By David R. Parsons, ICEJ Vice President & Senior Spokesman on 12.1.2024
When waves of Hamas terrorists infiltrated from Gaza and proceeded to slaughter, torture, rape, maim and kidnap thousands of Israelis last October 7, President Isaac Herzog rightly described it as the darkest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust. The Hamas onslaught was certainly not on the same scale as the Nazi mass extermination of over six million Jews, yet a number of Holocaust survivors themselves have told us what happened that day was actually worse than what they suffered from the Nazis in terms of the brutality, malice and perverse glee shown by the perpetrators.
This is why South Africa’s ANC-ruled government dragging Israel into the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the charge of genocide this week is so twisted and odious.
The current hearings at the ICJ in The Hague are a clear example of what scholars on modern-day antisemitism call “Holocaust inversion.” It goes beyond Holocaust denial or distortion, such as the claim by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that only 600,000 Jews died, or his more recent assertion that the Palestinians have been through “fifty holocausts.” Rather, it turns the Holocaust on its head by portraying Israel as just as bad as the Nazis, if not worse. And if such is the case, it follows that the Jewish state and people today deserve to be eradicated.
Let us start with these simple historic facts. First, the Jewish people were indeed the victims of the world’s cruellest campaign of industrialized slaughter at the hands of the Nazis and their accomplices during World War Two. To adequately describe the enormity of the Nazis’ crimes, in 1944 the Polish Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin coined the term “genocide.”
As well as the international community establishing the United Nations as a bulwark against future massacres, after the Second World War, they also enacted a specific treaty to ban this most extreme crime of genocide.
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide adopted in 1948 defines genocide as the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group. This uniquely heinous crime not only has to involve systemic acts of mass murder, it also requires proof of “intent” to wipe out another people or race.
Although there have been clear acts of genocide worldwide since then, post-apartheid South Africa was never bothered enough by any of these terrible events such as the Rwandan massacre to bring their perpetrators to trial at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
So why is South Africa now bringing an indictment of genocide against Israel?
The answer starts with the close ties which the ANC and PLO forged as radical Marxist liberation movements backed by the Kremlin in the Cold War days. The Soviets spoon-fed them anti-Western, anti-colonialist propaganda, which viewed the state of Israel as a Western, colonialist implant in the midst of the Arab world. Even though the late Nelson Mandela himself accepted Israel’s right to exist, the ANC today remains extremely hostile towards the Jewish state. They helped turn the 2001 Durban Conference on racism into an antisemitic hate-fest, and now are even willing to serve as legal counsel for Hamas before the world’s highest court.
But their case is extremely flawed and was poorly presented in the opening hearings at the ICJ on Thursday.
To begin with, there is a certain hierarchy to international criminal law which goes from basic war crimes to crimes against humanity, up to the ultimate crime of genocide. So why jump straight to the highest crime which is hardest to prove?
Well, it just so happens that war crimes and crimes against humanity are generally both dealt with by the International Criminal Court, also seated in The Hague, and Israel is one of many countries that have yet to sign on to that court’s founding treaty – the Rome Statute.
Meanwhile, Israel has signed the Genocide Convention and since it is an international treaty, any disputes arising under it between UN member states can be brought before the International Court of Justice for adjudication. That is why South Africa went straight for the highest crime of genocide, and it is why Israel had little choice but to accept the court’s jurisdiction and will now show up on Friday with a strong legal team to defend itself.
Even though the International Court of Justice tends to be more a political body than a truly impartial court, Israel should make a good showing due to the poor case made by South Africa and the strength of its own case.
South Africa claimed Israel is committing genocide in Gaza due to: the high civilian death toll; the extensive damage the IDF is causing; the lack of aid relief to civilians in Gaza; the restrictions on fuel; and) the harsh rhetoric of Israeli leaders against Palestinians.
These charges can all be easily refuted by Israel, although the hostile remarks against Palestinians will take some finessing.
What really stands out, however, is all the hugely important facts which the South Africa team failed to mention.
Not one word about the Hamas terrorist invasion of October 7.
Nothing about the brutal murders, rapes, mutilations and beheadings by Hamas.
They left out the 240+ hostages taken back into Gaza, with more than half still being cruelly held in harsh conditions almost 100 days later.
They ignored the way Hamas deliberately uses Gazan civilians as human shields, and places weapons and rocket launchers in schools, mosques and hospitals.
They were silent about all the extraordinary measures the IDF has taken to protect civilians in Gaza, such as the millions of phone calls and dropped leaflets warning them to flee the area due to impending military operations.
They forgot to talk about the hundreds of aid trucks being allowed into Gaza every week, as well as the fuel – even though denying fuel to an enemy is not a war crime.
Perhaps most telling of all, the South Africa team dared not speak about Hamas’s own genocidal, jihadist agenda, which is openly spelled out in its founding charter as a sacred Islamic duty to eradicate the Jews both in Israel and worldwide.
So, there is plenty for Israel to fill in to give the court a clearer picture and proper context for recent events in Gaza. Still, the panel of justices could already be stacked against Israel, and we may see some sort of novel ruling that demands Israel stop certain actions which would ease the pressure on Hamas. But if the court does its job right, South Africa’s shameful legal manoeuvre will backfire, and all these endless, inverted accusations of genocide against Israel will hopefully start to lose their steam worldwide.
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