The International Court of Justice in The Hague should categorically reject a baseless claim by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The South African government of President Cyril Ramaphosa submitted a case to the court on December 29, alleging that Israel’s military campaign in Gaza is “genocidal in character” and thereby violates the 1948 Genocide Convention.
South Africa took this drastic step nearly three months after Hamas attacked towns and kibbutzim in southern Israel on October 7, murdering 1,200 Israelis and foreigners and dragging back 240 hostages to Gaza.
This is not the first time that South Africa has accused Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza, having previously filed a referral to the International Criminal Court.
In its latest application, South Africa falsely claims that Israel seeks “to destroy Palestinians in Gaza” and demands an immediate ceasefire, which could only benefit Hamas.
The key passages in its submission read as follows:
“The facts relied on by South Africa in this application and to be further developed in these proceedings establish that — against a background of apartheid, expulsion, ethnic cleansing, annexation, occupation, discrimination, and the ongoing denial of the right of the Palestinian people to self- determination — Israel, since 7 October 2023 in particular, has failed to prevent genocide and has failed to prosecute the direct and public incitement to genocide.
“More gravely still, Israel has engaged in, is engaging in and risks further engaging in genocidal acts against the Palestinian people in Gaza. Those acts include killing them, causing them serious mental and bodily harm and deliberately inflicting on them conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction as a group. Repeated statements by Israeli state representatives, including at the highest levels, by the Israeli President, Prime Minister, and Minister of Defence express genocidal intent.
“That intent is also properly to be inferred from the nature and conduct of Israel’s military operation in Gaza, having regard inter alia to Israel’s failure to provide or ensure essential food, water, medicine, fuel, shelter and other humanitarian assistance for the besieged and blockaded Palestinian people, which has pushed them to the brink of famine.”
As the Israeli government correctly pointed out, South Africa’s case has “no factual basis” and is “a despicable and cheap exploitation of the court.”
South Africa blithely ignores the indisputable fact that Israel’s enemy in Gaza is Hamas, not its 2.3 million inhabitants. And contrary to the Genocide Convention, Israel is not killing Palestinians due to their ethnicity or religion. To be sure, Israel’s foes are Hamas terrorists and Hamas military sites, all of which have been deliberately embedded in civilian infrastructure such as schools, mosques and hospitals.
Inevitably, civilians have been caught in the crossfire. Hence the high number of civilians who have been killed and injured as Israel expands its legitimate offensive against Hamas, which is ideologically dedicated to Israel’s destruction. As has often been mentioned, Hamas is ruthlessly using civilians as human shields.
Much to Hamas’ cynical expectation and glee, international public opinion has focused on these needless casualties of war and condemned Israel. But as any unbiased observer knows, Israel has been acting only in self-defence to defeat an implacable enemy, which is directly responsible for having ignited five cross-border wars and countless skirmishes since its takeover of Gaza in 2006 and 2007.
South Africa, too, has flagrantly disregarded measures adopted by Israel to minimize deaths among civilians. From the moment it launched its ground offensive on October 27, Israel has repeatedly encouraged Palestinians to leave emerging battlefields. And in virtually every instance, Israel has allowed humanitarian aid from Egypt to flow into Gaza. It would appear that South Africa has ignored or belittled Israel’s goodwill gestures.
Regrettably, South African leaders, having inaccurately compared Israel to apartheid South Africa, have turned against Israel since the death of its first post-apartheid leader, Nelson Mandela. His inept and corrupt successors have embraced the Palestinians, hewed to their skewed narrative, and thrown Israel to the dogs.
South Africa’s mendacious record speaks for itself.
In 2018, South Africa recalled its ambassador in Tel Aviv after a series of violent incidents along the Israel-Gaza border instigated by Hamas.
Two months ago, the South African government recalled all of its diplomats from Israel. In response, Israel’s ambassador in Pretoria left South Africa.
As well, the South African national assembly recently voted to suspend diplomatic relations with Israel, but the government has yet to implement this drastic decision. The non-binding motion, passed by a margin of 248-91, was proposed by the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters Party and supported by the ruling African National Congress.
To its discredit, South Africa has ditched its heretofore relatively balanced policy toward Israel and the Palestinians and shamelessly aligned itself with Hamas.