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Citing the Holocaust, Israel offers rebuttal to South Africa’s genocide charges at the International Court of Justice

(JTA) — Lawyers for Israel put forth their rebuttal to South Africa’s charge that it was committing genocide in the Gaza Strip, and said the case before the International Court of Justice cheapened a term that was coined to describe the destruction of the Jewish people.

The case made by lawyers for Israel on Friday addressed both prongs of the argument South Africa made the day before, coupling Israel’s methods, which are destroying large swaths of Gaza, with statements by Israeli leaders that South Africa says establish intent to commit genocide.

But Israel also advanced an overarching argument that the court should not abuse a term, genocide, reserved only for the most extreme cases.

“Yes, there is a heart-wrenching armed conflict, but the attempt to classify it as genocide and trigger provisional measures is not just unfounded in law, it has far reaching and negative implications that extend well beyond the case before you,” Gilad Noam, Israel’s deputy attorney general, told the court.

“Ultimately entertaining the applicant’s request would not strengthen the commitment to prevent and punish genocide but weaken it,” he said. “It will turn an instrument adopted by the international community to prevent horrors of the kind that shocked the conscience of humanity during the Holocaust into a weapon in the hands of terrorist groups who have no regard for humanity or for the law.”

The statute under international law allowing for the court’s adjudication of genocide was composed in the wake of the Holocaust.

Tal Becker, a legal adviser to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, noted the term’s origins, coined by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jewish lawyer.

Lemkin, Becker said, “helped the world recognize that the existing legal lexicon was simply inadequate to capture the devastating evil that the Nazi Holocaust unleashed.” Now, he said, South Africa was seeking to turn the term inside out.

“The attempt to weaponize the term genocide against Israel in the present context does more than tell the court a grossly distorted story, it does more than empty the word of its unique force and special meaning, it subverts the object and purpose of the [genocide] convention itself,” he said.

Israel has argued that Hamas’ Oct. 7 invasion that launched the war — when terrorists invaded from Gaza and killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, brutalized thousands more and took more than 240 people hostage — better fits the term “genocide.” Becker noted the presence in the courtroom of families of some of the more than 100 people who remain hostages.

More than 23,000 Palestinians — 1% of the strip’s population — including thousands of children, have been killed since Israel launched counterstrikes, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry has said. Israel has said in the past that a third of the dead are combatants.

Friday’s arguments at the court in The Hague are a preliminary stage of the case, which may take years to decide. The next step is for the 15-judge panel to determine whether to order a full or partial halt to the fighting, if it finds the risk of genocide credible. The court cannot enforce such an order, but it could provide a legal predicate for nations to boycott or isolate Israel

A factor driving Israeli outrage at the proceedings — so much so that the country has reversed a longstanding policy of ignoring United Nations-affiliated bodies — has been that a country founded in the ashes of the destruction of its people should face the charge of genocide.

“A terrorist organization carried out the worst crime against the Jewish people since the Holocaust, and now someone comes to defend it in the name of the Holocaust,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this week.

Israel’s lawyers also said the breadth and methods of Israel’s counterattacks did not deviate from the laws of war and instead show that Israel is not intent on killing Palestinians en masse.

Galit Raguan, a legal adviser at Israel’s Justice Ministry, noted the measures Israel had taken to facilitate the entry of assistance into the strip, to warn civilians of impending attacks and to facilitate their evacuation. “The charge of genocide in the face of these extensive efforts is frankly untenable,” she said.

She listed a number of actions Israel has taken, including the allowing in of food and water, and medicines and medical equipment — an accounting that she said was far from comprehensive. She said the list showed that the evidence underlying the genocide charge is”tendentious and partial” and that “the allegation of the intent to commit genocide is baseless.”

She added, “If Israel had such intent would it delay a ground maneuver for weeks, urging civilians to seek safer space and in doing so sacrificing operational advantage?”

Israel’s critics say the country has frustrated the delivery of relief to Gaza Palestinians. Israel blames international aid groups for haplessness and Hamas for stealing the food and equipment. World health agencies say Gaza is on the verge of starvation.

Malcolm Shaw, a British barrister who specializes in human rights and who is leading the Israeli team, referred to quotes by Israeli officials that South Africa said signaled genocidal intent. Shaw said the citations were ripped from context or were made by officials who are not part of the decision-making process.

He noted, for instance, South Africa’s citation of comments by Israel’s minister of heritage, Amichai Eliyahu, who said “there is no such thing as uninvolved civilians in Gaza” and who fantasized about a flattened Gaza as “beautiful” and recommended nuking the strip.

Eliyahu, Shaw noted, “is completely outside the policy and decision making of the war. In any event, his statement was immediately repudiated by members of the war cabinet and other ministers, including the prime minister.” Netanyahu suspended Eliyahu from Cabinet meetings because of his remarks.

Shaw noted that the war was run by a small coterie of officials, and said South Africa ignored multiple statements by those officials upholding the protections of civilians, including Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

“The prime minister stated time and again, ‘We must prevent a humanitarian disaster, ‘” Shaw said.

The post Citing the Holocaust, Israel offers rebuttal to South Africa’s genocide charges at the International Court of Justice appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Brown University Investigating Threats of Violence Sent to Hillel Officials

More than 200 Brown University students gathered outside University Hall where roughly 40 students sat inside demanding the school divest from weapons manufacturers amid the Israel-Hamas war. Photo: Amy Russo / USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

Two officials of Brown-RISD Hillel, a Jewish life  center serving both Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design, were sent “violent threats” early Sunday morning, according to a report by The Brown Daily Herald.

After being alerted of threats, which were sent via email, the university’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) conducted a search of Brown-RISD Hillel and determined there is “no evidence of any one-site threat.” DPS vice president Rodney Chatman told The Brown Daily Herald that “local, state, and federal authorities” are investigating the incident.

