The German government sharply rejected on Friday allegations before the UN’s top court that Israel is committing “genocide” in Gaza and warned against “political instrumentalization” of the charge, as it announced it would intervene as a third party before the International Court of Justice.
Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said in a statement that Israel was “defending itself” after the “inhuman” onslaught by Hamas on October 7.
He said Germany would intervene as a third party before the International Court of Justice under an article allowing states to seek clarification on the use of a multilateral convention.
The move allows Germany to present its own case to the court that Israel has not infringed the genocide convention and has not committed or intended to commit genocide.
Germany is not claiming to be legally impacted by South Africa’s case and therefore it does not require the ICJ’s permission for third-party intervention.
As a signatory of the 1948 Genocide Convention, it has the right to join cases and put forward its arguments on the case. The convention was enacted in the wake of the mass murder of Jews in the Holocaust, and defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”
Hebestreit stated that Germany “intends to intervene as a third party in the main hearing,” suggesting Berlin will intrude in South Africa’s primary case against Israel in which the court could take years to decide whether or not Israel has violated the Genocide Convention.
Accordingly, the move does not appear to influence this week’s proceedings — hearings where South Africa has requested an interim injunction from the court compelling Israel to implement a ceasefire. A decision on that more immediate matter is expected within one month.
“In light of German history and the crimes against humanity of the Shoah, the German government is particularly committed to the [UN] Genocide Convention,” signed in 1948 in the wake of the Holocaust, Hebestreit said.
He said the Convention marked a “central instrument” under international law to prevent another Holocaust.
For this reason, he said, “we stand firmly against a political instrumentalization” of the Convention.
Hebestreit acknowledged diverging views in the international community on Israel’s military operation against Hamas in Gaza.
“However the German government decisively and expressly rejects the accusation of genocide brought against Israel before the International Court of Justice,” he said.
“The accusation has no basis in fact,” he said.
The Prime Minister’s Office said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau had spoken with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and thanked him for Berlin’s decision.
“Your stance and Germany’s stance on the side of the truth moves all the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu told Scholz, according to the PMO.
“The blood libel, which is full of hypocrisy and malice, must not be allowed to prevail over the moral principles shared by our two countries and the entire civilized world,” Netanyahu said.
Scholz was the first of a number of Western leaders who made solidarity visits in the days after the October 7 onslaught.
Scholz said at the time that his country “has only one place” during the hard times in which the Jewish state finds itself, “and that is alongside Israel.” He also stated that Israel has the right and obligation under international law to protect its civilians.
Earlier Friday, Israel’s legal team in The Hague attacked the fundamental claims of South Africa’s genocide allegations in the International Court of Justice, and punched holes in the accusations that Israel’s state organs have genocidal intent against the Palestinians in Gaza during the current conflict with Hamas.
Israel’s six legal representatives asserted that the ICJ has no jurisdiction over the complaints brought by South Africa since they relate to the laws of armed conflict, not genocide; argued that “random” inflammatory comments of Israeli politicians did not reflect policy determined in the state bodies making war policy; and 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.
They also underlined in depth the steps Israel has taken to warn civilians to evacuate from Israel Defense Forces operational areas and to provide humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians, including facilitating the establishment of field hospitals in Gaza to aid Gazans and mitigate harm to them.
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.
Vowing to destroy the terror group after the devastating assault, Israel launched a wide-scale military campaign in Gaza, which the Hamas-run health ministry has said killed over 23,000 people since. These figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. The IDF says it has killed over 8,500 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.