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The International Court of Justice held public hearings South Africa in the case South Africa v/s Israel, Israel’s Oral Argument : Full video

Jan 12, 2024

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, held public hearings on the request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by South Africa in the case South Africa v. Israel on 11 and 12 January 2024, at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the seat of the Court. Session held under the presidency of Judge Joan E. Donoghue, President of the Court.

On the second and final day of preliminary hearings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Israel’s legal team insisted that the Court “lacks prima facie jurisdiction” in the matter, and the subject of the proceedings “do not fall within the remit of the Genocide Convention.”

Addressing the Court in The Hague today (12 Jan) Israel’s Deputy Attorney-General for International Relations, Gilad Noam, said South Africa “has not shown any dispute between itself and the respondent at the time the application was submitted. Indeed, it tried to mislead the court into believing that one had existed.”

Noting that Israel’s twin military objectives were to eradicate the existential threat posed by Hamas militants and to free some 136 hostages still held in the war-shattered enclave, Noam said, “the simple reality is that the events which are the subject of these proceedings are occurring in the framework of a war instigated by Hamas.”

He told judges in The Hague that “the standard of irreparable harm and urgency is not met either,” as Israel “is constantly taking concrete steps, together with others, to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza.”

Finally, he said, provisional measures sought by South Africa “are unwarranted and prejudicial,” as they portray “an image of Israel as a lawless state that regards itself as beyond and above the law.”

Noam said, “the applicant paints an image of Israel as a state in which the entire public service, military and society have, in concert, discarded Israel’s long-standing commitment to law and morality and become singularly consumed with destroying an entire population. That is patently false.”

When a State is attacked, it has the right to defend itself and its citizens, Israel’s legal team insisted, before underscoring the deep trauma resulting from the 7 October terror attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian militants who rampaged across southern Israel, slaughtering some 1,200 people and taking around 250 captive.

Noam said, “the conflict with Hamas poses serious operational and legal challenges in conducting close-quarter urban combat, while mitigating harm to the surroundings; in seeking to put a stop to Hamas military use of hospitals while minimising disruption of medical services; in helping civilians leave areas of the most intense fighting, while Hamas forces them to stay in the line of fire; in facilitating the provision of aid, when that aid is constantly stolen by Hamas to sustain its military efforts; in balancing humanitarian considerations with the need to act forcefully against an adversary that still fire rockets deep into our country and holds our citizens hostage.”

He said, “the rule of law remains a foundational pillar of the State of Israel. The applicant defames not only Israel’s leadership but also Israeli society, misrepresented in a selective assortment of statements to suggest genocidal intentions and the abdication of core moral values.”

Provisional measures, Noam insisted, “would lead to a perverse situation. It would effectively allow Hamas to continue attacking the citizens of Israel, to hold 136 hostages in unbearable conditions, to keep tens of thousands of displaced Israelis from returning to their homes, and essentially to promote its plan to massacre as many Israelis and Jews as it can.”

As part of its claim against Israel, South Africa alleges that 6,000 bombs hit Gaza in the first week of the Israeli response to the Hamas-led attacks. This included, South Africa alleges, the use of 2,000-pound bombs at least 200 times in southern areas of the Strip that were designated as safe, and in the north, where refugee camps were located.

Now that initial representations from both South Africa and Israel have concluded at the ICJ, one of the justices’ first tasks is to assess whether there are sufficient grounds to approve the South African application for provisional measures against Israel, to “protect against further, severe and irreparable harm to the rights of the Palestinian people under the Genocide Convention”.