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‘Double-Speak and Double-Standards’: South African Jews Excoriate Government Over ICJ Case Charging Israel With ‘Genocide’

Supporters of Hamas demonstrating outside the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands. Photo: Reuters/Jehad Shelbak

South Africa’s Jewish community on Thursday accused the ruling African National Congress (ANC) of “double-speak and double-standards” on the opening day of the government’s case at the International Court of Justice charging Israel with committing genocide in Gaza.

In a statement shared with The Algemeiner, South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) president Prof. Karen Milner observed that only a week after the Oct. 7 Hamas pogrom in southern Israel — in which more than 1,200 people were murdered and over 200 kidnapped alongside multiple reports of rape, mutilation, and other atrocities — the South African government had already decided that Israel was guilty of “genocide.” It noted as well that during the same week, President Cyril Ramaphosa “failed to condemn Hamas’ brutal attack on Israel. To absolve Hamas of any complicity in the tragic loss of lives in Israel and in Gaza shows a thorough lack of understanding of the conflict.”

The statement highlighted that despite its legal campaign targeting Israel, the South African government had hosted international leaders facing charges of crimes against humanity, including former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Mohamed Dagalo, the commander of the RSF militia in Sudan that has carried out numerous atrocities against non-Arab minorities in the Darfur region.

“South Africa’s double-speak and double-standards is also evident with dogged determination to remain neutral and ‘talk to both sides’ in the Russian-Ukraine war,” Milner’s statement continued. “Yet, with Israel it has taken constant punitive action, including refusing to offer condolences to Israel after the Oct. 7 massacre, closing the SA Embassy, issuing a demarche to the Israeli ambassador. and now taking Israel to the ICJ.”

In its evidence submitted to the ICJ in The Hague, South Africa invoked the 1948 Genocide Convention, claiming that Israel’s military response to the Hamas pogrom was “intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial, and ethnical group.”

That point was emphasized in speeches to the court on Thursday by prosecuting lawyers. “The intent to destroy Gaza has been nurtured at the highest level of state,” Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, a lawyer for the High Court of South Africa, declared, while his colleague Adila Hassim said that “every day there is mounting, irreparable loss of life, property, dignity, and humanity for the Palestinian people.”

Israel will formally deliver its response to the charges on Friday. However, several Israeli politicians weighed in on Thursday with strong condemnation of the proceedings.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett described the ICJ case as “the Dreyfus Affair of the 21st century” — a reference to the late 19th century trial of French Army Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, a Jew, on false charges of espionage that triggered a wave of antisemitic violence across France. Separately, Economy Minister Nir Barkat asserted that “instead of starting proceedings against Hamas, the hypocritical court in The Hague charges Israel with false allegations, fabrications, and antisemitic blood libel plots.” Opposition leader Yair Lapid said in a post on social media that it was “not Israel that is on trial today, but the integrity of the international community.”

Said Lapid: “If a country that protects itself from a brutal murderous terrorist attack can find itself in court for genocide, then the genocide convention has become a reward for terrorism and antisemitism.”

Within South Africa, most opposition parties lined up behind the government in supporting the ICJ case.

“We welcome the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) hearing later this week for provisional measures relating to Israel’s obligations under the Genocide Convention,” Roger Jardine — the founder of Change Starts Now, a new party launched only last month — said in a statement.

The Democratic Alliance (DA), which has often been a thorn in the side of the ANC, offered only muted criticism, arguing that it was “a great pity that the South African government has consistently ignored gross human rights violations on our own doorstep,” Emma Powell, a spokesperson for the party, told local media outlets, before clarifying that “the DA will await the ICJ’s findings.”

More forthright opposition was expressed by the far right Patriotic Alliance, which dismissed the ICJ proceedings as “a joke.” However, party spokesperson Steve Motale later clarified that “we have never taken a side, except to push for a genuine two-state solution, which would bring the violence to an end. We have also been clear from the start that we condemn Hamas, who themselves preach and pursue policies and actions of clearly stated and performed genocide … We support a free Palestine too.”

Rev. Kenneth Meshoe — the leader of the pro-Israel African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) — bemoaned that “the South African government could have played a far more constructive role in influencing Hamas to release hostages after the deadly attack on Oct. 7, and even to surrender, to avoid the loss of civilian lives, and to seek to bring about a lasting peace in the Middle East.” He also expressed skepticism that South African government lawyers would succeed in proving that Israel has demonstrated “the necessary genocidal intent against the Palestinian people as required by the Genocide Convention.”

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Washington Says It Will Not Back Expanded IDF Operations in Rafah

Displaced Palestinians, who fled their homes due to the war provoked by Hamas’s terror attacks, shelter in a tent camp, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, December 29, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Shadi Tabatibi

i24 NewsMedics reported that Israeli airstrikes overnight in Gaza’s Rafah claimed the lives of 17 individuals on Saturday.

The attacks come as tensions escalate, with over a million Palestinians densely packed into the border city, awaiting a potential full-scale offensive amid widespread destruction across the enclave and limited avenues of escape.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced plans for military action, aiming to evacuate Rafah’s population and dismantle four Hamas battalions allegedly stationed in the area.

As IDF prepares for an intense ground operation in Rafah, its efforts to create safe corridors for Palestinian civilians are made more difficult by the fighting ongoing throughout Gaza. @mcauliffe_marym joins @Nicole_Zedek with the latest updates:

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) February 10, 2024

Unlike previous conflicts where civilians were urged to seek refuge in southern Gaza, the current situation presents a dilemma as there are no relatively unscathed areas left, leaving residents with nowhere to flee. Aid agencies have warned of the potential for a significant loss of civilian lives should an assault on Rafah occur.

Reports from Gaza City indicate intensified fighting on Saturday, with residents reporting clashes amid the ongoing hostilities.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity to Reuters, disclosed plans to coordinate the relocation of Rafah residents northward in anticipation of potential military action. However, Egypt has stated its refusal to permit mass displacement of Palestinians into its territory,.

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Numerous Weapons Discovered in UNRWA Premises in Gaza

View of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90.

i24 NewsThe IDF revealed that it had discovered, in the areas of Shati and Tel al-Hawa in northern Gaza, twenty terrorist infrastructure sites including a tunnel entrance near an UNRWA school. The tunnel, an “important part of Hamas’ military intelligence services,” passed under the building which serves as the main headquarters of UNRWA in the Gaza Strip.

Large quantities of weapons were found in rooms of the building, including rifles, ammunition, grenades and explosives. Intelligence and documents discovered in the offices of UNRWA officials confirmed that these offices had also been used by Hamas terrorists, the military claims.

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Qatar Says Hamas ‘Promises’ Hostages Received Medicines, But Offers no proof

One of the digital billboards of Hamas hostages that were taken down in London. Photo: Provided

i24 NewsIn a recent development, Qatar has informed both Israel and France that Hamas has purportedly agreed to ensure that hostages receive the essential medicines delivered to them in the Gaza Strip.

Last month, Qatar facilitated the transfer of these crucial drugs to Gaza following a comprehensive list compiled with input from the hostages’ respective doctors. The medications in question are deemed “vital,” primarily aimed at addressing chronic illnesses among the hostages.

This development comes amidst ongoing efforts to address the welfare and medical needs of the hostages held in Gaza, with international stakeholders closely monitoring the situation for further updates.

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