South Africa has presented a persuasive and detailed case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), alleging genocidal intentions, systematic massacres and the dehumanization of the Palestinians.
In oral presensations widely seen as cogent and compelling by observers, Pretoria’s heavyweight legal team told the judges at The Hague, Netherlands, on Thursday that Israel intended to commit pre-meditated genocide against Palestinian civilians in the name of retaliations against Hamas attacks on October 7.
The oral arguments took place amid celebratory rallies by Palestinians in Gaza and the Hague, with one man telling Al Jazeera that South Africa was “the only honest country in the world”.
The lawyers, who opened their oral arguments with the historical context of the Israeli-Palestinian war dating back to 1948, further alleged that Israel had violated the provisions of the Genocide Convention and engaged in actions that could be considered genocide in the Gaza Strip.
Israel has killed more than 23,000 Palestinians – one per cent of Gaza’s 2.3 million population – destroyed 60 per cent of the homes, and cut access to water, electricity and food during its daily bombardment since October.
Insisting that there was intent behind Tel Aviv’s alleged war crimes, South Africa’s legal team accused Israel of deliberately targeting civilians as its senior politicians and government officials made inflammatory statements against the Palestinians.
They pointed accusing fingers at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, and Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Israel Katz, along with other cabinet members, saying their hateful utterances prepared the ground for a genocidal atmosphere and the complete obliteration of Gaza.
The SA legal team consisted of highly skilled and experienced individuals, including John Dugard, SC, Adila Hassim, SC, Thembeka Ngcukaitobi, SC, Max du Plessis, SC, and Masters of Law Tshidiso Ramogale and Sarah Pudifin-Jones. The South African government delegation included International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor and Justice Minister Ronald Lamola.
Ngcukaitobi made a compelling argument about the intent to commit genocide, highlighting Netanyahu’s use of biblical scriptures to issue a warning about the complete annihilation of Gaza.
He said Netanyahu mentioned the biblical directive to eliminate “the Amalekites,” which instructed soldiers to eliminate “men, women, children, infants, cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys.”
“Mr. Netanyahu exercises overall command over the Israeli Defense Force and, in turn, the Palestinians in Gaza. Prime Minister Netanyahu, in his address to the Israeli forces on 28, October 2023, preparing for the invasion of Gaza, urged the soldiers to ‘Remember what Amalek has done to you.’ This refers to the biblical command by God to Saul for the retaliatory destruction of an entire group of people known as the Amalekites. ‘Put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’,” Ngcukaitobi told the court.
“The genocidal invocation to Amalek was anything but idle. It was repeated by Mr. Netanyahu in a letter to the armed forces. The deputy speaker of Knesset, the parliament of Israel, Nissim Vaturi, has called for the erasure of the Gaza Strip from the earth. The defense force agrees. On 9 October, 2023, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant gave a situation update to the army, where he said, as Israel was imposing a complete siege on Gaza, there would be no electricity, no food, no water and no fuel. ‘Everything will be closed because Israel is fighting human animals.’ Speaking to troops on the Gaza border, he instructed them that he has released all the restraints and that Gaza won’t return to what it was before. ‘We will eliminate everything; we will reach all places’ without any restraints,” he added.
Ngcukaitobi also told the court that Israeli soldiers were seen celebrating the destruction of Gaza, capturing their jubilation on camera as they danced and chanted slogans expressing hostility towards the Amalikites.
He shared videos of numerous instances where Israeli soldiers expressed rhetoric that portrayed the conflict in Gaza as a war against Palestinians.
“The genocidal rhetoric is also commonplace with the Israeli Knesset. Members of the Knesset have repeatedly called for Gaza to be wiped out, flattened, erased, and crushed, along with all its inhabitants. They have asserted repeatedly that there are no uninvolved; that there are no innocents in Gaza; that the killers of women and children should not be separated from the citizens of Gaza; that the children of Gaza have brought this upon themselves; and that there should be one sentence for everyone there: death.
“The lawmakers have called for merciless bombing from the air, with some advocating for the use of nuclear doomsday weapons. The prime minister’s genocidal speech has gained ground among some elements of civil society. A famous singer has repeated Mr. Netanyahu’s Amalek reference. ‘Gaza must be wiped and destroyed with every Amalek seed. We simply must destroy all of Gaza and exterminate everyone who is there.’ Another has called ‘to erase Gaza, not leave a single person there.’ Journalists and commentators have announced that ‘the woman is an enemy, the baby is an enemy, and the pregnant woman is an enemy.’ Exterminate everyone,” Ngcukaitobi said.
The Legal Eagle pointed out that the State of Israel has not taken a strong stance against genocidal speech within its society.
Before Ngcukaitobi, Hassim eloquently presented cogent reasons for the court to intervene and prevent the alarming escalation of a potential genocide in Gaza.
“Genocides are never declared in advance, but the Hague has the power to prevent it via provisional measures. Without provisional measures, the atrocities will continue,” she said.
Hassim provided a detailed explanation of the situation in Gaza, highlighting the significant control that Israel exercises over various aspects of life in the region. This control extends to space, territorial waters, land crossings, water, electricity, the electromagnetic sphere, and infrastructure.
She said it was evident that these factors greatly impact the lives of the 2.3 million people residing in Gaza, particularly the large number of children within the population.
According to Hassim, entry and exit by air and sea are prohibited, and Israel has control over the only two crossing points.
Hassim told the judges that UN statistics from January 9, 2024, indicate that more than 23,000 Palestinians, including women and children, have lost their lives due to actions by Israeli forces.
She said more than 7,000 Palestinians are unaccounted for and believed to have perished in the rubble, as Israel persists in launching bombs to inflict harm on Palestinian lives.
“In the first three weeks, Israel deployed 6,000 bombs per week; at least 200 times, it has deployed 2,000-pound bombs, which are some of the biggest and most destructive bombs dropped from lethal fighter jets. More than 1,800 families have lost family members. Some families have been wiped out. The destruction of Palestinian lives is deliberate. Gaza has been labelled ‘a graveyard for children.’ The mass killing of Palestinians in Gaza violates Article 2A of the General Convention,” she said.
Hassim also highlighted the severe physical and psychological harm inflicted upon Palestinians in Gaza. Reports indicate that 60,000 individuals have been wounded and maimed, while others have been subjected to unjust arrests. These individuals, including children, have been blindfolded and stripped naked before being taken to undisclosed places.
According to Hassim, the conditions in Gaza are so dire that they cannot support life, resulting in numerous displacements for Palestinians.
She stated that Israel has demolished numerous houses without showing any willingness to take responsibility for the reconstruction of the destroyed properties.
Hassim emphasized the dire conditions faced by Palestinians, including hunger, dehydration, and the alarming spread of infectious diseases.
Additionally, she highlighted the disturbing instances of reproductive violence against women, which is a clear violation of Article 2D of the Genocide Convention.
“Israel is blocking the delivery of life-saving aid, including kits for delivering babies. The Hague has the power to prevent genocide through provisional measures, but without them, the atrocities will continue. Aid workers are displaced or killed, making it impossible for anyone to help the people of Gaza,” she said.