Armed Conflict Courts & Litigation Foreign Relations & International Law

ICJ Hears Oral Argument from Israel in South Africa v. Israel

Maya Nicholson
Friday, May 17, 2024, 4:36 PM
Israel denied South Africa’s claims that it violated the Genocide Convention for its actions in the Gaza Strip.

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On May 17, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) heard oral argument from Israel in South Africa v. Israel. The case, initiated by South Africa in December 2023, alleges that Israel has violated the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in its military operations in Gaza. 

On Jan. 26, the ICJ ordered provisional measures against Israel at South Africa’s request, to “take all measures possible to prevent the commission of all acts under Article II of the Genocide Convention in relation to Palestinians in Gaza,” among other provisions. Following a March 6 request from South Africa, the ICJ ordered additional measures to “[t]ake all necessary and effective measures to ensure, without delay” the “unhindered provision at scale” of basic services and humanitarian aid,” amid worsening conditions in Gaza. 

Israel argued that the case brought by South Africa “suggests an inversion of reality.” It asserted to the court that South Africa continues to conceal four “basic facts” regarding the claims of violating the Genocide Convention. 

  • “Israel is engaged in a war it did not want and did not start. It is under attack and fighting to defend itself and its citizens”;
  • “Israel is engaged in an intense armed conflict with a ruthless jihadist terrorist organization; one that is not only targeting Israeli civilians, but is also using Palestinian civilians to shield itself, in utter disregard for their lives or for the law”;
  • South Africa has an “ulterior motive” and wants “to obtain military advantage for its ally, Hamas”; and
  • incidents involving violations of rules “regulating the conduct of hostilities” may occur in any armed conflict, and should “not be thrown before the Court in the form of facts and conclusions, and as evidence of something they are not.”

Israel concluded its argument by reading its final submission, in accordance with Article 60, paragraph 2, of the Rules of Court: “The State of Israel requests the Court to reject the request for the modification and indication of provisional measures submitted by the Republic of South Africa.” 

Read the transcript of the Israel’s oral argument here or below:

Maya Nicholson is Lawfare's Spring 2024 editorial intern. She graduated cum laude with a B.A. in International Relations from New York University in 2023. Maya has interned in several law firms including Farris LLP, McLaughlin and Stern, and was previously a UN Advocacy Intern at the International Crisis Group.

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