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Here’s Exactly What the International Court of Justice Held About Israel

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

Last week, the International Court of Justice (IJC) issued its decision on South Africa’s request for the indication of provisional measures — in effect, an injunction — against Israel in regard to alleged violations of the Genocide Convention in the context of the Israel’s use of force in response to the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas-led attacks in Israel.

The Court found that it had jurisdiction because South Africa and Israel are parties to the Genocide Convention, but both disagree on the interpretation and application of that Convention in the Gaza context. The Convention provides for ICJ jurisdiction in such circumstances.

The Court reminded the parties that, at this stage of proceedings, its decision is preliminary and without prejudice to final decisions about jurisdiction, facts, and merits. The Court concluded that it had a basis for indicating provisional measures based on the plausibility of South Africa’s claim that Palestinian rights under the Convention might be at risk in Gaza, and that therefore, protective measures were in order. In this connection, the Court found that the Palestinian people were a distinct group within the meaning of the Genocide Convention and thus entitled to protection against genocide. At the same time, the Court noted that it was not obliged to indicate the provisional measures that South Africa had requested.

By majorities from 15-2 to 16-1, the Court then required Israel to take all steps within its power to prevent acts of genocide within the meaning of the Genocide Convention — “killing members of the group [Palestinians], causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; and imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.” Israel is to prevent and punish “direct and public incitement to commit genocide in relation to members of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip.” Israel is to ensure that its armed forces do not commit genocide. Israel is to ensure to the extent it can the provision of humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza. Israel is to protect evidence of genocide. And Israel is to report within one month from today on its compliance with the Court’s order.

The Court did not explicitly say that its requirements were subject to intent. But the Genocide Convention requires “intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.” Therefore, one may safely conclude that, so long as Israel does not intend to commit acts that violate the Genocide Convention, conducting military operations in accordance with the laws of war in Gaza or elsewhere is permitted. Unintended civilian deaths that occur in the course of military operations do not constitute either war crimes per se or acts of genocide.

The Court emphasized that its conclusions were based on resolutions, reports, and statements by UN bodies and UN and other officials in the public record. The Court did not take such reports or words as definitive. It emphasized that none of the facts alleged could be independently verified at this time. This statement by the Court applied even to UN estimates of the size of Gaza’s population.

ICJ judges are elected by, and responsive to, the UN General Assembly and Security Council. The ICJ thus is a political body. Its judgments, especially in cases such as the one brought by South Africa, must be understood against this background. As is well known to those who have served in foreign ministries, some judges consult with, and take direction from, their governments prior to issuing decisions.

What did the Court actually do? At bottom, it reminded the parties and the world that “thou shall not commit genocide” and, to the extent of one’s capability, shall protect people at risk of genocide. It reminded all fighters that they are obligated to conform to the laws of war — “international humanitarian law” — something we know that Hamas and its associates do not do. As a matter of international law and Israeli domestic law, including decisions of Israel’s Supreme Court, Israel must comply with IHL and, in the words of Israel’s President quoted by the Court, does so. And the Court called for the unconditional release of the hostages seized by Hamas on Oct. 7, 2023.

The Court thus did not indicate the provisional measures requested by South Africa. These included finding that Israel had breached the Convention and owed the Palestinian people reparations for such breach.

The Court did not find that Israel had violated or was violating the Genocide Convention. Thus, Israel should have no difficulty complying with last week’s order by the ICJ.

Nicholas Rostow is Senior Partner at Zumpano, Patricios & Popok PLLC and Senior Research Scholar at Yale Law School. This article first appeared in Just Security.

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UBC student union has voted against posing a referendum question about whether Hillel House should be evicted from campus

The student union at the University of British Columbia rejected a referendum question on its upcoming election ballot that would have, among other things, called for the eviction of Hillel BC from its Vancouver campus. The Feb. 28 meeting of the Alma Mater Society (AMS/Student Union) lasted several hours and ultimately ended with a 23-to-2 […]

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‘Antisemitism Has No Place in Society,’ Says Prince William, Heir to British Throne

William, Prince of Wales, meeting with Jewish community representatives at London’s Western Marble Arch Synagogue. Photo: Reuters/Toby Melville

The heir to the throne of the United Kingdom spoke of his concern at the rise in antisemitism since the Hamas pogrom of Oct. 7 in southern Israel during a visit to a synagogue in London on Wednesday.

