Bangladesh backs South Africa’s genocide claims against Israel

South Asian country, which rejects ties with Jerusalem, joins chorus demanding that The Hague order Israel to stop military campaign — despite own alleged rights abuses

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina signs documents after being sworn in for a fifth term at the Presidential Palace in Dhaka on January 11, 2024. (Munir Uz Zaman/AFP)
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina signs documents after being sworn in for a fifth term at the Presidential Palace in Dhaka on January 11, 2024. (Munir Uz Zaman/AFP)

Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday voiced support for genocide claims against Israel amid the war against Hamas, joining others backing a controversial South African application at the Hague.

The Sunday statement from Dhaka, asserting that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians and must immediately suspend all military operations, came days after the International Court of Justice held hearings that could lead to it ordering the Israel Defense Forces to suspend its campaign against the Hamas terror group.

Bangladesh, which does not recognize Israel, claimed that the IDF’s campaign in Gaza has resulted in the deaths of “thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians, the majority of whom are women and children.”

Dhaka also accused Israel of violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide and concluded its statement with a call to end “Israel’s occupation of Palestine” and restore pre-1967 borders.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to any of Bangladesh’s claims.

South Africa’s allegations of genocide at The Hague were based in part on the assertion that inflammatory comments by senior Israeli cabinet ministers with a say over war policy demonstrate an intent to kill civilians.

Israel on Friday refuted the claims before the ICJ, asserting that the body has no jurisdiction over the complaints since they relate to the laws of armed conflict, not genocide. The Jewish state’s six legal representatives also insisted that the widespread harm to Palestinian civilians during the war was a result of Hamas’s massive use of civilian infrastructure for military purposes and not genocidal acts.

Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, and the dozens of Muslim nations comprising the Organization of Islamic Countries and the Arab League have all issued messages of support for South Africa, while a small number of powerful allies, including the US, UK and Canada, have rallied behind Israel.

On Friday, Germany said it would seek to intervene in the proceedings on Israel’s behalf, saying there was “no basis whatsoever” for an accusation of genocide against Israel.

South Africa’s case is “completely unjustified and wrong,” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said, according to a spokesperson quoted by BBC news on Friday.

L-R: Dr. Tal Becker, Prof. Malcolm Shaw KC, Dr, Gilad Noam, Dr. Galit Raguan attend a hearing in the case brought to the International Court of Justice at The Hague in which South Africa has accused Israel of committing genocide in its war with Hamas in Gaza, January 12, 2024. (International Court of Justice)

In addition to being one of the 28 UN member states that do not recognize the State of Israel, Bangladesh is one of a handful of countries that do not allow its citizens to travel to Israel and do not accept Israeli passports at their border.

In 2014, Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury was sentenced to seven years in prison for criticizing the government and for trying to visit Israel over a decade before, even though he was arrested in 2003 before he could board his flight to Tel Aviv.

Despite having no diplomatic relations with Israel and overt travel and trade prohibitions, Dhaka has reportedly shown interest in Israeli-made spyware over the last decade.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported last year that privately developed Israeli surveillance equipment was sold to the Bangladeshi government in 2022.

In 2021, the newspaper published a similar report claiming Israeli-owned intelligence firm Cellbrite sold surveillance technology to the Rapid Action Battalion.

Members of the Bangladesh Gono Odhikar Parishad party wearing black face bands take part in a protest to condemn the general election, in Dhaka on January 8, 2024. – Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has won a fifth term in power with her party taking three-quarters of seats in parliament, election officials said on January 8. (Munir Uz Zaman/AFP)

The South Asian country has been rocked by political unrest in recent years, with the US issuing sanctions against its elite police unit, the Rapid Action Battalion, for alleged human rights abuses, and UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk charging that recent elections were “marred by violence and repression of opposition candidates and supporters.”

Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry refuted the UN chief’s claims in a January 8 press release, less than one week before issuing its support for South Africa’s claims of Israeli genocide.

The ICJ is expected to rule on possible emergency measures for the Israeli military later this month, but will not rule at that time on the genocide allegations — those proceedings could take years.

The court’s decisions are final and without appeal. The court has no way to enforce them, but ignoring them could have significant international ramifications.

The war was triggered by the October 7 Hamas-led massacre, when some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing over 240 hostages of all ages.

Jeremy Sharon and agencies contributed to this report.

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