The immediate Israeli response to Friday’s World Court ruling on South Africa’s charge that Israel has been engaged in genocide against the Palestinians of Gaza was one of relief.
All three main TV stations headlined that the International Court of Justice “did not order a halt to the fighting.” The former deputy president of the Israeli Supreme Court, Hanan Melcer, confirmed: “The decision was less awful than it could have been.”
It was, however, awful nonetheless. Practically, and morally.
Practically speaking, the world’s most important international court determined that South Africa’s claim was plausible (though it stressed that the process of definitively determining whether the allegation was true had not yet begun). And in its overwhelming 15-2 series of binding demands, the panel in The Hague required Israel to immediately do everything it can to ensure that it is not breaching the Genocide Convention — to “take all measures within its power” to prevent the killing or injuring of Gazans, prevent conditions that would lead to such harm, and avoid conditions intended to prevent births among Gazans.
Making plain that it was not finished with Israel and the interim stage of the claim of genocide against it, the court also required Israel to report back within a month on its progress in implementing the judges’ demands.
Not an order for a ceasefire, then, but almost everything but. And a stance that stains Israel with the accusation of plausibly engaging in genocide.
Unlike the US for instance, the court certainly did not dismiss the South Africa genocide charge as “meritless.” It cited at length a series of intemperate comments by Israeli leaders suggesting, or interpreted as suggesting, that Israel’s war is against all Gazans, quoted UN officials describing Gaza as unliveable, cited an “urgent” imperative to take measures to ensure that the IDF is not breaching the Genocide Convention, but airbrushed out of its war picture the government of Gaza — Hamas — the instigator of the conflict, and the prime cause of Gaza’s deepening catastrophe.
Morally, the decisions read out by the presiding justice, US judge Joan Donoghue, were bookended by comments that suggested a more clear-headed mindset: She began by citing the attack by Hamas on October 7, with the killings of 1,200 people in southern Israel and the abduction of over 240, and she ended by calling for the “immediate and unconditional release” of the remaining hostages held in Gaza.
But between those bookends, the court, in its rulings, accepted the South African jurists’ misrepresentation of the nature of the war in Gaza — a territory governed by a terrorist organization that, having massacred Israelis inside Israel on October 7 and vowed to keep on doing so until Israel is destroyed, has since sought to kill and repel Israel’s troops by fighting from within Gaza’s civilian populace — in, around and under the Strip’s homes, schools, mosques and hospitals.
The court’s provisional measures were misdirected; it is from Hamas, not Israel, that Gaza’s innocent noncombatants must be protected by international measures.
Were it not for Hamas, they would not be in danger.
There would be no war.
Israel, of course, would not be mourning its dead, and desperately seeking the return of its hostages. And tens of thousands of Israelis would not be internal refugees, displaced from their communities by Hamas’s barbarians — another part of the reality the judges overlooked.
It should be obvious, but manifestly is not, that if Israel had any intent to commit genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza, there was nothing to stop it bombing Gaza to oblivion. It has one of the world’s most powerful air forces, and absolute air supremacy over the Gaza Strip.
Except it wouldn’t and couldn’t and didn’t do any such thing. Its leadership would not have ordered such an onslaught, and its pilots would have refused to carry it out if they were so ordered.
Coming on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and relating to the consequences of an event on October 7 in which more Jews were killed than on any single day since the Holocaust, the very timing of The Hague’s ruling underlined a new post-World War II low for the ostensible protectors of humanity and their capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, aggressors and defenders.
It came, too, just days after Khaled Mashaal, Hamas’s former leader, declared that the success of the October 7 onslaught on Israel had rekindled Hamas’s hope of liberating Palestine “from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea” — the territory, that is, covering the West Bank, Gaza and the entire State of Israel.
The ruling gives at least initial credence to an allegation that seeks to deny Israel the right to protect itself against an enemy that openly seeks the genocide of the Jews; an enemy that carried out an exultant slaughter on October 7, executing and raping Jews, Arabs and nationals from dozens of other countries; an enemy that subverted all means to build its terrorist army at the expense of all humane interests for Gazans. And the measures ordered by the court seek to constrain Israel’s capacity to defend itself while easing the genocidal Hamas’s battle to survive and massacre Israelis again.
Far from trying to wipe out the population of Gaza that Hamas cynically uses as its human shields, and that many Gazans profoundly support, Israel’s conduct of its war against Hamas has been overtly and declaredly designed to protect noncombatants — notably by pleading with them to leave warzones, and overseeing humanitarian corridors for their evacuation even at the obvious cost of Hamas gunmen, who fight in civilian clothes, fleeing alongside them.
Yes, as the court stated, there have been thousands of civilian fatalities in Gaza, most Gazans are displaced, the devastation is vast, the humanitarian situation is dire. But while the IDF has inevitably killed many innocent civilians, these are overwhelmingly the consequences of a war that Israel did not want, begun by Gaza’s terrorist-government, and fought in the territory where Hamas cynically places Gazans in harm’s way and abuses their needs and rights and facilities in its battle against Israel.
The blinkered overwhelming majority on the court stood up for a terrorist army that trained to kill Jews en masse inside a territory that Israel previously controlled but chose to unilaterally leave in the hope that it would be rewarded with tranquility. Eighteen years after it pulled thousands of Jewish civilians out of Gaza’s settlements, and withdrew its military forces to the international lines, Israel instead got October 7, and a duped or immoral World Court that, on Friday, essentially backed the monstrous aggressor.
Friday’s ruling seeks to weaken the party, Israel, that has been targeted, and will be targeted again if the judges have their way. And it protects a barbaric, death-cult Islamic government, indifferent to the well-being of the populations it governs, with genocidal ambitions against the state next door.
“They came for the Jews, and I did not speak out…,” wrote Martin Niemöller in 1946, of the Nazis and the silence of the intellectuals and others who failed to confront them. On October 7, Hamas came for the Jews, the Arabs and everybody else who seeks life in the world’s only Jewish-majority state. And the World Court did speak out… offering succor to the murderers.
And its judges are not done yet.
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