening in Palestine,” he says.
Movements and protesters also criticize Israel
Israel’s defense strategy was also criticized by movements and protesters. According to the International People’s Assembly, it consists of “selling lies and repeating unfounded claims instead of facing the abundant evidence of genocide presented by South Africa”.
Israel’s lies are indefensible in the court of truth!
Israel’s strategy at the ICJ today has been to peddle lies and repeat unfounded claims rather than confront the overwhelming evidence of genocide presented by South Africa. While… pic.twitter.com/hQBS7wsort
— International People’s Assembly (@asambleapueblos) January 12, 2024
During a rally in support of the Palestinians in Cape Town, Mandla Mandela, grandson of the late South African president Nelson Mandela, declared: “My grandfather always considered the Palestinian struggle to be the greatest moral issue of our time.”
Supporters of the Palestinian cause carrying flags followed the trial on a large screen in front of the court. As the Israeli delegation spoke, they chanted: “Liar! Liar!”
Asked about Israel’s arguments, Neen Haijjawi, a Palestinian who recently arrived in the Netherlands, said: “How can an occupier who has been oppressing people for 75 years say he practices self-defense?”
Editing: Lucas Estanislau