Baseless Allegations

Israel rejects genocide claims at The Hague

"If there were acts of genocide, they have been perpetrated against Israel," says Tal Becker.

From left: Dr Tal Becker, Prof Malcolm Shaw KC, Dr Gilad Noam and Dr Galit Raguan at the International Court of Justice. Photo: International Court of Justice
From left: Dr Tal Becker, Prof Malcolm Shaw KC, Dr Gilad Noam and Dr Galit Raguan at the International Court of Justice. Photo: International Court of Justice

(THE TIMES OF ISRAEL) Israel’s legal team in The Hague has attacked the fundamental claims of South Africa’s genocide allegations in the International Court of Justice and punched holes in the accusations that Israel’s state organs have genocidal intent against the Palestinians in Gaza.

Israel’s six legal representatives asserted that the ICJ has no jurisdiction over the complaints brought by South Africa since they relate to the laws of armed conflict, not genocide; argued that “random” inflammatory comments of Israeli politicians did not reflect policy; and insisted that the harm to Palestinian civilians during the war was a result of Hamas’s use of civilian infrastructure for military purposes.

They also underlined in depth the steps Israel has taken to warn civilians to evacuate from operational areas and to provide humanitarian assistance to civilians, including facilitating the establishment of field hospitals in Gaza.

Setting out Israel’s arguments at the start of the hearing last Friday, legal adviser Tal Becker – an Australian who made Aliyah in 1994 – denounced the arguments made by South Africa’s legal team last Thursday as “a grossly distorted story” with “curated” allegations.

“If there were acts of genocide, they have been perpetrated against Israel,” Becker said in reference to Hamas’ October 7 atrocities which sparked the war, and condemned South Africa’s assertion that Israel does not have the right to self-defence against the terror group.

“If the claim of the applicant is that Israel must be denied the ability to defend its citizens, the absurd upshot is that under guise of genocide claims this court is trying to stop Israel [from] defending its civilians against an organisation which pursues a genocidal agenda against them,” he said.

Becker said Israel was committed to complying with the law, “but it does so in the face of Hamas’s utter contempt for the law,” and argued the “appalling suffering” of civilians, both Israeli and Palestinian, was the result of Hamas strategy of hiding behind innocents.

“The applicant has regrettably put before the court a profoundly distorted factual and legal picture. The entirety of its case hinges on a deliberately curated, decontextualised and manipulative description of the reality of current hostilities,” charged Becker.

“There can hardly be a charge more false and malevolent than the allegation against Israel of genocide.”

Speaking after Becker, Professor Malcolm Shaw sought to undermine the very foundation of South Africa’s case.

Shaw said South Africa presented a “distorted picture” of a few inflammatory comments made by some Israeli politicians in order to establish genocidal intent, but pointed out that only decisions made by the Israeli war and security cabinets are relevant in determining war policy in Gaza, and those comments were therefore irrelevant.

He cited by way of example a Security Cabinet meeting of October 29 when “the prime minister stated time and again that ‘we must prevent a humanitarian disaster’ and the prime minister indicated possible solutions for the supply of water, food and medicine, and increasing the supply of humanitarian aid trucks into Gaza”.

Shaw also cited IDF standing orders specifying the need to differentiate between military and civilian targets, and numerous comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant declaring that the goal of the war is to destroy Hamas and not target the Palestinian people.

Dr Galit Raguan insisted to the court that Israeli policies of warning Palestinian civilians to evacuate from war zones demonstrated that there was not even plausibility to South Africa’s claims.

Raguan also gave a detailed review of Hamas’s all-encompassing use of civilian infrastructure in Gaza for military purposes, showing photos of rockets being fired from inside UN schools and next to water desalination plants, rocket launchers hidden inside the premises of a Scouts branch in Gaza and tunnels within hospital complexes, as well as describing the terror group’s use of mosques and UN facilities for its military operations.

“In every single hospital the IDF has searched in Gaza it has found evidence of Hamas using it,” said Raguan.

Following these arguments, Dr Christopher Staker rejected one by one the nine provisional measures South Africa has asked the court to take against Israel, in particular, for it to order that Israel cease its military operation, arguing it would protect Hamas and encourage the terror group to repeat the October 7 atrocities.

Israel has rejected South Africa’s accusations as baseless and said South Africa was acting as an emissary of Hamas.

The court is expected to rule on possible emergency measures later this month, but will not rule at that time on the genocide allegations – those proceedings could take years.

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