Who’s Afraid of the International Court of Justice? Not Israel

South Africa takes Israel to court on ‘genocide’ allegations.

Written by Jack Elbaum

What’s happening: Hearings recently began at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) regarding South Africa’s allegation that Israel is committing the crime of genocide in its military response to Hamas’ October 7 terrorist attack in which more than 1,200 people were killed and 240 were taken hostage.

  • Context: No country has ever been found guilty of genocide by the ICJ.

Why it matters: Even though the ICJ’s rulings are binding, meaning it could impose an end to the fighting in the near future, it does not have the power to enforce the ruling if either of the parties does not abide by it.

The allegations: South Africa points to the widespread destruction and high death count in Gaza as evidence of genocide. It also claims harsh statements by Israeli officials in the aftermath of the October 7 attack show intent to commit genocide — most famously Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant referring to their enemy as “human animals.”

  • However: Israel has made a conscious decision to put its own troops in harm's way by engaging in ground operations — 185 IDF soldiers have been killed so far — for the sake of minimizing Gazan civilian casualties.

History: The number of people killed in this war is much fewer than numerous other wars since the end of World War II.

  • And: Since 1967, Gaza’s population has grown from 394,000 to 2.2 million.

Dive Deeper: For more context, see our coverage on accusations of genocide against Israel here.

Join the conversation

or to participate.