In a significant legal move, South Africa has formed a formidable legal team, comprising experts in international law and experienced litigators, to bring Israel before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The charges against Israel revolve around allegations of committing genocide in Gaza, marking a crucial legal showdown. This initiative by South Africa is not only an endeavor to bolster its international standing but also a strategic move to garner domestic support in the run-up to upcoming elections, aligning with its historical commitment to the Palestinian cause.
The comprehensive 84-page submission to the ICJ accuses Israel of genocidal acts in Gaza. The legal team advocates for urgent measures to halt Israel’s military operations, ongoing since the October 7 attacks by Hamas. These attacks resulted in the tragic loss of lives, primarily civilians, numbering at least 1,200 Israelis.
Renowned international law professor Cathleen Powell emphasized the prowess of the legal team, stating, “They are an A-team,” combining expertise in international law with strong advocacy skills.
South Africa’s support for Palestine traces its roots back to the anti-apartheid struggle, with the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), drawing parallels between its fight against apartheid and the Palestinians’ struggle.
The late Nelson Mandela highlighted the interconnectedness of South Africa’s freedom and the freedom of the Palestinians, stating that South Africa’s freedom would be “incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
However, experts suggest that beyond the ANC’s commitment to the Palestinian cause, the ICJ case may serve as a strategic move to regain legitimacy amid allegations of corruption and declining domestic support. By taking a principled stand on the international stage, the ANC aims to reinforce its core values and demonstrate its commitment to justice.
The move has sparked mixed reactions within South Africa, reflecting the diverse opinions within its sizable Jewish and Muslim populations. President Cyril Ramaphosa defended the decision, emphasizing the duty to support the Palestinians, while some leaders of the Christian conservative majority and South Africa’s Jewish Board of Deputies condemned it.
In response to the charges, Israel vehemently rejects them, with government spokesman Eylon Levy dismissing the case as an “absurd blood libel.” Israeli President Isaac Herzog categorically stated that Israel would present its case of self-defense under international humanitarian law in the ICJ.
The case between South Africa and Israel holds broader international implications, considering South Africa’s membership in BRICS—a coalition consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
As South Africa positions the group as a counterbalance to the Western-dominated international order, the outcome of this legal battle could have far-reaching consequences on the global stage.