In its case before the International Court of Justice, where it is accusing Israel of genocide, South Africa, according to Israel, has misrepresented the facts.
Israeli attorney Tal Becker told the International Court of Justice that South Africa had provided “a sweeping counter-factual description” of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
According to South Africa, Israel’s war in Gaza is causing genocide against the Palestinian people.
Additionally, it is requesting that the court compel Israel to stop its military operations.
The ICJ is the United Nations’ highest court. Though not enforceable, its decisions are legally obligatory in theory for ICJ parties, such as South Africa and Israel.
A day after South Africa made its case, Israel submitted its reply to the court.
To keep competing factions apart, authorities set up cordons outside the International Court of Justice.
Palestinian flags were being waved on one side, behind a large screen showing a live video from the courthouse. Banners with pictures of Nelson Mandela were unfurled, alluding to comparisons made by South Africa’s legal team between the Gaza conflict and the country’s previous apartheid period.
A few hundred metres away, someone had set up a symbolic Sabbath table. On the backs of empty seats were photographs. These depict a portion of the over 130 Israelis that Hamas, a terrorist organisation outlawed in the US, UK, EU, and other regions, continues to hold captive.
According to South Africa, Israel is in breach of the 1948 Genocide Convention, which both countries have ratified and which requires parties to take action to stop genocide from occurring.
Since October 7, when hundreds of Hamas terrorists invaded Israel and killed around 1,300 people while capturing about 240 others and bringing them back to Gaza as hostages, Israel has been at war with Hamas, the organisation that rules Gaza. Families of the captives were present in the ICJ courtroom to hear Israel’s side of the story.
According to the Gaza health ministry administered by Hamas, Israel has killed around 23,350 individuals throughout the conflict, the majority of them being women and children.
Tal Becker told the court during his opening statement on Friday that although the suffering of civilians was “tragic,” Hamas aimed “to maximise civilian harm to both Israelis and Palestinians, even as Israel seeks to minimise it.”
He said that South Africa “has regrettably put before the court a profoundly distorted factual and legal picture, [and] the entirety of its case hinges on a deliberately curated, decontextualised and manipulative description of the reality of current hostilities” .
South Africa is allegedly attempting to “weaponize the term genocide against Israel,” according to Mr. Becker.
According to him, South Africa’s aim is also “to thwart Israel’s inherent right to defend itself” by attempting to persuade the court to compel Israel to cease its military action against Hamas.
Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, an attorney for the High Court of South Africa, told the court’s 17 judges on Thursday that Israel’s “genocidal intent” was clear “from the way in which [its] military attack is being conducted”.
He claimed that Israel had a plan that “has been nurtured at the highest level of state” to “destroy” Gaza.
“Every day there is mounting, irreparable loss of life, property, dignity and humanity for the Palestinian people,” stated Adila Hassim, who was also representing South Africa, in court.
“Nothing will stop the suffering, except an order from this court.”
Israel’s acts were “intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial, and ethnic group,” according to South Africa’s evidence presented before the hearing.
In a statement released on Friday, the German government stated that it “expressly rejects the accusation of genocide” against Israel and that there was “no basis whatsoever” for the charge.
“Considering Germany’s past and the Shoah [Holocaust], a crime against humanity, the Federal Government considers itself especially dedicated to the Convention against Genocide… Our strong stance is against its political instrumentalization.”
Germany will speak in the ICJ’s main session, according to government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, according to a spokesman, thought South Africa’s case was “completely unjustified and wrong.”
“The UK government stands by Israel’s clear right to defend itself within the framework of international law,” he stated.
Though it will be keenly monitored, the ICJ’s decision regarding the genocide charge will simply be an opinion.
Years may pass before a decision is made on this, but the court may act more swiftly in granting South Africa’s plea that Israel halt its military operations.