South Africa formally accused Israel before the United Nations’ International Court of Justice (ICJ) last week of committing “genocide” against the Palestinian people.
While it will be years before any final decision is rendered, the court does have the power to issue an injunction against Israel’s war effort and demand a ceasefire. Of course, it has no ability to enforce any such injunction. That would require action from the U.N. Security Council, where the United States would—one hopes and presumes—exercise its veto power over such a resolution.
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu observed: “This is an upside-down world—the State of Israel is accused of genocide while it is fighting genocide. … The hypocrisy of South Africa screams to the heavens.”
The 1948 Convention on Genocide states that genocide is “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
No honest person can seriously make the argument that Israel’s war of self-defense against Hamas is an act of genocide. In contrast, Hamas is an organization specifically created not just to destroy Israel, but to murder Jews around the world. It was established for the purpose of committing genocide.
This point was highlighted by Germany, which has intervened to defend Israel in the ICJ proceeding: “In view of Germany’s history and the crime against humanity of the Shoah, the Federal Government sees itself as particularly committed to the convention against genocide. This convention is a central instrument of international law to implement ‘never again.’” The German government described South Africa’s genocide claim as “political instrumentalization.”
Of course, that is the whole point: South Africa is doing Hamas’s bidding by attempting to delegitimize and undermine Israel on the world stage.
Why is South Africa committing this seemingly inexplicable crime?
First, one must understand that South Africa’s effort is not just directed at Israel. It is intended to be a dagger in the heart of the U.S. as well.
The key to this malign campaign is South Africa’s membership in BRICS, a bloc founded in 2009 that now consists of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Its purpose is to challenge the American-led world order and replace it with a new world order led by some of the world’s worst actors. By weakening Israel, America’s most important ally in the Middle East if not the world, South Africa seeks to weaken America.
Ironically, two members of BRICS—China and Russia—are currently engaged in actual real-life genocides.
The U.S. and several other foreign governments have accused China of committing genocide against the Uyghurs, a Muslim Turkic-speaking ethnic group found primarily in China’s northwestern Xinjiang Province. This does not seem to concern South Africa, which has said nothing about China’s atrocities.
In addition, there is little doubt that Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine also meets the 1948 Convention on Genocide’s criteria. Again, the South African government has chosen not to care.
The U.S. must make it clear to South Africa that it views the ICJ proceeding against Israel as a direct attack on U.S. national security. America should inform South Africa that if it insists on proceeding with this farce, America will have no choice but to revisit its relationship with the African nation and that boycotts and sanctions will be considered.
The U.S. must also make it clear to the ICJ that the United States has every intention of ignoring any ruling that seeks to impose a ceasefire on Israel. Not only will the U.S. veto any such directive in the Security Council, but it will also end all cooperation with the ICJ and cut off the court’s funding, effectively neutering the ICJ.
South Africa and some of its allies in BRICS are coming after America. Like Israel, we need to fight back.