William, Prince of Wales, told Jewish students and representatives of the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) that he and his wife, Princess Catherine, were “extremely concerned about the rise in antisemitism.”

Wearing a navy blue kippa for the encounter at the Western Marble Arch Synagogue, the future king “heard how organizations like the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) are delivering programs to tackle hatred and encourage cross-community cohesion,” the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported.

In a conversation with three Jewish students and three HET ambassadors, the prince condemned the antisemitism that the students described experiencing on campus. “Prejudice has no place in society,” he said.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — I want you all to know you can talk about it and your experiences,” he continued.“Both Catherine and I are extremely concerned about the rise in antisemitism that you guys have talked about this morning and I’m just so sorry if any of you have had to experience that. It has no place… that’s why I’m here today to reassure you all that people do care and people do listen and we can’t let that go.”

The UK experienced a record year in 2023 for antisemitic outrages, with over 4,100 incidents recorded mainly in the period after the Hamas pogrom, according to a recent report from the Community Security Trust (CST), a voluntary organization serving the Jewish community. Speaking at the CST’s annual dinner on Wednesday night, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemned the upsurge, pledging an extra $68 million in funding to combat the continuing spread of antisemitism.

Edward Isaacs, president of the Union of Jewish Students, told Prince William that antisemitism had transformed the experiences of Jews studying at Britain’s universities. “If you haven’t been a victim, you know someone who has been,” Isaacs said. “It has created a fear like never before.”

The prince also met with Renee Salt, a 94-year-old survivor of the Holocaust, in the synagogue’s main sanctuary. An inmate of both the Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps, Salt told William of her fear that “some of the young people don’t even believe it [the Holocaust] ever happened. It is very bad.”

Clasping her hand, the prince responded, “It will get better.”

Emma Levy, a Jewish student who attended the meeting, praised the prince for his stance. “You could really tell that he cared when he was speaking to us,” she said. “The prince’s unequivocal condemnation of antisemitism is what we need more people to do.”

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IDF Opens New Mental Health Center for Soldiers Leaving Gaza

The Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The IDF opened a new mental health center on Thursday which is aimed towards treating soldiers leaving Gaza. The center is opening due to the growing risks the IDF said it sees in the soldiers potentially falling victim to PTSD from their experiences in battle.

“The Iron Swords War presented significant challenges to the mental health system in the IDF both in terms of quality and scope. The establishment of the Center for Mental Health Services expresses more than anything the commitment of the IDF to take care of its servicemen as well as to provide answers to the challenges we are already facing as well as emerging challenges. As part of the establishment of the center, new answers are being discovered and established that are adapted to the special needs of the various populations serving in the IDF,” said Col. Dr. Jacob Rothschild, who heard the new center.

The army has said that since the war’s outbreak, more than 30,000 soldiers have met with mental health representatives. According to them, roughly 85% of soldiers that met with the professionals returned to full service. Unfortunately, 202 fighters were forced to be released from duty, in almost every case due to horrid scenes they witnessed in the aftermath of the October 7 massacre. This includes an additional 1,700 that were referred for additional scanning and treatment.

On the day of the massacre, Hamas terrorists rampaged southern Israel, brutally killing more than 1,200 Israelis and taking hostage over 250. First responder reports depicted scenes such as decapitations and mutilations of bodies by the terrorists.

The new center, situated at the Tel HaShomer base, is staffed by some of the top psychologists in the country, the IDF said, and will include a immediate combat reaction wing and post-trauma department. It replaces the temporary facility that was set up in a WeWork office in Tel Aviv.

While 30,000 soldiers have met with mental health professionals since the war began, the IDF says they were “pleasantly surprised” that an overwhelming majority of soldiers ended up returned to service.

Lt. Col. Prof. Elon Glazberg, the Chief Medical Officer of the IDF Medical Corps, said in a statement about the opening “From the first moment of the war, mental health was present in the torture from the field to the home front. In light of the great importance of the issue, we chose it as one of the main axes of focus these days – and we are now working to expand it.”

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