Legal experts believe there is a possibility that Israel will be found guilty of genocide
South Africa has filed a case against the government of Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the world’s highest court, charging it with genocide against the Palestinian people. The document states, “The acts and omissions by Israel complained of by South Africa are genocidal in character because they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group.”
Israel and the United States, of course, claim that the case brought against Israel has no legal merit. To date, however, no reasoned argument against the charges has been made by Israel or its supporters. They reiterate statements of the Israeli government, for example, that the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is the “most moral army in the world,” while evidence disproving this claim is all over the internet.
Instead of providing solid evidence that they are behaving within the parameters of international law, the government of Israel states that “South Africa is collaborating with a terror group that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.”
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In truth, the application to the IJC clearly states, “South Africa unequivocally condemns all violations of international law by all parties, including … Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups.”
The 84-page document presented by South Africa is clear and precise; it is based on reasonable interpretations of international law and presents a solid case. It outlines official Israeli policy and the stated goals of the Israeli government and military officials and provides irrefutable evidence.
According to Francis Boyle, professor at the University of Illinois School of Law and world-renowned expert on international law, it is quite likely that Israel will be found guilty of genocide. Boyle is one of the few lawyers in the world who has successfully won a genocide conviction in the ICJ. In 1993, when Yugoslavia was charged under the United Nations Genocide Convention, Boyle represented the people of Bosnia. Yugoslavia was found guilty, and the U.S. and its NATO allies were obliged to take action and end the onslaught.
A ruling in favour of the Palestinians will likely have the same impact. It will also put the U.S. in a very awkward situation because the Genocide Convention makes it an international crime to be complicit in genocide. The Biden administration would also be in violation of an American law, the Genocide Convention Implementation Act. The U.S. is Israel’s strongest ally and has provided many of the weapons the IDF is using to kill Palestinians.
The ICJ has announced that it will meet on January 11 to begin the proceedings against Israel, and Boyle expects the court to come to a ruling in about a week. It is difficult to predict the impact of the decision. If Israel is convicted, every country that is a member of the United Nations (including Israel) will be legally obliged to end the onslaught in Palestine. The best outcome would be that the U.S. cut off military support and diplomatic cover for Israel and that the state of Israel cease the war crimes it is committing against the people of Palestine.
A ruling against Israel will remove all doubt that what is happening in Gaza is genocide. Most importantly, it will bring relief to the people of Gaza, where the number of people killed continues to rise every day. We need to keep in mind as well that the official death count does not include people buried under the rubble and that experts are predicting that if the situation does not improve, the number of dead could reach a half-million in the coming months.
We are at a pivotal moment in human history. We could allow the tensions in the Middle East to escalate, or we could respect and uphold international law and potentially save millions of lives.
Gerry Chidiac specializes in languages, genocide studies and works with at-risk students. He is the recipient of an award from the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre for excellence in teaching about the Holocaust.
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