The Biden administration criticized South Africa on Wednesday for filing a genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice in The Hague last week.
“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 Wednesday.
Similarly, State Department Spokesman Matthew Miller said in response to a reporter’s question at a media briefing yesterday, “We have not at this point seen acts that constitute genocide, no.”
He said the United States hasn’t spoken with South Africa about its court petition, but added, “We don’t think it’s a productive step.”
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.
The ICJ announced it has scheduled public hearings regarding the suit.
The hearings will be held at the ICJ headquarters in The Hague on Jan. 11 and 12, the court announced on social media.
The Genocide Convention, to which Israel is a signatory, 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.”
“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,” noted Avraham Russel Shalev, a lawyer at the Kohelet Policy Forum, a Jerusalem-based think tank.
Israel has decided to appear before the ICJ next week to defend itself against the accusations, although previous rulings by the court against the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia and Israel were all ignored.
Israel has historically boycotted the ICJ saying it lacks jurisdiction and accusing the court of being politicized.
Observers say Israel’s decision has more to do with confronting the diplomatic and PR challenge than the legal one.
When South Africa made its announcement, Israel’s Foreign Ministry denounced the move: “Israel rejects with disgust the blood libel spread by South Africa and its application to the International Court of Justice.”
It went on to say that South Africa had put itself on the side of a terrorist organization.
The Foreign Ministry noted that Israel makes every effort to avoid harming civilians uninvolved in hostilities and called on the ICJ to “completely reject South Africa’s baseless claims.”
Israel launched its war in retaliation for the Hamas terror group’s Oct. 7 attack, in which 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, were massacred.