South Africa Initiates Proceedings in ICJ Against Israel for Violations of the 1948 Genocide Convention in Gaza

By: Garrison Funk

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – On December 29, 2023, South Africa initiated proceedings in the International Court of Justice against the state of Israel for its actions in the Gaza Strip, accusing Israel of violating the 1948 Genocide Convention due to its treatment of Palestinians throughout the conflict with Hamas. Israel has confirmed it will appear at the proceedings to fight the allegations.

Judges at the International Court of Justice at The Hague | Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera, Remko De Waalepa/EFE/EPA

South Africa pointed to the ongoing humanitarian crisis and magnitude of death and destruction in Gaza, stating such action meets the threshold of the 1948 Convention under international law. South Africa has also requested the Court order an injunction on any further Israeli attacks in the region.

Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip have been a part of a three-month long campaign against Hamas, the perpetrators of the October 7, 2023, terrorist attack in Israel which led to the deaths of approximately 1,200 Israelis. Israel responded by launching a series of airstrikes into Gaza, targeting suspected Hamas strongholds, prior to launching a full-scale ground invasion of the Gaza Strip on October 27, 2023. Since the start of the invasion, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza has reported the death toll to exceed 22,000.

South Africa claims Israel’s actions violate obligations set under the 1948 Genocide Convention. The Convention defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

Israel has pushed diplomatic cables requesting countries to denounce the claims and pointed to its effort to increase humanitarian support in the region to refute the idea of genocide. The United States has already stated its support for Israel, calling South Africa’s submission “meritless, counterproductive, and completely without any basis in fact whatsoever.” However, pro-Palestine countries such as Turkey and Jordan have both expressed their support for South Africa’s challenge.

Israel has boycotted the ICJ and its rulings for decades, and its participation in this instance as a signee to the 1948 Genocide Convention speaks volumes of the importance of this issue to Israel. The case is set to be heard by the ICJ on January 11, 2024.

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Israel promises to fight South Africa genocide accusation at ICJ – 2 Jan. 2024

Axios – Inside Israel’s plan to quash South Africa’s Gaza genocide case – 5 Jan. 2024

CSIS – Hamas’s October 7 Attack: Visualizing the Data – 19 Dec. 2023

The Guardian – Stakes high as South Africa brings claim of genocidal intent against Israel  – 4 Jan. 2024

ICJ – Application Instituting Proceedings – 29 Dec. 2023

UNN – Gaza fighting continues amid ‘apocalyptic’ conditions; Security Council to meet Friday – 7 Dec. 2023

Author: Sydney Krause