South Africa Accuses Israel of Genocide at World Court

At the International Court of Justice, the post-apartheid government called for an expedited hearing on Israel’s actions and provisional measures to prevent further harm to Palestinians.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa delivering the Freedom Day message from his private residence in Johannesburg in 2020 as the country marked 26 years since democratic transition. (GovernmentZA, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0)

By Julia Conley
Common Dreams

No one knows apartheid like those who fought it before,” said one Palestinian rights advocate on Friday in response to the news that South Africa had taken a “historic” step to hold Israel accountable for its relentless bombardment and violent years-long occupation of Gaza — calling on the International Court of Justice to declare that Israel has breached its obligations under the Genocide Convention.

[See: Craig Murray: Murder]

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) in South Africa said it is “gravely concerned with the plight of civilians caught in the present Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip due to the indiscriminate use of force and forcible removal of inhabitants” and called on the ICJ to take action to force Israel to “immediately cease” its current attacks on Gaza’s 2.3 million residents.

The motion was filed as the death toll in Gaza surpassed 21,500 people and tens of thousands of displaced residents fled an Israeli ground offensive, as airstrikes continued in southern Gaza. 

Noting that South Africa has consistently condemned all attacks on civilians, including the assault by Hamas on southern Israel on Oct. 7, the country’s representatives at the ICJ said Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is “genocidal in character because they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial, and [ethnic] group.”

Public hearing at the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Netherlands. (Wikimedia Commons)

“The acts in question include killing Palestinians in Gaza, causing them serious bodily and mental harm, and inflicting on them conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction,” reads the application filed at the ICJ.

South Africa took its latest action regarding Israel less than two weeks after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the government had submitted documents to the International Criminal Court (ICC) supporting its demand, made in November with several other countries, that the court investigate Israel for war crimes. 

While the ICC prosecutes individuals and governments for committing war crimes, the ICJ operates under the United Nations to rule on disputes between countries. The ICJ’s orders are binding for Israel, as the country is a U.N. member state. 

[CN Editor: The ICC has been formally investigating Israel for war crimes and crimes against humanity since 2019 after a case was brought against it by the Observer State of Palestine, an ICC member. The court, however, has dragged its feat, even after two months of Israel’s relentless bombing of civilian areas of Gaza.  A World Court ruling against Israel could spur the ICC investigation.

Last month, in an article published in Consortium News titled, “Activating the Genocide Convention,” former British diplomat Craig Murray wrote:

“The International Court of Justice is the most respected of international institutions; while the United States has repudiated its compulsory jurisdiction, the United Kingdom has not and the EU positively accepts it.

If the International Court of Justice makes a determination of genocide, then the International Criminal Court does not have to determine that genocide has happened. 

This is important because unlike the august and independent ICJ, the ICC is very much a western government puppet institution which will wiggle out of action if it can. 

But a determination of the ICJ of genocide and of complicity in genocide would reduce the ICC’s task to determining which individuals bear the responsibility. That is a prospect which can indeed alter the calculations of politicians.”]

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South Africa has joined international human rights experts — including the U.N.’s top expert on human rights in occupied Palestine — in saying Israel’s blockade of Gaza and violent treatment of those in the enclave and the West Bank is a form of apartheid, comparing Israeli policies to the racial segregation that was imposed for nearly five decades by the white minority that controlled South Africa.

Outside Indonesian Hospital in Jabalia, north of the Gaza Strip, on Oct. 9, following Israeli military strikes.  (Palestinian News & Information Agency. or Wafa, in contract with APAimages, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Last month, the government voted to suspend diplomatic ties with Israel until Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government agrees to a permanent humanitarian cease-fire. 

“South Africa has continuously called for an immediate and permanent cease-fire and the resumption of talks that will end the violence arising from the continued belligerent occupation of Palestine,” the government said Friday. 

Journalist Jeremy Scahill was among those who recognized the significance of South Africa’s application at the ICJ, noting that the country “fought for its own liberation against an apartheid regime supported for decades by the U.S.,” which is backing Israel’s assault on Gaza despite international outcry and protests within the United States. 

“The U.N. Genocide Convention must be upheld. Israel must be held accountable,” said former U.N. human rights official Craig Mokhiber, who resigned from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in October in protest of the U.N.’s failure to stop Israel’s massacre of civilians. “International law must be preserved.”

At the ICJ, South Africa called for an expedited hearing on Israel’s actions and asked the court to indicate provisional measures under the Genocide Convention to “protect against further, severe, and irreparable harm to the rights of the Palestinian people.”

