Israeli representatives will appear before the International Court of Justice in The Hague next week to challenge South Africa’s “blood libel” accusing the Jewish state of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, a government spokesman said on Tuesday.
The top-level government decision to enter a legal defense in the case, which South Africa launched last week, is designed to avert an interim order by the court calling on Israel to halt its offense against the Hamas terrorist organization.
“In giving political and legal cover to the October 7 massacre and the Hamas human-shield strategy, South Africa has made itself criminally complicit with Hamas’s campaign of genocide against our people,” Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy said.
Around 1,200 persons, mostly civilians, were murdered when thousands of Hamas terrorists stormed through the border, while another approximately 240 were abducted to Gaza.
Levy said that the State of Israel will appear at The Hague to “dispel South Africa’s absurd blood libel.” He accused Pretoria of “fighting pro-bono for anti-Jewish racists.”
“We have no doubt that after the Jewish state brings to justice the perpetrators of the bloodiest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, history will judge South Africa for abetting the modern heirs of the Nazis,” he said. “We assure South Africa’s leaders: History will judge you, and it will judge you without mercy.”
South Africa has asked the International Court of Justice to issue an interim order for Israel to immediately suspend its military operations in the Gaza Strip.
A hearing on that request is expected to get underway next Thursday. The case will take years, but an interim order could be issued within weeks.
A calculated risk
Israeli legal experts said Tuesday that Jerusalem is taking a “calculated risk” in going to the court.
“At the end of the day, this is a political, anti-Israel court, so it is unclear what their ruling will be,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, an Israeli attorney, founder of Shurat HaDin—Israeli Law Center, who has represented hundreds of victims in legal actions against terrorist organizations and their supporters.
She said that Israel was counting on the “sane countries” of the world for support in the public debate.
“There is a good chance that there will be a hostile decision against Israel,” said Avraham Russel Shalev, a lawyer at the Kohelet Policy Forum.
He said that the battle in the court was not so much a legal threat as a diplomatic and PR challenge. “The point of attending is not so much for Israel to bring its case to the International Court of Justice but to the court of public opinion,” he said.
Shalev noted that the court has issued decisions against the U.S., the U.K., Russia and Israel in the past that were all ignored, including a ruling against the security barrier during an earlier round of Palestinian terrorism two decades ago.
Genocide Convention and Holocaust
Pretoria, which has close ties with Hamas, has been a fierce critic of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.
South Africa is bringing the case to The Hague under the U.N.’s 1948 Genocide Convention because both it and Israel are signatories to it.
“South Africa is cynically using the convention adopted after the Holocaust against the very Jewish State that is protecting itself against Hamas perpetrators of genocide after the single largest attack on Jews since the Holocaust,” Shalev said.