The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague issued its preliminary judgment on the question of whether Israel is committing “genocide” in Gaza. The court ordered Israel to produce a report within one month but refrained from making a finding on whether genocide was taking place.
The ruling did not extensively address the genocidal nature of Hamas’s October 7 terror attack and only briefly mentioned Israeli hostages. Former Chief Justice Aharon Barak, considered part of Israel’s left wing, joined the majority in a 16-1 ruling.
Chief Justice Joan E. Donoghue, who convened the ICJ, outlined the judgment, initially addressing the question of the court’s jurisdiction. She acknowledged South Africa’s case, stating that public declarations of genocide by South Africa against Israel gave the ICJ jurisdiction, despite South Africa’s mishandling of diplomatic communication.
Donoghue pointed out that under the Convention, any signatory state, including South Africa, could bring a case against another signatory, like Israel. The court determined that the Palestinians, as a group of over 2 million people, qualified as a “substantial part” under the Convention. Donoghue cited the death toll and suffering in Gaza but did not differentiate between combatant and civilian casualties.
The judge then cited statements by Israeli officials, emphasizing the intent to prevent genocide. Israel was ordered to take measures to avoid acts constituting genocide, prevent soldiers from such acts, and punish public incitement. The court also instructed Israel to report on the implementation of Genocide Convention restrictions within one month.
Donoghue briefly expressed concern about Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, calling for their immediate release. However, the ICJ did not call for an end to Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians, nor did it address Hamas’s use of Palestinian civilians as human shields or order Hamas to comply with the Genocide Convention.
The decision was 15-2, with Barak and Uganda’s Judge Julia Sebutinde opposing on most aspects. Barak, in particular, disagreed with the majority on Israel’s duty to prevent and punish public incitement to commit genocide and provide humanitarian relief to Gaza.
In summary, the ICJ’s ruling appeared unfavorable to Israel, overlooking the legal justification for the war but stopping short of calling for an immediate ceasefire or an arms sales ban. The court also ignored key aspects of the October 7 attack and the misquoted statement attributed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Pro-Palestinian protesters chanted genocidal slogans outside the court during the ruling.