The State of Israel presented its response Friday to the accusation by South Africa at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague, Netherlands, that it was guilty of “genocide” against Palestinians in Gaza because of its response to Hamas terror.
Israel argued that South Africa had distorted both Israeli policy and the meaning of the word “genocide,” such that no nation facing true genocidal terror, such as the terror attacks that Hamas carries out against Israel, would ever be able to defend itself.
“If there had been acts that may be characterized as genocidal, then they have been carried out against Israel,” legal adviser Tal Becker told the ICJ in his opening presentation, showing footage of a Hamas leader promising to repeat the October 7 attacks.
Becker said that South Africa’s presentation went beyond the current conflict and called Israel’s very existence into question. As such, he said, it was “barely distinguishable from Hamas’s own rejectionist rhetoric,” which argued for genocide against Israel.
Becker also showed the court images of the Israeli hostages still being held by Hamas, and asked whether they were “unworthy of your protection.” He added that “Hamas is not a party to these proceedings,” and that South Africa was trying to defend Hamas.
He took South Africa to task for arguing that Israel had no right of self-defense against Hamas, noting this amounted to a defense of genocide.
“If the claim of the applicant now is that in the armed conflict between Israel and Hamas, Israel must be denied the ability to defend its citizens, then the absurd upshot of South Africa’s argument is this: under the guise against Israel of the allegation of ‘genocide,’ this court is called to end operations against an organization that pursues an actual genocidal agenda.”
Becker did not spare South Africa’s own culpability, pointing out that the South African government had only recently hosted a delegation from Hamas, and said it should be barred from continuing to use rhetoric that encouraged the destruction of Israel.
(Beyond the court, the Times of Israel noted, Israel followed through on that message, accusing South Africa of supporting genocide “by supporting the terrorist organization Hamas, which calls for the elimination of the State of Israel.”)
He noted that Hamas was responsible for civilian suffering in Gaza, since it embedded its terrorists, their weapons, and their tunnels among the civilian population, including in schools and hospitals, “actively sacrificing” them for military and propaganda purposes.
Astonishingly, he said, South Africa omitted that fact entirely from its presentation, and presented Palestinian casualty figures without telling the court how many of those casualties were terrorists who were killed in battle, painting all as civilians.
All war, he pointed out, involved unfortunate civilian casualties. But there was a difference between civilian casualties — lawful or unlawful — and actual genocide, which involved an intent to “destroy a people, in whole or in part,” which only Hamas wanted.
In the rest of its presentation, Israel’s legal representatives took apart the rest of the South African case, which rested largely on quotes (and misquotes) of Israeli officials that, the South African lawyers claimed, showed an intention to commit genocide.
While claiming that “context” was necessary to understand the conflict, Israeli representative Malcom Shaw said, South Africa had in fact obscured it: “To produce random quotes which are not in conformity with government policy is misleading at best.”
Shaw also argued that South Africa had brought the case improperly, evading the requirement of showing that there was actually a dispute between the parties, and refusing to give Israel an opportunity to respond, rushing instead to court to impose its case.
Other Israeli lawyers pointed out that Israel’s attempts to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza disproved any claim of intent to commit genocide, and they warned that the ICJ risked cheapening the term, and weakening itself, if it found against Israel.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the 2021 e-book, “The Zionist Conspiracy (and how to join it),” now updated with a new foreword. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.