Article 2 of the Genocide Convention, adopted in 1948, states that genocide includes acts committed with the “intent to destroy, either in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.”

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, pointed out Friday that “the three leading Israeli officials have declared the intent” to wipe out Gaza’s population. 

Bishara noted that Israeli President Isaac Herzog said in October that all civilians in Gaza are “responsible” for Hamas’ attack on southern Israel, days after Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the military would collectively punish the enclave’s population, who he called “human animals.”

Netanyahu also said this week that so-called “voluntary migration” of Gaza residents is the ultimate objective of Israel’s assault.

On Friday, the spokesperson for Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, Lior Haiat, dismissed South Africa’s motion as “baseless” and a “despicable and contemptuous exploitation of the court.” Despite top officials’ recent statements, Haiat said the government has “made it clear that the residents of the Gaza Strip are not the enemy.”

[Murray wrote: “In the event that another state party disputes the claim of genocide — and Israel, the United States and the United Kingdom are all states party — then the International Court of Justice is required to adjudicate on ‘the responsibility of a State for genocide.’”]

Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch, called South Africa’s move “a vital step to propel greater support for impartial justice.”

 Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams

This article is from  Common Dreams.

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13 comments for “South Africa Accuses Israel of Genocide at World Court

  1. Dandy Don
    December 30, 2023 at 17:45

    I just took a quick look at Mickey Mouse News (Disney>ABC). This story is entirely censored. Could not find it on their website. No headline on the front page that says “South Africa files Genocide Charge against Israel at ICJ”. There is a “Israel-Gaza Conflict” tab, that has a blog of stories, none of which cover this formal charge of Genocide which has been filed. Israeli claims that they destroyed Hamas’s super-secret HQ, but on Genocide, ….. Nada. Nothing. Silence.

    What is covered on the ‘legal’ front is their stories about how it is clear that the 14th Amendment does bar Trump from running. That of course has lots of coverage. But, a charge of Genocide against Israel before the International Criminal Court …. nothing but the sounds of silence.

    Guess that means America will rely on its “Bomb The Hague Act”.

  2. Arch Stanton
    December 30, 2023 at 17:14

    Thank goodness for South Africa and the Houthis of Yemen for their continuing actions against the racist Zionist regime and their accelerated genocide of the Palestinian people.
    Shame on the rest of the governments of the world, in particular fellow Arabic nations for their inaction; this is a world that is almost completely devoid of humanity.

  3. Em
    December 30, 2023 at 09:38

    ‘Passing over’ lawyer Marjorie Cohn’s explanatory Arguments.
    The Devils Advocate Strikes Preemptively!

    When has the State of Israel (SOI) ever, in the past, respected ICJ rulings?
    What have the consequences of ICJ rulings been for the SOI so far?
    To this point they have simply ignored every ICJ ruling.

    What has an international Contempt of Court (COC) even meant to the SOI?
    In fact, they have simply thumbed their nose at the ICJ as it has, time and again, proved, through its lack of compliance, that the Court – until the present moment in history, has had no effective enforcement powers.

    A more powerful global military alliance is the remaining enforcement option available, and that means WW. WW means Armageddon!
    Israel, as a last resort, will then turn to the ‘Sampson Option’, unless another way is found, immediately; and what is critical, acted on..

    Happy New Year to everyone, especially the genocidal Zionists of all persuasions.

    • Riva Enteen
      December 30, 2023 at 12:47

      ” …the Court – until the present moment in history, has had no effective enforcement powers.”


      The article linked below was written during Russia’s SMO in Ukraine, before October 7, but the question has been urgent for quite awhile: Does the UN have a raison d’etre if not to stop genocide in real time, before our eyes?


    • Valerie
      December 31, 2023 at 04:13

      Sadly you are right Em. This extract from an article in August 2023 makes it clear:

      “Sitting in The Hague, the ICJ is the top UN court for dealing with disputes between countries: its rulings are binding, although the court has no power to enforce them.”


      (I believe any gesture is merely symbolic. As you say, a military alliance is the only solution. )

      • Em
        December 31, 2023 at 16:12

        Terrifyingly, it – history is still daily proving that might is right!
        Despairingly, I “Imagine” otherwise!
        It seems that too many institutional symbols are at the root of man’s ever evolving hypocrisy.

