Injured Palestinian girl

An injured Palestinian girl is brought to the al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital after an Israeli airstrike hit al-Maghazi Refugee Camp in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on January 09, 2024.

(Photo: Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Nations Urged to Back ICJ Case Against Israel After Experts Confirm Genocide Underway

"How many more alarm bells have to ring and how many more civilians must unlawfully suffer or be killed before governments take action?" asked one human rights expert.

Human rights advocates are ramping up pressure on nations to formally back South Africa's case against Israel at the International Court of Justice after a panel of experts determined that the Israeli military's actions in the Gaza Strip—paired with officials' overt statements of intent to wipe out the Palestinian population—constitute sufficient evidence that a genocide is underway.

Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) convened the expert roundtable last month, before South Africa submitted its 84-page ICJ application accusing Israel of violating its obligations under the Genocide Convention, which also requires signatories to prevent genocide.

"We have to be clear that this is a very unique case, indeed textbook, in the way that intent is articulated openly and explicitly in an
unashamed way," Raz Segal, associate professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at Stockton University, said during his December presentation, pointing to remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other high-ranking officials signaling genocidal war aims.

South Africa's ICJ filing, submitted to the 15-judge United Nations court on December 29, features page after page of quotations from Israeli officials and lawmakers voicing what the document calls "genocidal intent against the Palestinian people." The first public hearing on the case is scheduled to take place on Thursday.

"Expert analysis of Israeli government statements revealing their intent to destroy Palestinians in Gaza, combined with military actions on the ground, including mass killings, forced displacement, and the deprivation of items essential to life in Gaza, suggest that the crime of genocide is being committed against the Palestinian population," Sarah Leah Whitson, DAWN's executive director, said Tuesday. "South Africa's charging Israel with genocide before the International Court of Justice underscores the need for decisive international action to compel a cease-fire and hold the perpetrators of these atrocities accountable."

Francis Boyle, the first human rights lawyer to ever win an order from the ICJ under the Genocide Convention, toldDemocracy Now! last week that based on his "careful review of all the documents so far submitted" by South Africa, he believes the country "will win an order against Israel to cease and desist from committing all acts of genocide against the Palestinians."

Thus far, at least seven national governments and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation—which includes 57 member states—have issued statements supporting South Africa's case against Israel. But only Jordan has signaled that it plans to officially back South Africa's case with a Declaration of Intervention.

Such declarations allow countries to "formally express their support for the case and contribute to the legal proceedings, enhancing the case's legitimacy and impact," DAWN explained, noting that more than 30 nations—including the U.S., Israel's top ally and arms supplier—submitted Declarations of Intervention in Ukraine's genocide case against Russia at the ICJ.

"South Africa's application to the International Court of Justice, invoking the Genocide Convention against Israel, represents a pivotal moment in the pursuit of global justice and accountability," said Raed Jarrar, DAWN's advocacy director. "It is time for the international community to support this process and speak with one voice to stop the genocide against the Palestinian people."

With national and grassroots support for South Africa's case growing, Israel has been pressuring governments around the world to speak out against the filing as it continues to wage war on Gaza's desperate and starving population. On Tuesday, as Common Dreams reported, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken dismissed South Africa's case as "meritless" even as the Biden administration refuses to formally assess whether Israel has adhered to international law.

Since South Africa submitted its application to the ICJ late last month, Israel has killed more than 2,100 people in the Palestinian enclave and injured thousands more, according to the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.

"How many more alarm bells have to ring and how many more civilians must unlawfully suffer or be killed before governments take action?" Balkees Jarrah, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch, asked Wednesday. "South Africa's genocide case unlocks a legal process at the world's highest court to credibly examine Israel's conduct in Gaza in the hopes of curtailing further suffering."

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