In a landmark case initiated by South Africa, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) declared on Friday that Israel must undertake all necessary measures to prevent genocide in Gaza.
The ICJ, however, refrained from issuing emergency measures to stop Israel’s military activities in the enclave, as requested by Pretoria, which accuses Israel of committing genocide in its conflict with Hamas.
The interim decision, the first in this case, does not provide a ruling on whether Israel is currently committing genocide in Gaza, and a final verdict on this matter is expected to take years.
Notably, the court’s ruling is not enforceable, and Israel, vehemently rejecting South Africa’s allegations, is considered unlikely to comply with any orders.
According to Gaza’s health ministry under Hamas control, Israel’s retaliatory strikes following the October 7 attack have resulted in at least 26,000 casualties, while the initial attack on Israel caused around 1,100 fatalities.
Human Rights Advocates: US and UK Risk Consequences by Ignoring Court Ruling
In response to the ICJ’s ruling, the US emphasised that allegations of genocide against Israel are deemed “unfounded.” Human rights advocates swiftly urged the U.S. and Israel’s Western allies to “respect the Court’s ruling.” Nesrine Malik, a commentator, asserted that dismissing the case undermines the U.S., UK, and other Western powers’ claim to “moral authority.”
Former UK Human Rights Watch director, Steve Crawshaw, argued against ignoring the ICJ’s decision, highlighting the potential exposure of Western powers’ “pick-and-choose approach to justice” as hypocrisy.
expressed hope that The Hague’s judgment could prompt Western governments to adopt a more balanced approach to global conflicts like Ukraine.
Palestinians and Allies in Global South Celebrate Victory in Ruling
The ruling is poised to boost confidence in international courts for Palestinians and their allies. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ruling party celebrated Friday’s decision with cheers, as per AFP.
Regarded as a test of credibility, the case challenges an international system perceived as biased against Palestinians, stated the Financial Times. Palestinians may see this ruling as an initial move towards holding Israel accountable, representing a significant international effort after 75 years of denied rights, according to the Palestinian envoy to the UK.
ICJ Case Unveils Global Divide, Challenges Western Status Quo
Critics in the West point out South Africa’s alleged hypocrisy for not condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine, notes Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor. However, this comparison frustrates many in the Global South who perceive a disparity between Western outrage over Russian war crimes and complicity in Gaza’s destruction.
While Israel’s Western allies remain steadfast, countries like Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico advocate for international legal action against Israel. This solidarity from the Global South signals a challenge to the Western-dominated order, likely to intensify as the West’s economic dominance diminishes, a political lecturer told CNN.
Backing the Genocide Allegation May Prolong Hamas’ Terrorism Activities
Critics argue that endorsing the genocide charge could enable Hamas to persist in attacking Israelis, potentially limiting Israel’s self-defense.
Ken Jacobson, Deputy National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, asserts in a Hill column that Hamas’ charter indicates genocidal intent towards Israel and Jews.
Jacobson added that Israel has made multiple efforts to avoid civilian casualties, while accusing Hamas of limiting Palestinian movement and placing them in areas targeted by Israel, using them as human shields.