Craig Murray: UN Court Spurned Israel’s Key Argument

That the ICJ has not affirmed Israel’s right to self-defence is perhaps the most important point in this interim order. It is the dog that did not bark.

Inside the International Court of Justice in The Hague during the reading of the court’s order on South Africa’s request for the indication of provisional measures, Jan. 26. (ICJ)

By Craig Murray

In finding there is a plausible case against Israel, the International Court of Justice treated with contempt the argument from Israel that the case should be dismissed as it is exercising its right of self-defence. 

This argument took up over half of Israel’s pleadings. Not only did the court find there is a plausible case of genocide, the court only mentioned self-defence once in its interim ruling — and that was merely to note that Israel had claimed it. Para 41:

That the ICJ has not affirmed Israel’s right to self-defence is perhaps the most important point in this interim order. It is the dog that did not bark. The argument which every Western leader has been using is spurned by the ICJ.

Now the ICJ did not repeat that an occupying power has no right of self-defence. It did not need to. It simply ignored Israel’s specious assertion.

It could do that because what it went on to iterate went way beyond any plausible assertion of self-defence. What struck me most about the ICJ ruling was that the order went into far more detail about the evidence of genocide than it needed to. Its description was stark.

Here Para 46 is crucial:

The reason this is so crucial, is that the court is not saying that South Africa asserts this. The court is saying these are the facts. It is a finding of fact by the court.

I cannot emphasise too strongly the importance of that description by the court of the state of affairs in Gaza.

The court then goes on to detail accounts by the United Nations of the factual situation, quoting three senior officials at length, including Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of UNRWA:

This of course explains why the immediate response to the ICJ ruling was a coordinated attack by Israel and the combined imperialist powers on UNRWA, designed to accelerate the genocide by stopping aid, to provide a propaganda counter-narrative to the ICJ judgment, and to reduce the credibility of UNRWA’s evidence before the court.

The court works very closely with the U.N. and is very much an entrenched part of the U.N. system. It has a particularly close relationship with the U.N. General Assembly — many of the court’s cases are based on requests from the U.N. General Assembly.

In a fortnight’s time the court will be starting its substantive hearings on the legal position in the Occupied Territories of Palestine, at the request of the UNGA. There are five specific references to the UNGA in the order.

The court spent a great deal of time outlining the facts of the unfolding genocide in the Gaza Strip. It did not have to do so in nearly so much detail, and far too little attention has been paid to this. I was equally surprised by how much detail the court gave on the evidence of genocidal intent by Israel.

It is especially humiliating for Israel that the court quoted the Israeli head of state, the president of Israel himself, as giving clear evidence of genocidal intent, along with two other government ministers.

Again, this is not the court saying that South Africa has alleged this. It is a finding of fact by the court. The ICJ has already found to be untrue Israel’s denial in court of incitement to genocide.

Now think of this: the very next day in October after President Isaac Herzog made a genocidal statement, as determined by the International Court of Justice, he was met and offered “full support” by Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission and Roberta Metsola, president of the European Parliament.

From left: Metsola, Herzog and von der Leyen in Israel on Oct. 13, 2023. (Still from video by European Parliament Multimedia Centre)

When you take the detail of what the court has found to be the actual facts of the case, in death and destruction and in intent, I have no doubt that this is a court which is currently minded to find Israel guilty of genocide once the substantive case comes before the court.

All of Israel’s arguments were lost. Every one. The substantial effort Israel put into having the case dismissed on procedural grounds was brushed aside. So was self-defence.

And in its findings of the facts, the Court plainly found to be untrue the Israeli lies about avoidance of civilian casualties, the responsibility of Hamas for the damage to infrastructure, and the access of relief aid to Gaza.

Those are the facts of what happened.

Do not be confused by the absence of the word “ceasefire” from the court order. What the court has ordered is very close to that. It has explicitly ordered the Israeli military to stop killing Palestinians.

