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Public Statement: Scholars support South Africa’s submission to the International Court of Justice against Israel for violations of the 1948 Genocide Convention

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To sign the statement below, please do so at the form here.

January 9, 2024

The Republic of South Africa initiated proceedings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on December 29, 2023, against the State of Israel, asking the court to recommend provisional measures to stop Israel’s genocide against the Palestinian people. The Israeli government declared on January 2, 2024, that it would appear before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. The application, brought under Article IX of the 1948 Genocide Convention, states that Israel “intends to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial, and ethnic group, that being the part of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip.” The first hearing is scheduled for January 11 and 12, 2024.

As scholars and practitioners of international law, genocide studies, and international studies, and cognate fields relating to global justice, we wholeheartedly support South Africa’s application to the ICJ as a step towards a necessary ceasefire in Gaza and justice in Palestine. We recall the statement published on October 15, 2023, sounding the alarm of a potential genocide in Gaza, signed by over 800 scholars of international law and genocide studies.

South Africa’s application provides a comprehensive account of widespread international agreement regarding Israel’s genocidal conduct in Gaza. The application reiterates statements made by the UN Secretary-General, who has described Gaza as a “crisis of humanity” and a “graveyard for children” in his invocation of Article 99 of the UN Charter. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has also raised “serious concerns regarding the obligation of Israel and other State parties to prevent crimes against humanity and genocide,” citing the dehumanising rhetoric  targeted at Palestinians since October 7, 2023.

South Africa’s submission to the ICJ re-emphasises the jus cogens character of the prohibition of genocide and strengthens the legal recourse available to Palestinians in Gaza to ensure their fullest protection against the continued grave and immediate risk of genocide. South Africa’s request for provisional measures from the ICJ presents a path forward for a necessary ceasefire that has so far been hard to reach due to the United State’s obstinate refusal to support a humanitarian ceasefire.

South Africa’s application to the ICJ cannot be disconnected from its own struggle against apartheid and the legacy of Israel’s close military support for the apartheid regime during some of the most oppressive years of white supremacist apartheid rule. The eradication of apartheid in South Africa was a significant achievement in the worldwide fight against racism, discrimination, and colonial subjugation. However, as Nelson Mandela stated, it is still “unfinished” without the complete elimination of apartheid worldwide, and in Palestine. We recognise that these connected struggles against apartheid and the racial calculus of genocide are crucial for upholding the internationalist vision of global justice, freedom, and decolonisation.

As we enter the 4th consecutive month of Israel’s genocidal war against Gaza’s people, about 4% of the total population of the Gaza Strip is either dead, seriously injured, or missing. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, an estimated 23,084 Palestinians have been killed since October,  70% of whom are women and children. Additionally, Israel has so far targeted 326 health workers and 112 Palestinian journalists. An additional 58,926 individuals have been injured, hundreds of whom are currently in serious condition.

In addition to the still-rising death toll as people are excavated from beneath the rubble of destroyed buildings and homes, Israel’s attacks have destroyed about 70% of all civilian infrastructure in Gaza, including hospitals, universities, bakeries, mosques, and sites of cultural heritage. This widespread destruction has precipitated concerns regarding further deaths from faminefood insecurity, and disease. Furthermore, the desecration of gravestargeted killings of journalists, and enforced disappearances of people in North Gaza by Israel’s forces demonstrates Israel’s continued intention of genocide against the people of Gaza.

There has also been an escalation of violence, arrests, expulsions, and destruction of entire Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. Settler attacks against Palestinian communities have reached a record high, with nine new outposts erected and eighteen new roads paved or authorised by settlers, implicitly endorsed by the State of Israel.

Israel has predictably criticised South Africa’s application as “blood libel”, which misrepresents the grave violations catalogued in the application to the ICJ as antisemitic slander against Jews, and has put the wheels of its hasbara machinery in overdrive, with Israel’s foreign ministry calling on its embassies to press diplomats and politicians in their host countries to put out statements against South Africa’s case. Despite these efforts, support for South Africa’s application to the ICJ has increased, with Bolivia, Jordan, Malaysia, and Turkey backing the case. Over 1,000 political parties, unions, and other popular movements that support South Africa’s submission have also joined the four states.

South Africa’s submission provides an opportunity to adjudicate the highly charged debates regarding Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza within a legal framework in front of the ICJ, upholding the aspiration for universal justice. In this spirit, we reiterate our support for South Africa’s submission to the ICJ as a clear demand to the international community to prioritise accountability, end genocide, reject impunity, and uphold human rights for all.

We stand in support of South Africa’s application to the ICJ, and urge governments and people of conscience to do the same.

Public Statement: Scholars support South Africa’s submission to the International Court of Justice against Israel for violations of the 1948 Genocide Convention – TWAILR