  4. Dfnslblty
    December 30, 2023 at 09:36

    >> On Friday, the spokesperson for Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, Lior Haiat, dismissed South Africa’s motion as “baseless” and a “despicable and contemptuous exploitation of the court.”<>Despite top officials’ recent statements, Haiat said the government has “made it clear that the residents of the Gaza Strip are not the enemy.”<<

    usa has an aggressively complicate affiliation to these murderous actions by israel in Gaza …

  5. Susan
    December 30, 2023 at 09:19

    Good for South Africa for standing up to the atrocities being perpetuated by the Israeli government and by default the US government. Anyone who thinks any of this mass murder is justified is completely deluded…

  6. December 30, 2023 at 03:23

    The South African application to the ICJ is here: hXXps://

  7. Graeme
    December 30, 2023 at 03:10

    There’s also the clear indication from Netanhayu himself that he is intent on committing an act of genocide.

    In November Mother Jones ran the story ‘The Dangerous History Behind Netanyahu’s Amalek Rhetoric.’

    The most pertinent and appalling paragraphs being:
    “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israelis were united in their fight against Hamas, whom he described as an enemy of incomparable cruelty.
    “They are committed to completely eliminating this evil from the world,” Netanyahu said in Hebrew.
    He then added: “You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our Holy Bible. And we do remember.””

    …God commands King Saul in the first Book of Samuel to kill every person in Amalek, a rival nation to ancient Israel.
    “This is what the Lord Almighty says,” the prophet Samuel tells Saul.
    “‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt.
    Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them.
    Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’””

    There should be no doubt that Netanhayu knew exactly what he was saying and advocating.

    Regarding the ICJ and investigating the Israeli government for acts of genocide, one can only hope.


    • December 31, 2023 at 18:40

      For me this illustrates the problem with believing that this particular book, the Bible, is the “Word of God” or a revelation from God. Or actually with any alleged revelation from God, such as also the Koran, as actually being such.

      Here are a few excerpts of a letter written by Thomas Paine to a Christian friend in which he explains to his friend why he does not think the Bible is the “Word of God”.

      But by what authority do you call the Bible the Word of God? for this is the first point to be settled. It is not your calling it so that makes it so, any more than the Mahometans calling the Koran the Word of God makes the Koran to be so.

      The Bible represents God to be a changeable, passionate, vindictive being; making a world and then drowning it, afterwards repenting of what he had done, and promising not to do so again. Setting one nation to cut the throats of another, and stopping the course of the sun till the butchery should be done. But the works of God in the creation preach to us another doctrine. In that vast volume we see nothing to give us the idea of a changeable, passionate, vindictive God; everything we there behold impresses us with a contrary idea – that of unchangeableness and of eternal order, harmony, and goodness.

      The Bible represents God with all the passions of a mortal, and the creation proclaims him with all the attributes of a God.

      It is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder; for the belief of a cruel God makes a cruel man. That bloodthirsty man, called the prophet Samuel, makes God to say, (I Sam. xv. 3) `Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.’

      That Samuel or some other impostor might say this, is what, at this distance of time, can neither be proved nor disproved, but in my opinion it is blasphemy to say, or to believe, that God said it. All our ideas of the justice and goodness of God revolt at the impious cruelty of the Bible. It is not a God, just and good, but a devil, under the name of God, that the Bible describes.

      What makes this pretended order to destroy the Amalekites appear the worse, is the reason given for it. The Amalekites, four hundred years before, according to the account in Exodus xvii. (but which has the appearance of fable from the magical account it gives of Moses holding up his hands), had opposed the Israelites coming into their country, and this the Amalekites had a right to do, because the Israelites were the invaders, as the Spaniards were the invaders of Mexico. This opposition by the Amalekites, at that time, is given as a reason, that the men, women, infants and sucklings, sheep and oxen, camels and asses, that were born four hundred years afterward, should be put to death; and to complete the horror, Samuel hewed Agag, the chief of the Amalekites, in pieces, as you would hew a stick of wood. I will bestow a few observations on this case.


      I consider myself to be a Deist; I very strongly lean toward believing in God (but accept uncertainty), but do not accept any alleged revelation from God as actually being such. I used to be a Christian, and am happy not to be one any more. I felt that having a supposed “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” was of no help to me in enabling me to deal with my personal issues.

  8. John Manning
    December 30, 2023 at 03:06

    The first positive thing since October 7.

    • Riva Enteen
      December 30, 2023 at 10:31

      Yes, that and the Houthi pirates.
      South Africans, who defeated apartheid, and Yemenis, who have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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