South Africa and Israel at the ICJ

In January 2024, the South African Government brought a case of genocide against Israel in the International Court of Justice. Bev Goldman, President of ICJW’s South African affiliate, the Union of Jewish Women, explains why.

In a brutal and savage attack, thousands of Hamas-led terrorists burst into Israel on October 7, rampaging through communities and army bases in the south, raping girls and women, slaughtering indiscriminately, burning citizens alive, decapitating babies, and taking more than 200 hostages, primarily Israeli but also nationals from a number of different countries who were working in Israel at the time.   

The IDF immediately counter-attacked, with Israeli jet fighters launching retaliatory strikes on Gaza and ground incursions into the Strip.

By day 100 of this war, the Palestinian Health Ministry (an arm of Hamas) claimed that 23 800 Palestinians had been killed, while more than 1 300 Israelis had lost their lives.  The ID continues its attacks in Gaza, targeting terrorist enclaves, schools, mosques, hospitals and homes where Hamas terrorists hide and where they store their rockets, missiles and other weapons. 

The South African government, a strong supporter of Hamas and of the Palestinian people, has accused Israel of perpetrating genocide against the Palestinians, and to this end it presented its case before the ICJ (International Court of Justice).  This action sparked international interest and reaction, eliciting both support for and condemnation of Israel.  

The South African presentation made no mention of Hamas and its terrorist activities, nor did it note that the unprovoked war was initiated by Hamas. It stated that its presentation was in favour of the Palestinian people, and the conditions under which they were existing, with thousands of deaths and destruction of much of the area’s infrastructure, were clear indications of Israel’s determination to perpetrate genocide against the people.  Their presentation also ignored the fact that conditions in South Africa are for the majority of the population very dire, with the country having among the world’s highest incidences of unemployment, gender based violence, substandard education levels and failing infrastructure across the nation.

On the other side, both the Israeli legal team and Israel’s presentation were professional, articulate, knowledgeable and extremely convincing. They refuted absolutely the accusation of genocide, stating instead that following the vicious and inhuman Hamas attack, Israel was absolutely within her rights to defend her citizens and her land.   The IDF accepts the obligation that all its operations should be conducted according to the principles of international law, and IDF orders include a requirement to abide by the Geneva Conventions. Before attacking Gaza City, Israel warned the citizens to evacuate; Israel is committed to upholding the law, and part of its democratic strength lies in dealing with adversaries while maintaining legal and moral standards.

Israel stressed the ongoing assistance it was giving to the people of Gaza in the form of humanitarian aid, water, electricity and the establishment of field hospitals.  The IDF dropped millions of leaflets telling Gaza residents where to go and how to protect themselves from bombing; the army made 70,000 phone calls to Gazans with similar explanations; and Israel emphasized that these moves are in stark contradiction to claims that Israel is embracing genocidal policies. Israel also noted that should there be a cease fire and should Israel withdraw its troops from Gaza, that will give Hamas and its supporters, including Iran, ample opportunity to continue its brutal, barbaric and savage attacks against Israel with Israel not able to defend itself and its citizens.

It is now up to the ICJ to determine whether Israel has committed genocide. This decision could take quite a few years to be reached.

The response of the South African Jewish community to South Africa’s presentation was understandably angry, frustrated and dismayed. It was little more than a litany of fiction and fabrications.  

The situation in South Africa is dire. The country has one of the highest levels of unemployment globally; unprecedented levels of gender-based violence and rape; rampant crime and increasing devastating poverty, and a critical lack of service delivery across the country. Many felt that this was a way of deflecting international and local attention away from the chaos at home.

The general feeling is that the government has betrayed the loyal and patriotic Jewish community by accusing Israel of a crime too horrendous to imagine, given that the Holocaust is still in the memories of so many. There was absolute disbelief that “Hamas” was not mentioned once, neither as the protagonist of the war, as one of the world’s most vicious terrorist groups, or as the perpetrator of its brutal and savage attacks; disbelief at the blatant lies about Israel; and disbelief that the UN would actually acquiesce to this charade.

The ANC government does not represent us. It does not represent the millions of right-minded Christian South Africans who support and love Israel. It has left us deflated, disillusioned and sad.