ICJ Orders Israel to Prevent Acts of Genocide in Gaza

  • January 26, 2024

On the question of whether Israel’s war in Gaza is genocide, that will still take more time, but today’s ruling by the International Court of Justice ordering Israel to cease its violations of Genocide Convention is a victory for Palestine rights movement, and will have significant political repercussions for both Israel and its primary arms supplier and political supporter – the United States.


Groundxero | 26 Jan 2024


The International Court of Justice ruled Friday that Israel’s military actions in Gaza fall under the purview of the Genocide Convention. The Court said that South Africa’s genocide case is plausible and ordered Israel to “take all measures within its power” to uphold its obligations under Article II of the Genocide Convention.


The court also ordered the Israeli government to ensure its military does not commit violations of the convention in Gaza, punish those who incite genocide, immediately provide basic services and humanitarian assistance to Gazans, prevent the destruction of evidence that could show violations of international law, and submit a report to the ICJ within a month on all steps it takes to implement the above measures. The ICJ did not grant South Africa’s request for an immediate cease-fire.


While a final determination from the court on whether Israel is guilty of genocide in Gaza could be years away, Friday’s ruling from the United Nations’ highest court was seen as a huge blow to the Israeli government and its top arms supplier, the United States, which called South Africa’s case “meritless.”


As she read the court’s interim decision, ICJ President Joan Donoghue cited testimony from United Nations officials and others on the appalling conditions on the ground in the Gaza Strip, where most of the population is displaced, starving, and struggling to survive Israel’s relentless aerial and ground assault.


Donoghue said the court deemed the threat of “irreparable harm” to Gazans real and concluded that emergency measures were necessary to protect the Palestinian population from genocide.


But to exercise even the Court’s interim order, there will have to be a cease-fire. Without a cease-fire the order will not actually work. Israeli leaders vow Gaza war to go on and its forces continued to bombard Gaza even while ICJ was delivering its ruling in Hague. The Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu, in his response to the Court’s decision, said “the very claim that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians is not just false, it is outrageous, and the court’s willingness to discuss it at all is a mark of disgrace that will not be erased for generations.” Ben Gvir, a top cabinet member in his government, who has been a key cheerleader and architect for the genocidal assault on the Gaza Strip, in comments reported by the Times of Israel, accused the ICJ of being antisemetic and said the decision “proves what was already known: This court does not seek justice, but rather the persecution of Jewish people.”


Though the ruling falls short of calling for an immediate ceasefire, nevertheless it is a significant milestone. The court’s decisions are legally binding on all U.N. member states, which include Israel. ICJ does not have the ability to implement its ruling ordering Israel to “take all measures within its power” to rein in its military assault on Gaza. Its orders can be enforced by the U.N. Security Council through economic sanctions and even military force. The Biden administration will now once again face the choice of protecting Israel by casting a veto, and by that, further isolate the United States, or allowing the Security Council to act and pay a domestic political cost of antagonizing the powerful Jewish lobby and the right-wingers for “not standing by Israel.” So far, the Biden administration has refused to say if it will respect ICJ’s decision.


The South African Foreign Ministry reacting to the ruling, in a statement said, “Today marks a decisive victory for the international rule of law and a significant milestone in the search for justice for the Palestinian people.” “There is no credible basis for Israel to continue to claim that its military actions are in full compliance with international law, including the Genocide Convention, having regard to the Court’s ruling,” the statement continued.


“This is a crucial moment in history to finally holding Israel accountable,” the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights said in response to the decision. “One thing has been made clear on the world stage: There is vastly documented evidence that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians.”


Rights groups around the world on Friday renewed calls for a cease-fire in Gaza. “Today’s decision is an authoritative reminder of the crucial role of international law in preventing genocide and protecting all victims of atrocity crimes,” said Amnesty International secretary general Agnès Callamard. “It sends a clear message that the world will not stand by in silence as Israel pursues a ruthless military campaign to decimate the population of the Gaza Strip and unleash death, horror, and suffering against Palestinians on an unprecedented scale.”


As of Friday, Israel’s retaliation for the Hamas-led attack on October 7 has killed at least 26,083 Palestinians—including 11,500 children—and wounded over 64,400 others, according to Gaza officials. The Israeli blockade and bombardment have also devastated civilian infrastructure, displaced most of the enclave’s 2.3 million residents, and deprived them of much-needed commercial goods and humanitarian aid.


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