Why is Israel accused of genocide and what is it really risking?

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, the United Nations’ highest judicial body, will decide around this time whether to accept South Africa’s request to investigate Israel for war crimes in the Gaza Strip. In the 84-page petition, the action of the Tel Aviv army, which started after the Hamas attack on October 7, is described as “genocide”. According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, the number of deaths so far in the attacks in the Strip has exceeded 23 thousand, and at least two-thirds of them were civilians.

South African accusation

Legal proceedings could continue for several more years, but South Africa wants the Court to declare that Benjamin Netanyahu’s government must immediately stop the conflict in Gaza to stop or prevent genocide. “Israel’s actions and omissions complained of by South Africa constitute genocide because they are aimed at leading to the destruction of a significant part of the Palestinian territory, national, racial and ethnic group,” the petition states. Not only is Tel Aviv actively committing genocide, for example through airstrikes, but it also does little or nothing to prevent harm to civilians.

“Gaza has turned into a concentration camp,” South African legal advisor John Dugard said during his hearing at the ICJ. “Any aim or attempt to destroy Hamas does not preclude Israel’s genocidal intent against the entire Palestinian population or part of it in Gaza,” he added.

Defense of Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv claims Hamas’ actions in the Strip were legal because they were dictated by self-defense grounds following the October 7 terrorist attack, and accuses South Africa of “slander”. Netanyahu sent a team of 14 lawyers to The Hague, including Aharon Barak, the former president of Israel’s Supreme Court and one of the most critical figures of the justice reform introduced by the prime minister himself in recent months.

The IDF, the command of the Israeli armed forces, claims to have implemented all necessary precautionary measures to prevent civilian casualties, such as dropping leaflets in areas before impending attacks, urging civilians to leave targeted buildings, and preventing intervention. Some raids where the military was able to confirm the presence of civilians.

What does genocide mean?

According to international law, genocide is the commission of one or more acts intended to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. Such actions include: killing or causing serious physical or mental harm to members of a particular group; Intentionally creating living conditions that would lead to physical destruction in whole or in part; to implement measures to prevent births within the group; forcibly transferring children from one group to another.

Suggestions and comments by some far-right ministers in the Israeli government to occupy Gaza and expel Palestinians from the Strip may support the charge of genocide. It is no coincidence that on the eve of the IGC hearing, Netanyahu wanted to emphasize that “Israel does not intend to permanently occupy Gaza or displace the civilian population.”

What is Israel really risking?

Proving an accusation such as genocide is quite complex. It all revolves around the possibility of judges assessing the ‘dolusspecis’, the subjective element that constitutes genocide.AdnKronos. In order for a State or an individual to be held responsible for an act of genocide, murders, torture, as well as unlivable conditions imposed on people, which are the objective elements of genocide, are not sufficient. Palestinians in Gaza – It is important to demonstrate the subjective element, that is, the intent to “destroy in whole or in part a national, racial, ethnic or religious group”, as stated in the UN Genocide Convention, signed by both South Africa and Israel. .

Pretoria knows this very well and does not expect a quick decision on this matter. Rather, the aim is to have the Court order Tel Aviv to “immediately suspend its military operations in and against Gaza” while awaiting clarification as to whether genocide occurred. Many experts say such a decision could come within a few weeks and would be legally binding on Israel. But it is not certain that Netanyahu will follow.

Position of the European Union

The EU appears divided over South Africa’s request. A group of more than 50 MPs from various countries in the bloc published a letter of support for the petition. Even Belgian deputy prime minister Petra de Sutter supported Pretoria’s action. However, Germany expressed its opposition to the charge of genocide, and other EU governments followed suit. In fact, Italy, in the voice of Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, has the following stance: “We do not accept attacks against the people” and “We continue to call on Israel not to exceed the limits of correct reaction to defeat Hamas”, but “genocide is something else”, the minister said .

However, the EU’s stance may change if the Hague Tribunal orders Israel to suspend the raids. In 2022, in response to a petition from Kiev, the IGC asked Russia to stop its aggression against Ukraine, but Moscow agreed to this request. It’s a precedent that could create a parallel with Israel that’s hard to defend, even by the staunchest defenders of Tel Aviv’s right to defend itself against Hamas.

Source: Today IT