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If everything is genocide, nothing is genocide



The International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (IJL) has accused South Africa of a blatant attempt to subvert international law with its baseless accusation of genocide levelled at Israel.

The IJL is referring to South Africa’s application on 29 December 2023 to the International Court of Justice to institute proceedings, including an urgent provisional measures procedure, alleging that Israel violated its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention) in its conduct towards Palestinians in Gaza.

In a statement put out this week, the IJL explained that the driving force behind the Genocide Convention was a Polish Jew, Raphael Lemkin, whose work to codify the crime of genocide was motivated by his personal experience of an actual genocide – the efforts of the Nazis and their collaborators to exterminate the Jewish people. “The term he then coined – ‘genocide’, was intended to portray the most heinous of atrocities against humanity, the intentional attempt to annihilate a people,” it said.

The attempt to harness the Genocide Convention to target the very people whose murder led to the convention reflects a growing phenomenon of undermining the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own through accusations comparing Israel with the Nazi regime, the IJL said. “In practice, it’s intended to deny Israel the right to defend itself against those seeking its destruction.

“One would expect that the complete and utter falsity of the genocide accusation and the abuse of international law which it entails would be obvious to all. It’s therefore with a sense of deep disappointment that we feel obliged, as the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, founded about 55 years ago by, among others, French Nobel Prize laureate René Cassin, an initiator and co-drafter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to respond publicly to a libel so patently untrue that a response should be unnecessary.

“We will do so by stating the obvious: there is no genocide or attempted genocide in Gaza,” the IJL said.

Israel is engaged in a military campaign against Hamas, an internationally designated terrorist organisation, which launched a widespread attack inside Israel on 7 October 2023, taking control of more than 20 towns and villages while murdering and wounding thousands. Hamas has, for decades, pursued a relentless campaign of terrorism against Israeli civilians aimed at achieving its declared aim of the destruction of the state of Israel, according to the IJL.

However, what took place on 7 October was of unprecedented magnitude and cruelty, a rampage of murder, torture, rape, mutilation, and other atrocities, intentionally targeting civilians – babies, children, older persons, women, and men – just for being Jewish, it said. In parallel, more than 3 800 rockets were launched that day alone at Israeli civilian population centres. Two hundred and fifty three people were taken hostage, ranging in age from nine months to more than 80. To date, 132 hostages kidnapped from Israel more than 90 days ago, in addition to four held prior to 7 October, are still being held in Gaza, their whereabouts and fate unknown. There is a well- grounded fear for their health and well-being, with no access being granted to the International Red Cross.

The indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israel continue – more than 13 400 since 7 October.

“The Hamas attacks are linked to a wider campaign orchestrated by an Iran-led axis which includes terror organisations such as Hezbollah and the Houthis, attacking Israel on all fronts, with the openly-stated common purpose of annihilating the Jewish state,” the IJL said.

“Another component of this campaign is the instigation of widespread protests around the world calling for Israel’s demise, coupled with a wave of rampant antisemitism, including violence and threats of violence against Jews. These have clearly exposed the link between the denial of Israel’s right to exist and the denial of the Jewish people’s right to exist. This is the rhetoric of genocide.

“The deeds of Hamas, accompanied by its clear statements of intent to bring about the destruction of Israel while calling for the murder of Jews, fulfils the definition of genocide.

“It’s sad and deeply troubling that South Africa has decided to ignore the perpetrators of genocide, and chooses instead to blame the victim,” the IJL said.

“The vicious attacks by Hamas and its allies have compelled Israel to defend itself by removing the threat of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, where it has exploited its control over the area, transforming it into a giant fortified military compound, configurated with one primary goal: to attack Israel and bring about its destruction.

“The tragic high Palestinian civilian casualty toll and level of destruction are an unfortunate but inevitable consequence of Hamas’ modus operandi of enmeshing its military-terror apparatus within the civilian environment. This includes its launching and conduct of military-terror activities from within, around, and under residential buildings, schools, mosques, and even hospitals and United Nations facilities. Hamas and its leaders have clearly proven that the destruction of Israel is their only motivation, and that they view their and the Palestinian civilians’ lives as a price worth paying to achieve this goal.

