Assessing Israel’s Accountability at the ICJ

The highest judicial authority within the United Nations released its findings on Friday which commanded Israel to act to ensure a prevention of genocide by its deployments that are currently stationed in Gaza, and that aid must be let into the region, while demanding that Hamas release their current captives. This ruling came out of the International Court of Justice as an initial step forwards by South Africa under the accusation that Israel is engaging in genocidal acts against Palestinians. Due to the lack of authority that the ICJ has in enforcing its ruling, one of the only preventions that currently exists is pressure and scrutiny from the international community, and a potential legal investigation in the future which is currently not on the table. The Foreign Ministry of Palestine had released a statement claiming that the ruling, “ruled in favor of humanity and international law” although the Court faced push back on the basis that it did not take a stance on the potential end of the conflict. South Africa’s over arching claim is that Israel is intentionally fomenting “conditions of death” within the Gaza region while making a plea to the Court to consider an immediate emergency suspension of Israel’s advancement.

According to the “New York Times,” Israel had argued that the military was working to protect civilians’ lives in addition to a two-week advance notice prior to its invasion. The ICJ made another determination that Israel is to release a report in accordance with the Genocide Convention, as a legal guardrail, which may face international legal scrutiny in a month’s time when the report is released, though the ruling concerning genocide itself may not undergo full deliberation on the broader issue for potentially years into the future.

According to the “Associated Press,” the immediate ruling added mounting pressure onto Israel; in the four months since the beginning of the conflict, there have been nearly sixty-five thousand wounded Palestinians with an additional twenty-six thousand dead, and of the 2.3 million people who live in the Gaza region, 85% have been driven out of their homes. According to estimates released by Israel, about a third of the Palestinians who were killed were Hamas targets, leaving the amount of dead Palestinian civilians at 65% of all fatalities, and the overwhelming majority of those who were wounded. In response, Netanyahu declared that even the thought of Israel engaging in such actions was a “mark of shame”, while vowing to continue the invasion into Gaza.

The United Nations’ leading officials have publicly expressed fear and concern for those who are at risk of malnutrition, starvation, and disease, with about a fourth of the population in Gaza being in a starvation-prone zone. Balkees Jarrah, an Associate International Justice Director at Human Rights Watch released a statement saying, “[The decision] puts Israel and its allies on notice that immediate action is needed to prevent genocide and further atrocities against Palestinians in Gaza.”

Political Science student who spoke under conditions of anonymity gave their thoughts stating, “While yes, Hamas is a terrorist organization, the pull they have over the Palestinian government is minimal, a Palestinian civilian does not equal a terrorist, but this is the way it is seen by Israel, its allied (which, yes, means the United States on the side of the bad guys here), and most of the world. This whole conflict is in fact a genocide started by a nearly century old land dispute caused by Great Britain after World War II, and now has led to far too many dead. The whole thing needs to end. People, all people, deserve a right to leave and not be cleansed from their homes.”

Another Political Science student who also wished to stay anonymous, remarked, “With the research I have done on my own behalf, mixed in with the polarized reactions of the media, I find the ruling of the ICJ to be one that brings much caution and perception to the war at hand. IT seems that we, as a global community, have let go of our morality and have lost sight of what is truly of value. Not land, not money, but human lives. On whatever side the coin is flipped there have been unnecessary casualties of war, of men, women, and children across the board that have been looked over long enough. The ICJ’s ruling brings to light the concern we feel globally for the issues concerning the conduct in Gaza, and conduct that must be made well aware of its consequences.”

The International Court of Justice, one of the main judicial organs within the United Nations, issued a ruling that Israel must act to prevent “genocidal violence” against the Palestinians after South Africa had brought the accusation forwards. Although the investigations and hearings did not lead to an explicitly guilty verdict, the ICJ found concern regarding Israel’s military actions. A part of the decision was the requirement that Israel punishes and actively prevents incitements to commit genocide against those who live in Gaza alongside evidence-collecting for any and all cases which point towards allegations of genocide while allowing humanitarian movement onto the Strip.

How this conflict will continue to develop inside and outside of the battleground will remain to be seen. With the potential to have effects that last for decades, we can only hope for a peaceful resolution.