Israel's trial

Ahmed Youssef Ahmed
Thursday 11 Jan 2024

In alignment with its heroic history in the struggle against racial regimes and its authentic values rooted in this struggle, the South African government took the lead in presenting the file of crimes committed by Israel in its current war against the Palestinian people to the International Court of Justice.


This is not new for a country that has set remarkable examples in both military and civil resistance against one of the strongest colonial and racist systems in history. 

It is noteworthy that South Africa, along with its sibling Algeria, thwarted attempts to grant Israel observer status in the African Union. I was earlier provided with the Arabic translation of the lawsuit memorandum by Dr. Ali Al-Ghatit, a respected legal scholar, revealing the immense legal and political effort invested in its preparation. It has become, in my estimation, an unprecedented comprehensive document attesting to Israel's crime against the Palestinian people since the beginning of its retaliatory actions, which words fall short of describing, regardless of the exaggerations and falsehoods surrounding the events of 7 October.

The memorandum unequivocally condemns all violations of international law committed by all parties involved, including the direct targeting of Israeli civilians and others, as well as the hostage-taking by Hamas and other Palestinian armed factions. However, it subtly addresses the Israeli narrative, commonly reiterated, that its actions are merely self-defence responses to Hamas' actions on 7 October. 

From the outset, the memorandum firmly denounces all aspects of the violation of the Genocide Convention of 1948. It underscores Israel's actions against the Palestinians during the 75-year apartheid era, its 56-year occupation of Palestinian Territories, and the 17-year siege on Gaza. I will provide my observations on this approach in a later article.

Regarding the legal basis of the lawsuit, the memorandum relies on Article 9 of the Genocide Convention of 1948. This article stipulates that disputes arising between contracting parties concerning the interpretation, application, or fulfillment of the convention, including disputes related to a state's responsibility for genocide or other acts mentioned in Article 3, shall be submitted to the International Court of Justice at the request of any of the disputing parties. 

The memorandum argues that both South Africa and Israel did not make reservations regarding Article 9, allowing South Africa to bring its dispute with Israel to the International Court of Justice under Article 1(36) of its statute, which grants jurisdiction over all matters referred to it by parties and those specified in the UN Charter or in treaties and conventions in force.

After establishing the legal foundation, the memorandum meticulously details Israeli actions constituting the accusations. These include continuous aerial bombardment for 11 weeks leading up to the preparation of the memorandum, causing the displacement of 1.9 million Gaza residents (85 percent) under persistent attacks. The documented casualties were 21,110 killed and 55,243 injured at the time of the memorandum's preparation. The extensive destruction encompassed entire neighbourhoods, residential areas, and vast agricultural lands. 

The memorandum supports these claims with statements from high-ranking officials in over 20 countries, including Egypt, international reports and experts, and crucially, official and unofficial Israeli statements. Based on this comprehensive evidence, the memorandum builds its urgent requests, which will be discussed in the following article.

*The writer is Professor of political science at Cairo University




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