ICJ rules Israel must contain civilian deaths in Gaza

The self-described “International Court of Justice” (ICJ) issued a preliminary verdict on Friday following its investigation into a claim brought by South Africa alleging that Israel had engaged in genocide while prosecuting its defensive war against Hamas in Gaza.

A Worthless Verdict

In what the Wall Street Journal describes as a “series of near-unanimous votes” — surely a consensus propelled only by the strength of the evidence presented rather than the preexisting conclusions of the presiding justices — the ICJ determined that some of Israel’s actions in Gaza fall under what could constitute the definition of genocide (i.e., acting “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”). But if the court genuinely believed its own findings, the actions it recommended to address this supposedly horrible and ongoing criminal abuse of the human species don’t convey that impression.

The court ordered Israel to take actions to prevent acts of genocide in Gaza, preserve whatever evidence of genocidal activities it encounters, and report back to the institution one month from now. Additionally, it called on the Jewish state to prevent and punish incitement to genocide from its political officials, allow humanitarian aid to flow into the Strip, and take additional steps to protect Palestinian civilians. The court did not, however, go so far as to order Israel to cease its military operations against Hamas — not the sort of reserved response one might expect from an institution supposedly repulsed by incontrovertible evidence of ongoing crimes against humanity.

The good news for Israel here is that it is, by all publicly available accounts, already in compliance with the ICJ’s recommendations. 

In reality, the case brought against Israel is incredibly weak and dishonest. It relies on civilian casualty figures from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry, and the U.N. report cited in the complaint includes the following disclaimer: “The UN has so far not been able to produce independent, comprehensive, and verified casualty figures. South Africa describes deplorable humanitarian conditions in Gaza, while ignoring the humanitarian aid that Israel has allowed in; the fact that aid would be flowing more freely if Hamas didn’t have a history of using humanitarian deliveries to smuggle weapons; and the reality that more aid would be getting to the intended civilian population if Hamas weren’t stealing it and hoarding supplies for its terrorists.

South Africa alleged that Israel engaged in the “mass killing of Palestinians” by using high-yield ordnance in crowded areas of Gaza — ordnance that is often necessary to penetrate the fortified underground positions Hamas locates beneath densely populated areas as a form of grotesque insurance against Israeli reprisals. Israel’s efforts to establish and broadcast the existence of evacuation routes and safe corridors for civilians could be reasonably interpreted as an effort to take all available measures to protect civilian life — a stark contrast with Israel’s adversaries.

Israel’s African critics further alleged that Israel has systematically degraded Gaza’s health-care system and prevented Palestinian women from accessing natal care. That’s not what most of us witnessed when, for example, Israel sought to dislodge Hamas from one of its strongholds inside the infamous Shifa hospital, all while attempting to preserve the ongoing care the hospital was providing to Palestinians — an absurdly complex and dangerous operation that took place in a live-fire zone. South Africa insisted Israel provided no assistance to the injured and it did not help moving medical supplies when it ordered the medical facilities Hamas fighters use as cover to be evacuated. That claim could only convince those who reject the evidence of their own eyes.

What’s left of the court’s case is that its justices were repulsed by some overheated talk from certain quarters of Israeli politics — speech policing in which Israel typically does not engage. The precise nature of “dehumanizing” rhetoric from Israeli politicians — rhetoric inspired by the historic slaughter, rape, mutilation, and kidnapping of a large number of Israeli Jews — is a subjective assessment. But subjectivity is not the basis upon which verdicts of genocide are handed out. That is, unless the objective is to water down the word’s meaning only so that it can be at long last applied to the victims of history’s worst eradication program, finally bludgeoning the Holocaust’s victims with their own cudgel and denuding their sui generis historical experience.

None of this is to say that Israeli forces fighting in a brutal, existential conflict against Hamas can do no wrong. War is terrible. It makes men into brutes, and brutishness is a feature of war from time immemorial. But the case South Africa presented against Israel was not narrowly tailored so as to indict merely its conduct in the war inaugurated by Hamas’s 10/7 massacre. It was designed to indict the state going back to its founding.

“During arguments two weeks ago in The Hague,” the Journal continued, “South Africa portrayed Israel’s military response to the Hamas attack as furtherance of a campaign against Palestinians that started with the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948.” You see, this has been the plan all along — a nefarious plot hatched with the birth of Israel itself. The level of conspiratorial paranoia fueling such an allegation probably doesn’t deserve a hearing in a venue that fancies itself a neutral arbitrative setting. But, then, that doesn’t describe the ICJ.

The ICJ lacks much in the way of jurisdiction over Israel’s domestic affairs, but as the principle judicial organ of the United Nations, it’s reasonable to think it might police itself. And if the United Nations wasn’t a worthless enterprise wholly captured by Hamas’s allies, it might.

Israel Defense Forces have routinely turned up weapons and ammunition hidden inside facilities and camouflaged inside bags and boxes that are supposed to be off limits because they are the property of UNRWA — the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Throughout this campaign, the IDF has discovered weapons depots, explosive devices, and even antipersonnel traps located in civilian facilities — including kindergartens. That should come as no surprise to anyone, least of all the United Nations. Somehow, Hamas militants have managed to get away with using UNRWA facilities as shields for their attacks on Israelis for over a decade.

If the U.N.’s officials care at all about the reputational damage it has sustained as a result of the conduct of this supposed humanitarian mission, they’re being coy about it. That international organization doesn’t seem overly concerned about the substantial allegations involving UNRWA’s complicity in Hamas’s attacks on Israelis. Nor is the institution even concerned about the kind of speech policing the ICJ has attempted to impose on Israel. When one U.N. spokesperson was confronted with the antisemitic rhetoric attributed to UNRWA functionaries — sentiments that fully explain that U.N. mission’s complicity in anti-Israel violence – he seemed placidly unmoved.

The ICJ’s verdict has failed to demonstrate that Israel is guilty of genocide, but it has confirmed the conclusion that the U.N. and its various organs are garbage. But then, we already knew that.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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