Friday’s ruling by the International Court of Justice on genocide charges against Israel has deep historical resonance for both Israelis and Palestinians but lacks immediate practical consequences.
The world court did not order a halt to the fighting in Gaza, nor did it attempt to rule on the merits of the case brought by South Africa, a process that would take months or even years to complete.
But the court did order Israel to comply with the Genocide Convention, provide more aid to Gaza, and inform the court of its efforts to do so — interim measures that were a rebuke to many Israelis and a rebuke to many Palestinians. It is a moral victory for people.
Alon Pinkas, an Israeli political commentator and former ambassador, said after the court ruling that for many Israelis it was “a huge problem” that a state founded after the Holocaust was accused of genocide. symbol of”. The Hague.
“We even mentioned the concept of genocide in the same sentence – not even atrocities, not disproportionate force, not war crimes, but genocide – which is extremely offensive,” he added.
For many Palestinians, the court’s intervention provided a brief sense of validation for their cause. Palestinians and their supporters say Israel is rarely held accountable for its actions and the ruling feels like a welcome exception in one of the deadliest wars of this century.
“The massacre continues, the carnage continues, the utter destruction continues,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a former Palestinian official. But she said the court’s ruling reflected “what’s going on with the way Israel is viewed and treated around the world.” a major change.” .
“For the first time, Israel is being held accountable, and by a near-unanimous Supreme Court ruling,” she added.
For Gazans, intervention will not bring immediate relief.
Israeli operations in Gaza have killed more than 25,000 Gazans, according to Gaza officials, and according to the United Nations, most buildings in the area have been damaged. More than four-fifths of the local population has been displaced, the health system has collapsed, and the United Nations has repeatedly warned of looming famine.
In ordering compliance with the Genocide Convention, the court urged Israel to comply with a 1948 international law that prohibits signatories from killing members of an ethnic, national or religious group with the purpose of annihilating, or even partially annihilating, a specific group. member.
To many Israelis, the decision appears to be the latest example of bias against Israel in international forums. They say the world holds Israel to a higher standard than most other countries. For mainstream Israel, the war is one of necessity and survival—According to Israeli estimates, Hamas’s attack on October 7 killed about 1,200 people and resulted in the abduction of another 240 people to Gaza.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant called the court’s ruling anti-Semitic in a preamble to the ruling that cited his inflammatory rhetoric about the war.
“The State of Israel does not need to use moral education to distinguish between terrorists and civilians in Gaza,” Mr. Galante said.
“Those who seek justice will not find it in the leather chairs of The Hague tribunal,” he added.
Janina Dill, an expert on international law at the University of Oxford, said the court’s directive could provide motivation and political cover for Israeli officials who have been pushing internally to de-escalate military operations in Gaza and ease the humanitarian catastrophe in the region.
“Any dissenting voice within the Israeli government and the Israeli military that disagrees with the way the war has been conducted so far now has a really strong strategic argument for a change of course,” Professor Dill said.
For Professor Diehl, the case also prompted reflection “on the human condition”, given that Israel was founded in part to prevent genocide against the Jewish people.
She added: “Preventing humans from turning against each other is an ongoing struggle that no one group in the world has the power to do.”
The topic seemed to concern the only Israeli judge, Alan Barrackone of 17 bodies assessed by the World Court of Justice.
Mr. Barak, 87, survived the Holocaust as a child by hiding in a sack from a Jewish ghetto in Lithuania.
“Genocide is a shadow of Jewish history that is intertwined with my personal experience,” Mr. Barak said wrote“The idea that Israel is now being accused of committing genocide is very difficult for me personally because, as a genocide survivor, I am deeply aware of Israel’s commitment to the rule of law as a Jewish democratic state.”
Against this complicated backdrop, Barak chose to vote against several measures passed by the court. But he joined colleagues in calling on Israel to allow more aid into Gaza and punish those who incited genocide – surprising observers who had expected him. Stand with Israel on every point.
While many Israelis expressed disappointment at the ruling, some were relieved that the court did not order Israel to halt its military operations.
Mr Barak said such an approach would leave Israel “defenseless in the face of brutal attacks and unable to fulfill its most basic responsibilities to its citizens”.
“This would be tantamount to tying Israel’s hands, depriving it of its ability to fight, and is not even consistent with international law,” he wrote.
But for some Palestinians, especially in Gaza, it also amounts to a betrayal. Many had hoped the court would call on Israel to cease the war entirely – a move that would be nearly impossible to enforce but would amount to a victory for the Palestinians. The battle of public opinion.
“It talks like genocide and walks like genocide,” said Muhammad Shehada, a human rights activist from Gaza. wrote on social media. “But there’s no need to stop the genocidal war! Is everything okay?”
Six hours after the court ruling, Gaza’s health ministry released the latest casualty figures from the war. Late on Friday, the ministry said a further 200 Gazans had been killed in the past 24 hours.
Rawan Sheikh Ahmed Reporting from Haifa, Israel Jonathan Rice From Tel Aviv.