Rights group demands probes of potential genocide incitement in light of ICJ orders

The Adalah legal center alleges that law enforcement agencies have systematically ignored genocidal incitement against Gazans, including by ministers and MKs, since October 7

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Head of the Otzma Yehudit party, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, leads a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on January 1, 2024 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Head of the Otzma Yehudit party, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, leads a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on January 1, 2024 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In a letter to senior law enforcement officials, including the attorney general and state attorney, the Adalah legal aid and advocacy organization has demanded that they open investigations into senior politicians and other public figures for incitement to genocide amid the ongoing war in Gaza.

In its letter, Adalah noted that one of the explicit orders issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to Israel in January was to investigate — and where necessary prosecute — anyone who has engaged in such rhetoric, and asked for information as to how many investigations for incitement to genocide have been opened since the outbreak of war.

The organization pointed to problematic comments by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as ministers, MKs and others, and pointed out that the attorney general had stated back in January, just ahead of the ICJ hearing, that some cases were already being examined.

In light of that, Adalah also demanded information regarding the number of genocide incitement investigations that had been opened so far.

Demands and requests such as those made by Adalah can often be used to show the High Court of Justice that a petitioning organization has made efforts to obtain its objectives before filing an appeal to the court on the same matter. An Adalah spokesperson said, however, that it was too early to say if the organization might eventually file a petition, and it depended on the response it receives from the law enforcement agencies.

The Attorney General’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office have remained extremely tight-lipped regarding what investigations have been opened, if any, into allegations of incitement to genocide.

Smoke and explosions inside the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, March 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

They did not make public the contents of the report they were ordered to file to the ICJ detailing Israel’s compliance with the January provisional measures, and those offices also refused a request by The Times of Israel in February for information on how many investigations had been opened.

Adalah is a human rights organization which works through legal avenues to protect the civil rights of Israel’s Arab citizens, and also promotes the rights of Palestinians under Israeli control.

As a signatory to the 1948 Genocide Convention, which includes prohibitions on incitement to genocide, Israel is legally required to prosecute such speech under the laws it adopted after ratifying the convention.

Adalah’s letter was sent to Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, State Attorney Amit Eisman, Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai.

Noting that both the Genocide Convention and domestic Israeli law make incitement to genocide a punishable offense, Adalah stated that “there is therefore an obligation to investigate expressions that raise suspicion of committing this offense.”

Adalah’s letter cited 50 examples of comments it said amounted to genocidal incitement since the October 7 atrocities perpetrated by Hamas and the outbreak of war with the terror group in Gaza.

The first example cited were comments reported by Ynet from March 7 this year of Rabbi Eliyahu Mali, head of a yeshiva in Jaffa, who said: “The terrorists of today are the children from the last [military] operation who you left alive. The women are basically the ones who are creating the terrorists… it’s either you or them.”

Mali also said that the basic Torah law in a religiously mandated war was: “No soul shall live.”

Adalah’s letter also cited problematic comments by Netanyahu, including his remark that Israel was fighting “against these barbarians” in “a battle of civilization against barbarism,” although from context it appears the prime minister was referring to Hamas terrorists, not all Palestinians.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) holds public hearings on the request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by South Africa in the case South Africa v. Israel on 11 and 12 January 2024, at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the seat of the Court. (Courtesy International Court of Justice)

Other comments cited included those by National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir who said: “When we say that Hamas should be destroyed, it also means those who celebrate, those who support, and those who hand out candy — they’re all terrorists, and they should also be destroyed.”

Ben Gvir’s party member, Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu, was also cited, after saying in November: “We would not have given humanitarian assistance to the Nazis. There is no such thing as uninvolved civilians in Gaza,” and then mused about considering the use of a nuclear bomb in Gaza.

The letter also cited a post by Likud MK Tally Gotliv on X on October 9 saying: “Jericho missile! Jericho missile. Strategic deterrent. Before considering the entry of [our] forces. Doomsday weapon!”

The Jericho missile is a long-range ballistic missile in the IDF’s arsenal which foreign reports state can be armed with atomic bombs.

Adalah Legal Director Dr. Suhad Bishara accused law enforcement agencies of ignoring “as a matter of policy the direct and explicit calls of high-ranking figures to kill uninvolved Palestinians in Gaza.

“Only when it was made clear that this conduct was likely to be part of the hearing in the international suit against Israel stand in The Hague, did the attorney general and the state attorney hurry to declare that such allegations are under investigation,” said Bishara.

“However, since then, we have not heard of even a single investigation, let alone a single indictment, for statements that specifically called for the mass extermination of Gaza’s citizens. It is difficult to separate the systematic disregard towards the statements of government ministers who are responsible for the attack on Gaza, and the enormous scale of the killing of uninvolved civilians, including many thousands of children and women.”

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