The International Court of Justice ruling on the Israel-Gaza war was not a knockout victory for either side
27 January 2024, ABC, by John Lyons
It’s a judgement that both sides – Israel and South Africa – can cherry-pick.
Neither side has won comprehensively and both sides are claiming victory.
The judgement by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was not a knockout victory for either side.
South Africa brought an accusation of genocide against Israel.
Israel knew it needed to do everything in its power to ensure there was no finding of genocide.
South Africa came to The Hague with two aims: to have a finding of genocide made against Israel and, as a result, for the ICJ to order an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
Neither of these things happened.
What happens next?
There are two stages to this ICJ case.
The first is this stage – South Africa wanted what amounted to an “injunction” on the war.
If the ICJ had found a prima facie case of genocide, it could have ordered such an injunction, which would have amounted to a ceasefire.
Both Israel and South Africa are signatories to the Genocide Convention of 1948.
The convention was established in 1948 out of the horrors of the Holocaust.
Its aim was to prevent such an atrocity from happening again.
As signatories, any ICJ ruling is binding.
The ICJ does not have the power to enforce any such ruling, but it’s a big step for a country to ignore such a ruling.
South Africa is claiming this is “a decisive victory” while Israel says that the ruling is a vindication that it should never have faced such a charge and that its war in Gaza is self-defence following the Hamas-led attack on October 7.
But this case has not been good for Israel – for several weeks the words “Israel” and “genocide” have been used around the world, as media reported on the looming international law battle.
The ICJ’s six provisional measures
The ICJ will now begin considering in depth South Africa’s application.
It could take years for a full investigation into whether Israel has committed genocide in Gaza.
But for now, the ICJ has imposed six “provisional measures” on Israel:
- The State of Israel shall, in accordance with its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, in relation to Palestinians in Gaza, take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of Article II of this Convention, in particular:
(a) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(b) killing members of the group;
(c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; and
(d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.
- The State of Israel shall ensure with immediate effect that its military does not commit any acts described in point 1 above.
- The State of Israel shall take all measures within its power to prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide in relation to members of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip.
- The State of Israel shall take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
- The State of Israel shall take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence related to allegations of acts within the scope of Article II and Article III of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide against members of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip.
- The State of Israel shall submit a report to the Court on all measures taken to give effect to this Order within one month as from the date of this Order.
As with so much to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the ruling of the ICJ is unlikely to change the view that anyone has of the war in Gaza.
Both parties to the case went into full media-management mode.
“The vile attempt to deny Israel this fundamental right is blatant discrimination against the Jewish state, and it was justly rejected,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
“The charge of genocide levelled against Israel is not only false, it’s outrageous, and decent people everywhere should reject it.”
Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir – whose support is crucial for keeping Mr Netanyahu in power – mocked the ruling.
On social media he made fun of The Hague’s ruling.
“Hague Shmague,” he wrote.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa had a different interpretation.
“After more than half a century of occupation, dispossession, oppression and apartheid, the Palestinian people’s cries for justice have been heeded by an eminent organ of the United Nations,” he said.
“Today, Israel stands before the international community, its crimes against the Palestinians laid bare.”
The significance of one ruling
The most concrete of the provisional measures imposed by the ICJ relates to humanitarian aid.
The ICJ made clear it wants Israel to ensure a significantly larger amount of aid gets into Gaza.
Before the war, about 400 trucks a day would enter Gaza to service the strip’s 2.3 million people.
For several weeks no aid entered, and on some days, perhaps 70 trucks came through.
The ICJ has made this one of its main provisions.
It has given Israel a one-month deadline to report back on the progress of these provisional measures.
Perhaps the only real change that will arise from this ICJ ruling is that Israel will push much more aid through its crossing, Kerem Shalom.
Another consequence is that the US, which has been encouraging Israel to allow more aid in, may use the ICJ ruling to further pressure Israel.
Apart from that, the war will continue, largely unaffected.Article link: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2024-01-27/international-court-of-justice-ruling-israel/103393432
Article source: ABC | John Lyons | 27 January 2024.