That is absolutely clear. And while I accept it is tautologous, in the sense it is ordering Israel to obey a convention which Israel is already bound to follow, there could be no clearer indication that the court believes that Israel is not currently obeying it.

So what happens now?

Well, Israel has responded by killing over 180 Palestinian civilians since the order was given from the International Court of Justice.

If that continues, South Africa may return to the court for more urgent measures even before the ordered monthly report from Israel is due. Algeria has announced it will take the order to the U.N. Security Council for enforcement.

I doubt the United States will veto. There has been a schizophrenic reaction from Israel and its supporters to the ICJ Order.

On the one hand, the ICJ has been denounced as anti-Semitic. On the other hand the official narrative has been (incredibly) to claim Israel actually won the case, while minimising the coverage in mainstream media.

This has been reinforced by the massive and coordinated attack on UNRWA, to create alternative headlines. 

It is difficult to both claim that Israel somehow won, and at the same time seek to block UNSC enforcement of the order. My suspicion is that there will be a continuing dual track: pretending that there is no genocide and Israel is obeying the “unnecessary” order, while at the same time attacking and ridiculing the ICJ and the wider U.N.

No matter what the ICJ said, Israel would not have stopped the genocide; that is the simple truth.

The immediate reaction of the U.S. and allies to the order has been to try to accelerate the genocide by crippling the U.N.’s aid relief work. I confess I did not expect anything quite that vicious and blatant.

The wheels of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small. The ICJ having flagged up a potential genocide so strongly, it may well fall to judges in individual nations to restrain international support for the genocide.

As I explained in detail, the Genocide Convention has been incorporated into U.K. law by the International Criminal Court Act of 2001.

There will, beyond any doubt, have been minutes issued by Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office  legal advisers warning of ministers being at risk of personal liability in U.K. law for complicity in genocide now, should arms shipments and other military and intelligence cooperation with the Israeli genocide continue.

In the U.S., hearings started already in California on a genocide complicity suit brought against Joe Biden.

Of course I wish this would all work faster. It will not. The U.N. General Assembly may suspend Israel from the U.N.

There are other useful actions to be taken. But this is a long slog, not a quick fix, and people like you and I continue to have a vital role, as everybody does, in using the power of the people to wrest control from a vicious political class of killers.

This was a good win. I am pleased that this course for which I advocated and lobbied has worked and increased pressure on the Zionists, and that my judgment that the International Court of Justice is not just a NATO tool like the corrupt International Criminal Court, has been vindicated. 

It cannot help the infants killed and maimed last night or those to die in the coming few days. But it is a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. His coverage is entirely dependent on reader support. Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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8 comments for “Craig Murray: UN Court Spurned Israel’s Key Argument

  1. rosross
    January 30, 2024 at 20:47

    No occupier has the right to self defense against the people whose land it has stolen and whom it crushed under military occupation.

  2. January 30, 2024 at 13:26

    Sorry, but I must disagree with the analysis here.

    Mr. Murray ignored paragraph #35, which reads:

    35. The power of the Court to indicate provisional measures under Article 41 of the Statute
    has as its object the preservation of the respective rights claimed by the parties in a case, pending its
    decision on the merits thereof. It follows that the Court must be concerned to preserve by such
    measures the rights which may subsequently be adjudged by it to belong to either party.

    That text puts Israel’ asserted rights – no matter how absurd – on an equal footing with the South African rights asserted (prevention of genocide) during the preliminary period, pending final Order or decision of the Court.

    I wish it were otherwise, but the fact is that the Court not only did NOT repudiate Israel’s asserted right of self defense, it recognized them, as the law required.

  3. Oregoncharles
    January 29, 2024 at 20:49

    Did anyone else notice something peculiar about that still photo of Mertsola, Herzog, and von der Leyen? The two EU bigwigs exhibit a classic “hundred-yard stare” – as if they are AWARE that they’re implicating themselves and the entire EU in ongoing genocide.

    I note, also, that Herzog has tried to take back his quoted utterance. So some small effect, already.