“This comes at an especially difficult time of distress on our campuses,” Brown University president Christina H. Paxson said in a statement addressing the incident. “Our students, faculty, and staff continue to grapple with the deaths of Israelis, Palestinians, and others in the wake of the October 7 attacks, as well as a despicable act of violence against a member of the Brown community here in the United States last November, and increases in reports of antisemitism, Islamophobia and other forms of hate.”

In Sunday’s statement President Paxson said that “robust” security measures will be implemented to protect Brown-RISD Hillel, as well as the officials who were threatened, from harm.

The incident is not the first antisemitic act of hatred since Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7.

In December, the university’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity opened an investigation into an incident in which someone slipped a threatening note underneath the door of an off-campus apartment rented by Jewish students.

“Those who live for death will die by their own hand,” said the note, which, according to the Brown Daily Herald, matches lyrics from a song by an early 1980s punk band. The paper added that the note was found by an electrician, who brought it inside.

A similar incident occurred last November at a Brown-RISD Hillel. Additionally, in 2020, a swastika was graffitied in Brown’s Hegeman Hall. In 2017, another was found in a gender-neutral bathroom at RISD. It was drawn using human feces, according to the Brown Daily Herald.

Last week, President Paxson rejected the demands of anti-Zionist students who were participating in a hunger strike in an effort to force the Brown Corporation to vote on a boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) resolution against Israel and make other concessions.

The university has twice ordered the arrests of extremist anti-Zionists student protesters, who have held unauthorized demonstrations in administration buildings, sometimes occupying them for hours after being asked to leave. Over 40 were arrested in December while onlookers shouted “Shame on Brown, Shame on Brown!”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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‘Free Palestine:’ Texas Church Shooter Suspected of Having Pro-Hamas Ideology

Genesse Ivonne Moreno, 36, shot a man at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, on February 12, 2024. Photo: Twitter

A woman who stormed a church in Houston, Texas, on Sunday with an AR-15 rifle and shot one person before being killed by police was apparently a Hamas supporter, according to details on the incident reported by CNN.

On Monday, the outlet reported that “Free Palestine” was written on the shooter’s rifle.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the shooter has since been identified as Genesse Ivonne Moreno, 36. The woman has an extensive criminal history which includes arrests for marijuana possession, assault, theft, and forgery.

On Sunday afternoon, Moreno walked into the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas — an institution famous for being the church of charismatic Christian preacher Joel Osteen — with a child and a gun. Wearing a trench coat and a knapsack, she threatened to have explosives, according to multiple reports. Most of the worshipers in attendance were Hispanic and attending a Spanish language service.

Moreno shot one man, leaving him critically injured, and was shot and killed by Houston Police. A child was also shot during the incident, but police are still unsure of whether they or Moreno are responsible for doing it.

“I want to commend those officers. She had a long gun and it could have been a lot worse,”  Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said during a press conference later in the day.

An investigation of Moreno’s motives is ongoing.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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London Theater Facing Legal Action After Comedy Show Turns Into ‘Antisemitic Rally’

British comedian Paul Currie. Photo: Instagram

A London theater is facing legal action after an Israeli man was hounded out of a comedy show on Saturday night by a comedian performing a one-man show that turned into what some audience members compared to an “antisemitic rally.”

A spokesperson for the UK’s Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) said the group was in touch with the Israeli man and other members of the audience who fled from the theater.

“What the Jewish audience members have recounted is atrocious, and we are working with them and our lawyers to ensure that those who instigated and enabled it are held to account,” the CAA spokesperson told London’s Evening Standard news outlet. “These allegations are of deeply disturbing discriminatory abuse against Jews. Comedians are rightly given broad latitude, but hounding Jews out of theaters is reminiscent of humanity’s darkest days, and must have no place in central London in 2024.”

The comedian, Paul Currie, had been performing a one-man show entitled “Shtoom” at London’s Soho Theater. Towards the end of his performance, he retrieved a Ukrainian and Palestinian flag and invited members to stand and applaud.

After the round of applause was over, Currie pointed to a man in the second row of the theater and quizzed him over why he had not stood up.

The unnamed man, an Israeli, replied, “I enjoyed your show until you brought out the Palestinian flag.” An infuriated Currie began screaming, “Leave my show now! Get out of my f—-ing show!” in response.

As the man and his partner rose to leave, accompanied by a handful of other shocked audience members, the assembled crowd began chanting “Get out” and “Free Palestine.”

In a written complaint to the theater over his treatment, the man wrote: ” Shaken and feeling threatened by the growing antagonism, we exited and tried to complain/ get some support from the front-of-house team at the theatre, who were not very sympathetic but did give us an email address to make a complaint. By this time, the show had ended and the audience started exiting, a number of whom were glaring at us aggressively and in a very threatening way. We all left the scene.”

He added: “Our friends later received a message from someone they knew who had also been at the show, saying that after we left, the situation became even more inflamed. What had been intended to be an evening of comedy turned out to be what felt like an antisemitic rally.”

The theater eventually apologized, issuing a statement expressing regret an “an incident that took place at our venue at the end of a performance of Paul Currie: Shtoom on Saturday 10 February, which has caused upset and hurt to members of audience attending and others.” It added: “We take this very seriously and are looking into the detail of what happened as thoroughly, as sensitively, and as quickly as we can. It is important to us that Soho theatre is a welcoming and inclusive place for all.”

Currie has remained largely silent since the incident, save for a post on Instagram which quoted Mexican poet Cesar A. Cruz saying: “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”  He then added: “If you were at my show last night… you’ll know.”

The post London Theater Facing Legal Action After Comedy Show Turns Into ‘Antisemitic Rally’ first appeared on

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