ICJ Rules Against Israel in Gaza Genocide Case

The court stopped short of ordering Israel to cease all military activity in Gaza, but the South African representative said the ruling amounted to a de facto ceasefire.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Israel’s actions in Gaza could plausibly amount to genocide. The ICJ ordered several injunctions on Israel but stopped short of ordering a ceasefire in Gaza.

Late last year, South Africa filed charges in an 84-page indictment against Israel at the ICJ, alleging Tel Aviv is conducting genocide. Earlier this month, a 17-judge panel at the ICJ heard two days of arguments from lawyers representing the South African charges and Israeli defense.

On Friday, the ICJ announced it had ordered several limitations on how Tel Aviv should wage war in Gaza, including that Israel punish soldiers who commit war crimes and allow more aid into the besieged Strip. The ICJ was not expected to rule if the actions of Israeli politicians and military amount to genocide. Still, the court deemed South Africa’s claims that Israel was committing genocide in Gaza have sufficient merit to move forward.

The ICJ judges voted on the decisions 15-2 and 16-1. The “no” votes came from Judge Julia Sebutinde of Uganda and Ad Hoc Judge Aharon Barak of Israel. American Judge Joan Donoghue leads the court. Before joining the ICJ, she served as a foreign policy adviser in the Barack Obama administration.

South Africa argued to the court that Israeli forces had inflicted widespread death and devastation across Gaza in just three months. Additionally, Pretoria’s lawyers presented evidence that top Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had made statements calling for the genocide of Palestinians that were heeded by Israeli soldiers fighting in Gaza.

The Minister of International Relations in South Africa, Naledi Pandor, celebrated the ruling as a victory. “I would thank the judges of the ICJ for dealing with the matter expeditiously.” She continued, “The state of Israel is called upon by the judges to act to protect civilians and to protect [them from] the massive level of harm that we have seen since the Israeli action began.”

Pandor argued the ICJ ruling amounted to a de facto ceasefire. “How do you provide aid and water without a ceasefire?” she said. “If you read the order, by implication, a ceasefire must happen.”

However, there is resentment towards the court for failing to order an Israeli ceasefire. “There is a great deal of frustration and resentment because the one element that every single Palestinian across the Gaza Strip, including children, were waiting for is an end to this madness, a cessation of all hostilities and of the ongoing intense bombing,” Hani Mahmoud reported for Al Jazeera from inside Gaza.

While Tel Aviv has said that it will ignore the ICJ ruling and Washington has routinely dismissed South Africa’s genocide argument as meritless, the ruling will likely do significant damage to Israel’s reputation around the globe.

Executive Vice President of the Quincy Institute, Trita Parsi, explained that the ruling was a massive victory for the Palestinian movement. “This is a devastating blow to Israel’s global standing.” He posted on X. “To put it in context, Israel has worked ferociously for the last two decades to defeat the BDS movement – Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions – not because it will have a significant economic impact on Israel, but because of the manner that it could delegitimize Israel internationally.”

Paris’s post continued, “However, the ruling of the ICJ that Israel is plausibly engaged in genocide is far more devastating to Israel’s legitimacy than anything BDS could have achieved.”

President Joe Biden has maintained his unconditional support for Israel. Washington has continued to supply Tel Aviv with bombs, even as Israel has used American weapons to attack civilian targets in Gaza.

Support for Israel is becoming a political liability for Biden’s 2024 reelection campaign. His events are regularly disreputed by protesters chanting “genocide Joe.” The campaign hired an adviser to help mitigate the impact of the protesters.

However, the President is struggling in polls against his Republican challengers. One survey showed Biden lagging behind former President Donald Trump among young and Hispanic voters. An Economist poll released this week shows that nearly half of the voters in those demographics believe Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. Overall, a third of Americans said Israel was committing genocide in Gaza, before the ICJ ruling.

It is unclear how the White House will respond to the ruling. On Thursday, when asked if parties should abide by whatever the ICJ rules, State Department spokesman Vedant Patel refused to answer. “I would not opine on anything like that given this is a legal process, and I’m not going to hypothesize or speculate on any kind of outcome,” he said.

Patel added, “The allegations that Israel is committing genocide we believe to be unfounded.”

Kyle Anzalone is the opinion editor of Antiwar.com, news editor of the Libertarian Institute, and co-host of Conflicts of Interest.