Hundreds of Israelis support South Africa’s ICJ case accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza

Hearings are expected in The Hague this week. South Africa is also seeking an emergency suspension of Israel’s military campaign on Gaza.

In a slap to the government of PM Benjamin Netanyahu, hundreds of Israelis have signalled that they’re backing the case at the International Court of Justice brought by South Africa accusing Israel of Genocide in Gaza. 

More than 600 Israelis have signed a petition calling on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to rule in favour of South Africa’s lawsuit against the state of Israel, calling for a decision that will bring an immediate end to the war. 

Israel’s offensive in Gaza has killed more than 23,000 Palestinians thus far, mostly women and children, according to Palestinian health officials, and rendered much of the Gaza enclave uninhabitable for the 2.2 million Palestinians living there. 

South Africa accused Israel last month of breaching its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention, the treaty drafted in the wake of the Holocaust in Europe, which makes it a crime to attempt to destroy a people in whole or in part.

Hearings are expected in The Hague this week, on the 11th and 12th of January. South Africa is also seeking an emergency suspension of Israel’s military campaign on Gaza. 

Bolivia, Turkey and Malaysia have voiced their support for the case, while Jordan’s foreign minister also said Amman will back South Africa.

Dr Anat Matar, one of the petition initiators, told The New Arab that she is filing the petition to the ICJ in The Hague on Tuesday. 

“I initiated this petition first of all because I wanted to show that there is part of Israeli citizens who agree with South Africa’s move”. 

Dr Anat Matar holds a senior lecturer position at Tel Aviv University, where she teaches political philosophy. In addition, she advocates for ‘draft refusers’, a small segment of Israelis who refuse to serve in the Israeli army because they oppose the occupation. 

“What I know for sure is that this war must be stopped immediately. Every moment that passes is a crime”. 

Israeli member of Knesset Ofer Cassif from the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality-Jabha announced that he’s also supporting the initiative.  

“My constitutional duty is to Israeli society and all of its residents, not to a government whose members and its coalition are calling for ethnic cleansing and even actual genocide”, Cassif wrote on the social media platform X. 

Israelis adding their voice to millions of voices around the world who accuse the government of PM Netanyahu of committing ethnic cleansing and genocide in Gaza may give credence to South Africa’s lawsuit. 

“Do we believe that general public trends could impact what judges rule? Overall, the answer is yes. I do believe this petition by Israeli citizens can help educate the public opinion”, Ofer Neiman, one of the signatories to the petition and an anti-occupation activist, told TNA

Nevertheless, an overwhelming majority of Israelis still support the war, with one poll showing that around 75% of Israelis reject attempts to de-escalate the military’s attacks on Palestinians. 

South Africa has backed the Palestinian cause for statehood in Israeli-occupied territories for decades, likening the plight of Palestinians to those of the Black majority in South Africa during the repressive apartheid era, a comparison that Israel denies. Israel was a major ally to Apartheid South Africa, providing political and military support, as well as jointly shared nuclear technology for the development of a bomb. 

A different court in The Hague, the International Criminal Court (ICC), is separately investigating alleged atrocities in Gaza and the occupied West Bank but has not named any suspects. Israel is not a member of the ICC and rejects its jurisdiction.

Israel has named its former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak as its addition to an International Court of Justice panel due this week to hear a genocide allegation filed against it. 

Under the ICJ’s rules, a state that does not already have a judge of its nationality on the bench can choose an ad hoc judge to sit in their case.

South Africa, which accuses Israel of genocide in the Gaza war, has also appointed an ad hoc judge, former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, South African media said. 

Scotland’s first minister, Hamza Yusuf, in the wake of remarks of senior members of the Israeli cabinet, calling to move Palestinians out of the enclave and Jewish recolonisation of Gaza, accused Israel of ethnic cleansing. 

“If that’s not tantamount to ethnic cleansing, then I don’t know what is”, he told Sky News. 

Israel and the United States have rebuked South Africa’s case at the ICJ. Israel, which is under increasing international calls to end its offensive in Gaza, claims self-defence. 
Israeli President Isaac Herzog said on Tuesday, 9 January, that “there is nothing more atrocious and preposterous” than a lawsuit filed in the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of genocide against Palestinians in its war on Gaza.