There were important developments in the genocide case brought by the Republic of South Africa (RSA) against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on December 29, 2023. Following trials on January 11-12, interim measures were granted on January 26. The RSA had previously asked the Court to impose interim measures because Israel had been found guilty of genocide and urgently needed to stop these crimes, in an 84-page defense full of evidence. In its defense, Israel argued that its actions were within the scope of the right of self-defense and that it was not guilty of genocide, but mainly on the basis that the ICJ was not competent to hear this case. The ICJ ruled in its latest decision that it was competent to hear this case. During the announcement of today’s decision, the court showed that it accepted as evidence the statements of Israeli President Herzog that Palestinian civilians were also responsible for the attacks on Israel, the Israeli Defense Minister’s reference to Gazans as “humanoid animals” and many other statements by Netenyahu.
In international law, states are represented by state officials, including the head of state, the head of government and the foreign minister. Since October 7, almost every statement made by Israeli officials has been a confession. It is legally significant that the ICJ cited this in the form of direct quotations and by name. Politically, it shows that these officials are leaders who cannot foresee the future of their state and cannot calculate the cost of their words.
The Court also demonstrated its decisiveness in its decision by quoting statements by UN and its officials about the humanitarian tragedy in Palestine during all these attacks, such as “The humanitarian situation in Gaza is catastrophic.” The UN has long been criticized for its dysfunctionality and inability to do anything about Palestine. Indeed, the UN Secretary-General could not even get the Rafah crossing opened and the UN Security Council could not even pass a ceasefire resolution. So much so that the UN system itself and the necessity of the organization became questionable. First of all, the RSA showed that there were still areas that could be evaluated within the UN system. In a sense, the UN took advantage of this last chance to save its reputation. UN buildings bombed by Israel, UN officials killed, UN aid not delivered, UN Secretary-General’s words ignored, the UNSC unable to take decisions, and then the ICJ, saved the UN’s image to some extent. Nevertheless, this process has shown that every seemingly inconclusive official word, every General Assembly and Security Council meeting is proof of what was said. In a sense, Israel was condemned to stand trial for the crime of genocide based on the words of Israeli officials.