War On Gaza: ICJ begins hearing genocide case against Netanyahu

Two days of public hearings in South Africa’s genocide case against Netanyahu will start at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Thursday (today), as pro-Palestine campaigners hope the World Court might halt Israel’s devastating military campaign in Gaza.

The case, filed by South Africa, according to Al Jazeera, sets a precedent as the first at the ICJ relating to the siege on the Gaza Strip, where more than 23,000 people have been killed since October 7, nearly 10,000 of them children.

Today and tomorrow, the court will hear arguments from both sides and will then decide whether to issue an interim order that Israel stop its bombardment of Gaza.

“There are ongoing reports of crimes against humanity and war crimes being committed as well as reports that acts meeting the threshold of genocide or related crimes as defined in the 1948 ‘Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide’ have been and may still be committed in the context of the ongoing massacres in Gaza,” said Clayson Monyela, spokesman for South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation in a report from VOA.

Both countries are parties to the convention, which obliges them to not commit genocide and also to prevent and punish it. The treaty defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

The politically-charged hearings will deal exclusively politically charged with South Africa’s request for emergency measures ordering Israel to suspend its military actions in Gaza while the court hears the merits of the case – a process that could take years.

“Our opposition to the ongoing slaughter of the people of Gaza has driven us as a country to approach the ICJ,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday in a report from Reuters.

“As a people who once tasted the bitter fruits of dispossession, discrimination, racism and state-sponsored violence, we are clear that we will stand on the right side of history,” he said.

Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy said on Wednesday, “Tomorrow (today), the State of Israel will appear before the International Court of Justice to dispel South Africa’s absurd blood libel, as Pretoria gives political and legal cover to the Hamas Rapist Regime.”

However, while decisions by the court are binding, they are not always followed.

Russia for example has still not obeyed a 2022 ICJ order that it halt its invasion of Ukraine.

As a permanent member of the top U.N. body the U.S. has veto powers and is a firm ally of Israel.

Washington, like the Israeli government, has called South Africa’s lawsuit “meritless.”

South Africa’s support for the Palestinian cause is longstanding. The African National Congress, or ANC, was itself once a banned liberation movement that led an armed struggle against the racist white apartheid regime in South Africa, and says it sees echoes of that in the plight of the Palestinians.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela was a close friend of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and famously said South Africa’s freedom would not be complete until the Palestinians were also free.

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