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ICJ Issues Provisional Measure Against Israel in “Ludicrous” Genocide Case

On Dec. 29, the worldwide Jewish community was taken aback after South Africa filed a case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Israel following its military offensive in Gaza in response to Hamas’ invasion on Oct. 7. 

South Africa accuses Israel of violating the Genocide Convention of 1948, a human rights treaty that came into fruition as a direct result of Germany’s role in the Holocaust. South Africa claims that Israel continued to commit acts of genocide that “bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group.” Many Israeli public officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have unequivocally denied the allegations they are facing, asserting that the Israeli military has taken measures to prevent unnecessary civilian casualties; these include airdropping flyers to warn civilians about incoming attacks, calling civilians to tell them to evacuate targeted areas, and canceling airstrikes when civilians are in danger. 

Although a final ruling could take multiple years to emerge, the ICJ already issued a provisional ruling on Jan. 26. Although many worried the court would order a mandatory ceasefire, it did not currently find sufficient evidence that would warrant such a measure. The court instead ruled that Israel and its military must do everything in their power to prevent committing any form of genocide in Gaza. The court also declared that Israel needs to take action and allow humanitarian relief to enter the territory. 

Limudei Qodesh Co-Department Chair and facilitator of the Current Events Minyan Ruth Fagen said she was pleasantly surprised about the ruling. “I was worried that the court would call for things that I thought would be very difficult for Israel to implement if not impossible, such as an immediate ceasefire,” said Fagen. She said that the court’s complete dismissal of the case, which was initially considered a possibility, seemed to her “extremely unlikely.” 

Fagen’s reaction to the ruling directly opposes that of Prime Minister Netanyahu. Shortly after the court’s decision was made, Netanyahu said, “The charge of genocide leveled against Israel is not only false, it’s outrageous, and decent people everywhere should reject it.” Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant posted his response on his X account, writing, “The state of Israel does not need to be lectured on morality in order to distinguish between terrorists and the civilian population in Gaza.” 

Fagen said that in her opinion Gallant’s post is neither “strategically wise for Israel nor accurate.” She said that although it is important to address the “ludicrous nature” of Israel facing accusations of violating a treaty that was enacted because of the actions committed against the Jewish people, she still believes that, “[Israel] needs to be able to show that they don’t just sign a treaty when people do bad things to the Jews, but then feel that they have no moral obligation to hold themselves accountable to that treaty.”

Fagen addressed the importance of abiding by the ruling even though it is not technically enforceable. She said that Israel’s response to the result is important for its “standing in the international community on the practical level of Israel’s allies, particularly the UK and the United States, being able to feel like they can continue to provide Israel with the international support in the media; that I worry about.” 

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