“Contrary to the picture portrayed by South Africa in its application, the IJL notes that the Israeli government and the official spokespersons of the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] have declared, time and time again that the military effort is directed against Hamas and not against the people of Gaza.”

This is clearly reflected in the actual conduct of the IDF on the ground by inter alia: giving advance warnings to civilians of impending airstrikes and other military operations; urging the evacuation of civilians from pending combat zones; designation of a humanitarian zone within Gaza; and working with the international community to facilitate the entry of large quantities of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, according to the IJL.

“It requires an extraordinary contortion of fact and logic to read into these actions proof of genocidal intent on Israel’s part.

“South Africa further purports to prove genocidal intent by presenting heated quotes from various Israeli politicians and other figures, made soon after the massacre of 7 October, none of which constitute official Israeli government statements or policy nor reflect the policies and practices of the IDF. This displays, at best, a wilful ignorance, or at worst, an intentionally selective misrepresentation of Israeli policy.”

Notwithstanding the bitter and protracted dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel has never displayed any hint of intention to harm the Palestinian people per se, the IJL insists. “To impute such an intention to Israel today can only be understood as an attempt to focus the international discourse on Israel and away from Hamas’ egregious and heinous crimes,” it said.

“More broadly, by labelling Israel’s defensive war against Hamas an act of genocide, South Africa is effectively stripping the term of its meaning. If this is genocide, then many instances of the use of force in response to an armed attack could easily meet that definition.

“In light of the above, the IJL calls on governments, international institutions, and the international legal community, to denounce and reject the cynical and dangerous misuse of the Genocide Convention.”

  • The International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (IJL), founded in 1969, comprises lawyers, judges, judicial officers, and academic jurists from around the world. The IJL strives to advance human rights for all, including by combatting antisemitism, racism, xenophobia, Holocaust denial, and the delegitimisation of the state of Israel.
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  1. Pam

    January 11, 2024 at 11:46 am

    ““It’s sad and deeply troubling that South Africa has decided to ignore the perpetrators of genocide, and chooses instead to blame the victim,” the IJL said.”

    I think “sad” and “deeply troubling” is an understatement.

    It is OUTRAGEOUS when the victim is blamed, kind of like gaslighting? It is OUTRAGEOUS when people spread vitriol and lies and take things out of context to suit their own spiteful, nasty and viscous agendas, OUTRAGEOUS and DESPICABLE.

    They poked the bear and were outraged when the bear acted like a bear.


  2. Jim

    January 11, 2024 at 4:56 pm

    Genocide is intentional action to destroy a people (usually defined as an ethnic, national or religious group.
    It has been applied to the Holocaust, the murder of the Armenians by the Turks, the Bangladesh and Cambodian genocides and the Rwandan genocide.
    Since 1970 the “Palestinian “population has grown 400%
    Life expectancy has gone from 45 to 75
    Palestinians are now classed as among the most obese groups in the ME
    More people, living longer and getting fatter is not genocide.
    In all the various attacks on Israel about 40,000 Palestinian Arabs have died.
    Half of whom were armed militants.
    When you accuse Israel of genocide there are two possible conclusions:
    You don’t know what the word means.
    You do know what it means and are indulging in a modern version of the Blood Libel.
    Dealing with the anti Israel crowd reminds me of Pavlov and his dogs.
    Pavlov trained the dogs the associate the sound of a bell with food- ring the bell and the dogs would start to drool- a conditioned response.
    So with the modern day anti Semites who hide behind the veneer of anti Zionism.
    Provide the right stimulus- mention Israel – and they will start to drool and begin barking – apartheid/genocide/racist/war crimes/illegal/nazi
    No actual thought is involved- most are incapable of anything approaching rational thought anyway- in fact most don’t even k now what the words they are using mean.
    All they know is that represent “evil” and thus must apply to Israel .

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