The Hague, Jan 12 (EFE). – Israel on Friday justified the war in Gaza as the “legitimate and inherent right of a state to defend itself” against the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and rejected accusations of genocide while accusing South Africa of a “deeply distorted” description of the war at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
During a three-hour hearing, Israel’s defense team addressed ICJ judges to respond to South Africa’s request for “interim measures” to order Israel to immediately halt its military campaign in Gaza to stop violations of the Genocide Convention.
Also in the courtroom were some of the victims of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israeli territory, which killed more than 1,200 people and abducted some 250.
Israel on Friday called the attack the “largest calculated mass murder of Jews in a single day since the Holocaust” and said, addressing South Africa, that “If there have been acts that may be characterized as genocidal, then they have been perpetrated against Israel.”
Israel’s legal adviser, Tal Becker, claimed that South Africa’s case was based on a “deliberately curated, decontextualized and manipulative description of the reality of current hostilities” in Gaza and accused Pretoria’s legal team of presenting a “profoundly distorted factual and legal picture” of the war.
In a speech accompanied by photographs of hostages taken by Hamas and images of victims of the attack, Becker claimed that on Oct. 7 there was a “wholesale massacre, mutilation, rape and abduction” and “burned people, including infants, alive, and systematically raped and mutilated scores of women, men and children.”
“Not because these acts – however sadistic and systematic – release Israel of its obligations to uphold the law as it defends its citizens and territory,” the Israeli representative affirmed, turning his attention to the South African team.
But, he warned, Israel “has the inherent right to take all legitimate measures to defend its citizens.
Meanwhile, lawyers and experts appointed by South Africa presented evidence to argue that Israel’s three-month military campaign in the Gaza Strip has gone beyond war with Hamas.
“The level of Israel’s killing is so extensive that nowhere is safe in Gaza,” South African lawyer Adila Hassim said.
“This killing is nothing short of destruction of Palestinian life,” he added.
At the end of the hearing, South African Justice Minister Ronald Lamola concluded that Israel had “failed to disprove South Africa’s compelling case.”
The South African delegation said Israel’s genocidal intent was demonstrated not only by its military campaign but also by statements and references.
Lambola also regretted that Israel has chosen to focus mainly on the events of Oct. 7, rather than the situation in Gaza.
“And I repeat, the point is not simply that Israel is acting disproportionately. The point is that the prohibition on genocide is an absolute, peremptory rule of law. Nothing can ever justify genocide,” he warned.
A pro-Palestinian rally watched the hearing on a giant screen outside the Peace Palace, which houses the ICJ in The Hague. Among other things, they shouted thanks to South Africa, called for a cease-fire, and demanded a “free Palestine.”
At this stage, the Court will not decide whether Israel has committed genocide, and a final decision may not be forthcoming in the short term.
South Africa is asking the Court to order Israel to cease its military operations, to take all necessary measures to prevent genocide, and to refrain from killing, injuring, or otherwise committing acts of genocide against Palestinians.
As the party requesting the provisional measures, South Africa must convince the Court that its allegations are plausible.