Israel Vows To Continue War Against Hamas After UN Ruling in ‘Outrageous’ Genocide Case

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Reuters)
January 26, 2024

After the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled against Israel on Friday, Israeli leaders were unified in their willingness to continue their war against Hamas but somewhat divided in their reception of the verdict.

The World Court ordered Israel to prevent acts of genocide against the Palestinians and do more to help civilians, although it stopped short of ordering a ceasefire as requested by the plaintiff South Africa.

While the ruling denied Palestinian hopes of a binding order to halt the war in Gaza, it also represented a legal setback for Israel, which had hoped to throw out a case brought under the genocide convention established in the ashes of the Holocaust.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the court had "justly rejected the outrageous demand" to deprive Israel of what he called the "basic right to defend itself," by ordering it to halt fighting.

"But the mere claim that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians is not only false, it's outrageous, and the willingness of the court to even discuss this is a disgrace that will not be erased for generations," Netanyahu said.

Other Israeli officials expressed outrage that the court had not simply dismissed the case.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel did not need to be lectured on morality. In the days after the Oct. 7 attack, Gallant had said Israel would impose a total blockade on Gaza as part of a battle against "human animals."

"The International Court of Justice in The Hague went above and beyond, when it granted South Africa's antisemitic request to discuss the claim of genocide in Gaza, and now refuses to reject the petition outright," Gallant said in a statement.

Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir mocked the ruling in a two-word social media post with a Yiddish-style putdown: "Hague shmague."

The court found that there was a case to be heard about whether Palestinian rights were being denied in a war it said was causing grievous humanitarian harm. It also called for Palestinian terrorist groups to release hostages captured in the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel that precipitated the conflict.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said the decision was a welcome reminder "no state is above the law." Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters the decision would contribute to "isolating the occupation and exposing its crimes in Gaza."

Israel had sought to have the case thrown out when it was brought to the International Court of Justice earlier this month. South Africa accused Israel of state-led genocide in its offensive, begun after Hamas terrorists stormed into Israel killing 1,200 and kidnapping more than 240.

It asked the court to grant emergency measures to halt the fighting, which has killed more than 26,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, and displaced the majority of the population in a more than three-month campaign of intensive bombardment.

The ICJ judges ordered Israel to take all measures within its power to prevent its troops from committing genocide, punish acts of incitement, take steps to improve the humanitarian situation, and report back on its progress in a month.

It did not decide the merits of the genocide allegations, which could take years. Although the ruling cannot be appealed, the court has no mechanism to enforce its decision.

In reading out the decision, ICJ president Judge Joan Donoghue described the plight of Palestinians in Gaza, singling out harm to children and quoting detailed descriptions of the humanitarian emergency from U.N. officials.

This, she said, justified the court's decision to take emergency action to prevent irreparable harm. She also read out a series of remarks from Israeli officials calling for a harsh campaign, which she said justified the court's order to Israel to punish people guilty of incitement.

Israel called South Africa's allegations false and "grossly distorted." It says it has acted in Gaza in self defense against a foe that attacked first, and blames Hamas for harm to civilians for operating among them, which the fighters deny.

The South African government, allowed to make the case under the legal principle that genocide is such a grave crime that all countries are duty-bound to prevent it, hailed the court order as a "decisive victory" for international rule of law.

The European Union echoed South Africa in saying it expected Israel to implement the court's orders immediately and in full.