South Africa’s genocide case against Israel has ‘global support’, says finance minister

South Africa’s Justice Minister Ronald Lamola speaks to members of the media on the day judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) hear a request for emergency measures from South Africa, which asked the court to order Israel to stop its military actions in Gaza and to stop what South Africa says are genocidal acts committed against Palestinians during the war with Hamas in Gaza, in The Hague, Netherlands, January 11, 2024.

Thilo Schmuelgen | Reuters

South Africa’s legal case accusing Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza has “global support,” the country’s Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana told CNBC on Monday.

At a two-day hearing last week at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, South African lawyers filed arguments that claimed Israel’s bombardment of Gaza that caused massive casualties amounted to genocide.

“South Africa has done nothing unusual in going to an institution established by the United Nations to resolve disputes between nations and we follow the rule of law and legal principles in that,” Godongwana told CNBC on the sidelines of World Economic Forum in Davos.

“Israel’s supporters of course, including the UK, will say our application is nonsense, but there is universal support for our view that in fact, our case was substantial and we have made our case.”

THE Turkey, Jordan, Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Pakistan and Malaysia are among the states that have publicly supported South Africa’s application, along with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The Saudi-based organization is made up of 57 member states, 48 ​​of which are Muslim-majority countries.

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Godongwana reiterated that Pretoria agreed that Israel should respond to the October 7 Hamas attacks, but that the response was “disproportionate” and caused too many civilian casualties. Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry estimates that more than 23,000 people have been killed since the war began.

Israel has strongly denied the charge, arguing it has the right to defend itself in response to the terror attack by Hamas militants, which killed around 1,200 people and took around 250 hostages.

Mark Regev, a former ambassador to the United Kingdom and a senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Friday called the genocide claim “ridiculous, offensive and wrong.”

The South African case has also come under fire from Israel’s allies, including the US and UK, with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron on Monday calling the allegations “nonsense”, while White House National Security spokesman John Kirby criticized the suit as “unfair, counterproductive and completely without any basis at all”.

The Genocide Convention under which South Africa brought the case defines genocide as specific “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

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South Africa argued that Israel has committed and failed to prevent genocidal acts through killings, physical and mental harm and the imposition of conditions “intended to destroy a significant part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnic group”.

The country’s lawyers also accused Israel of failing to “prevent or punish direct and public incitement of genocide by senior Israeli officials and others.”

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The case is likely to drag on for several years, with similar Genocide Convention cases in the past — such as the one against Serbia — taking more than a decade to reach a final decision.

In the short term, the court is considering South Africa’s request for interim measures, i.e. whether the court should order Israel to suspend its military operations in Gaza, take necessary measures to prevent genocide and further killing or harm.

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