  4. Jeff Harrison
    January 29, 2024 at 17:53

    To repeat myself for the umpteenth time. Leave us not forget. Israel funded and promoted Hamas to neuter Fatah. It bit them in the ass.

  5. hetro
    January 29, 2024 at 17:31

    In the last few days we have been told by experts, such as Craig, that the Court has been very effective in its response to the SA case, and is deeply sympathetic on the hideous genocide even though it stopped short of saying STOP, or ordering a ceasefire. My view has been that the language the Court used–which insinuates the genocide has been occurring, and reveals the deep sympathy of the Court–is too mild. Immediately came the denial plus the emoting and ad hominem. The Court set itself up for the report in one month to say: “We are complying and avoiding genocide as we were, indeed, previously! All these deaths and the destruction ARE NOT OUR FAULT!”

    I would have preferred something like this:

    The Court finds genocide has been active and underway since October 7 as in the following indications (as with the provisions . . .)
    and will continue to study the case and further evidence. Accordingly, all military action must stop immediately as we put this case to further review. We include cessation of all military activities to include the Hamas opposition [which I believe has indicated a willingness for a cease-fire], and order hostage release and humanitarian aid start in immediately.

    Apparently there are legal reasons a more direct sort of order (besides of course that it would be ignored anyway) could not be stated. But that is why I’m not happy with it, while being told we’ve actually had a magnificent success here. Meanwhile, the killing continues, and as Ray McG says: “What about the children?”

    It IS gratifying to know outrage over this atrocity is growing.

    • Piotr Berman
      January 29, 2024 at 22:59

      “I would prefer…”, I agree, but given the background of many judges, elite/establishment of their native countries that include Australia, France, Japan, Germany, and USA that right afterwards defunded UNRWA, it is pleasantly surprising that finding of the court were so prompt and unequivocal.

      Needless to say, there is no possibility of forcing something on such coalition, except “whom Gods want to destroy, they make them mad first.” There is nothing particularly new in the conduct of Western countries, but frenetic intensity of it is new and mind boggling, and frankly, self-destructive in addition to simply destructive. Thus some keen minds from those countries decided to be voices of reason, but, well, within reason. Nevertheless, unanimity of Western members of ICC joining the rest of the judges (except one oddball) makes the court message stronger within the West.

      • hetro
        January 30, 2024 at 11:39

        Yes, a pleasant surprise. It is clear that the moral judgment indicated by the Court has been met with a ludicrous and desperate emoting, a hysteria, as with Israel’s the Court is “antisemitic,” Kirby’s “meritless” etc. etc. Most of us probably did not expect this result–such a stark and obvious contrast, the biggest elephant in the room we’ve seen so far. Needed now is to continue vigorously exposing and peeling off the lies. This, at least, we can do, and hopefully with the most vigorous language . . .

  6. JonnyJames
    January 29, 2024 at 17:08

    Thank you Craig Murray. It indeed does offer some glimmer of hope for the future.

    Not to be too skeptical, but the US always vetoes anything against Israel. I’m not convinced they won’t veto any enforcement measures. Even if they did not, the Netanyahu regime has made it clear, they will continue their genocide operations, and nothing will stop them.

    Given the fact that the US/UK/Israel openly defy the law, ignore the law, manipulate the law, and make a mockery of the law demonstrates that it is raw power and interests that rule, The Law of the Jungle prevails, as the late Fidel Castro would put it. It seems only brute force can stop the US/UK/Israel.

    The reckless warmongers seem willing to provoke and escalate. Israel has nuclear weapons, as of course does the US.
    The US has the Wolfowitz Doctrine as well as Nuclear First Strike Doctrine. The implicit message from the US is “do as we say, or we’ll bomb you into the Stone Age, even if it means nuclear war and total destruction.”

    So far, Iran has not responded to US/Israeli attacks and assassinations with any sort of proportion. It seems clear that Iran, Hezbollah and others do not want an escalation, and do not want a wider war. It looks like the US does.

    As they say, let’s hope that cooler heads prevail.

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