Israel’s right to self-defence in the face of Hamas’ massacre on October 7 was implicitly recognized by the International Court of Justice in its interim ruling on January 26. Significantly enough, the court’s president, Joan Donoghue, did not call for an immediate ceasefire, which South Africa and its ally, Hamas, had demanded.
This is no small victory for Israel, which is currently conducting a vitally important offensive in the Gaza Strip to eradicate Hamas and remove it from power.
As Israel’s chief ally, the United States, has often said, Israel has a duty and a responsibility to defeat Hamas once and for all. This is precisely what Israel is attempting to do as these lines are written.
Much to Israel’s advantage, the court also did not rule on the merits of South Africa’s spurious application to condemn Israel as a perpetrator of genocide. This is a lengthy process that could drag on for years.
Nonetheless, South Africa has managed to stain Israel’s international reputation as a law-abiding nation.
In the meantime, Israel has every right under international law to press on with its campaign to destroy Hamas’ military capabilities and to ensure that it can never govern Gaza again. As Israel’s leaders have said, this offensive will take many more months, if not years, to complete. Israel cannot lay down its arms until this task is finished.
Israel’s argument for continuing its military campaign is iron-clad. What self-respecting country in the world would possibly tolerate the presence of a malignant force bent on destroying it?
It is often forgotten that Hamas rejects Israel’s existence, opposes a two-state solution, started the current war, and ignited the four previous wars since 2008.
Ever since its complete takeover of Gaza in 2007, Hamas has turned Gaza into an armed camp and dedicated itself to one overarching goal — the destruction of Israel, a member state of the United Nations.
South Africa, in its deposition against Israel, cavalierly ignored these glaring facts, leading many observers to conclude that it was acting solely on behalf of Hamas.
Donoghue, in her summary of the court’s preliminary findings, struck a somewhat more balanced tone, though she pointed out that South Africa’s claim is plausible and cannot be dismissed.
In a reference to the atrocities carried out by bands of Hamas terrorists on October 7, she said they killed some 1,200 Israelis and foreigners, injured thousands, and abducted 250 hostages, 130 of whom are still illegally held by Hamas in tunnels and safe houses. Donoghue called for their immediate and unconditional release.
In describing Israel’s reaction, she said, “Israel then launched an attack which is causing massive civilian casualties, and doing extensive ongoing damage to civilian infrastructure and has displaced the vast majority” of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians.“The court is acutely aware of the extent of the human tragedy in the region and is deeply concerned by ongoing suffering in Gaza.”
Donoghue went on to say that, in the court’s view, “at least some of the acts and omissions committed by Israel in Gaza appear to (fall) within the provisions” of the 1948 Genocide Convention.
She then cited statements by United Nations and World Health Organization officials describing the deaths of thousands of women and children, the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, and the severe physical and psychological effects of the hostilities on children in particular.
Reaching the nub of her presentation, she said that Palestinians in Gaza need to be protected from “acts of genocide and related prohibited acts,” as outlined in the Genocide Convention.
Donoghue ordered Israel to comply with that convention, reduce the number of civilian deaths, allow further aid to flow into Gaza, and to report within a month on its progress in fulfilling these provisional measures.
Donoghue, in a key omission, neglected to say that Israel has not deliberately targeted Palestinian civilians on the basis of their nationality or religion. Hence, Israel has not violated the Genocide Convention.
From the very outset, Israel’s fury has been aimed at Hamas command posts, array of tunnels, weapons storage facilities and arms manufacturing factories, all of which are embedded in civilian infrastructure. To state the obvious, Hamas has cynically used ordinary civilians as human shields. As a result, many civilians have been unnecessarily killed since October.
It is also worth noting that Israel has warned civilians to leave battle zones and has permitted tons of aid into Gaza from Egypt and the Israeli port of Ashdod.
The court must take these crucial considerations into account before submitting its final report.