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No ceasefire demand

Court’s mixed ruling on genocide case

The fact that Hamas welcomed the ruling "shows at whose behest and for whose benefit these proceedings were brought", says Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Alex Ryvchin.

Judges preside over the opening of the hearings at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, January 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Patrick Post)
Judges preside over the opening of the hearings at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, January 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Patrick Post)

The Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) has called on Australia to make a third-party intervention for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to dismiss South Africa’s genocide case against Israel.

The ICJ last Friday ordered that at least some of Israel’s actions in its war against Hamas in Gaza could fall within the terms of the Genocide Convention and ordered Israel to take all measures to prevent genocide, to ensure the IDF does not carry out acts of genocide and to take urgent measures to alleviate the “adverse” humanitarian situation in Gaza.

It ruled that inflammatory comments made by some senior Israeli officials, which could be interpreted as an endorsement of deliberately harming civilians, gave plausibility to South Africa’s allegations that Israel has genocidal intent. Israeli President Isaac Herzog called the case a form of “blood libel” on Sunday, saying judges “twisted” his words and took them out of context.

The ICJ did not, however, demand an immediate ceasefire. Crucially, it did not use the word “desist”, which would have indicated it believed genocide was actively taking place. It also called for the immediate and unconditional release of the Israeli hostages being held in Gaza.

“While this judgement achieves little of what Hamas and South Africa were seeking, these proceedings are reminiscent of the failures of international systems in the 1930s,” Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Alex Ryvchin said.

The fact that Hamas welcomed the ruling “shows at whose behest and for whose benefit these proceedings were brought”, he added.

“Iran, Russia and North Korea will all relish the ease with which a victim has been turned into an aggressor and will no doubt feel emboldened by this shameful stunt.”

ZFA president Jeremy Leibler said it was reassuring to witness the failure of South Africa’s “egregious and cynical attempt to exploit the Genocide Convention” in order to halt Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself and prevent Hamas’s capacity to pursue its stated genocidal objectives against Israel and the Jewish people.

Welcoming Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s statement that she does not accept the premise of the South African case, he added, “We strongly believe that, in order to uphold the international rules-based order, Australia should make a third-party intervention in this case, urging the ICJ to dismiss these allegations. We call on the government to do so.”

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein expressed disappointment that the ICJ determined there was a “plausible” case that should be heard.

“There is clearly no plausible argument that Israel is committing genocide as alleged,” he said.

He said it was notable the ICJ “took as the gospel truth” claims of representatives who have shown bias against Israel, but did not even mention the Israeli submissions about steps it takes to protect civilians and Hamas’s “cynical and illegal” use of human shields.

“This calls into question the Court’s ability to serve as a truly independent and impartial judicial body.”

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