Two hundred and ten members of the U.S. Congress sent an open letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday condemning South Africa for filing “a grossly unfounded case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).”
“South Africa’s accusation of genocide against Israel exposes how far Israel’s enemies will go in their attempts to demonize the Jewish state,” the signatories wrote.
The letter notes that while South Africa barely acknowledged the Hamas terrorists “who gleefully massacred, mutilated, raped, and kidnapped innocent civilians” on Oct. 7, it made “grossly unfounded and defamatory charges against Israel on the world stage.”
Calling it an abuse of the judicial process to delegitimize Israel, the letter goes on to state that to charge the Jewish state with genocide is “particularly cynical given that the term ‘genocide’ was coined following the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust.”
“We vigorously denounce South Africa’s deeply hostile stance towards Israel and thoroughly reject its charge of genocide,” it continues, urging the Biden administration to continue to oppose the trial.
In early January, the Biden administration criticized South Africa for filing the genocide suit.
“We find this submission meritless, counterproductive, completely without any basis in fact whatsoever,” said U.S. National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby at a press conference on Jan. 3.
South Africa asked the ICJ on Dec. 29 to declare Israel in breach of its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention over its war against Hamas in Gaza. Hamas praised the move.
Hearings were held at the ICJ headquarters in The Hague on Jan. 11 and 12. The court is currently deliberating the case.
The Genocide Convention was drafted in the wake of the Holocaust to prevent the destruction, or intent to destroy, “in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, responding to the move, said, “No, South Africa, it is not we who have come to perpetrate genocide, it is Hamas. It would murder all of us if it could. In contrast, the IDF is acting as morally as possible; it is doing everything to avoid harming civilians while Hamas is doing everything to harm them and is using them as human shields.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said that South Africa was participating in a “blood libel” against the Jewish state.
Israel, which in the past has ignored similar attempts to use international legal bodies to isolate it on the world stage, decided to participate in the trial as it is a signatory to the Genocide Convention and the court’s ruling will be binding, although in the past, countries including the United States have ignored ICJ rulings as the court lacks enforcement mechanisms.
The ICJ is an international legal body that operates under the auspices of the United Nations.
The South African suit is not the only case involving Israel currently before the ICJ. On Dec. 30, 2022, the U.N. General Assembly formally requested an “advisory opinion” from the ICJ on the matter of “Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.”
Israeli officials sharply criticized the resolution as disgraceful. “The Jewish people is not occupying its land and is not occupying its eternal capital Jerusalem. No U.N. resolution can distort this historical truth,” said Netanyahu.
Indonesia, which voiced support for South Africa in the genocide case, announced last week it will take an active part in the second case and will deliver an oral statement before the court on Feb. 19.
Slovenia also announced this month that it would take part against Israel. It will take part in the hearings on Feb. 23.
“This is a very broad spectrum of alleged violations that have been committed in the region for decades and whose horrific consequences are still visible today,” said Tanja Fajon, Slovenia’s Minister of Foreign and European Affairs.
“Slovenia, as one of the few E.U. countries, has decided to actively participate and present its views in these proceedings before the International Court of Justice, which has been asked to give an advisory opinion,” she said.