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South Africa’s international law inversion



The South African government’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has served us with a total inversion of international law. Though it’s clear that Israel is aware of modern military law manuals and tactics, such knowledge was painfully nowhere to be seen in the factually incomplete and legally incorrect ICJ application document.

Prior to the judgement, I published three articles to debunk dumb bombs, hospital attacks, and starvation, which were listed as compelling circumstances for provisional measures in the genocide application.

I argued that according to the modern-day restatement of the laws of war in an air and missile context – drafted way back in 2009 – much like ballistic missiles, unguided bombs can be used.

Hospitals may also lose their protection in certain circumstances when linked to military purposes. They are no longer protected when used to conceal military items, used to shield combatants, or to commit harmful acts outside their humanitarian function. Civilians, of course, ought to be evacuated by the party subject to attack.

I further argued that the laws of war prevent bounties on live Israeli hostages and dead Israeli soldiers. Such unlawful practices unveil Gaza’s violence economy, in which acts of terror are seemingly rewarded with $10 000 (R189 868) payouts and apartments. It’s no wonder that by October 2023 80% of Gazans live in poverty.

The military law principle of proportionality requires that the expected incidental harm isn’t excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage. This means that collateral deaths of some civilians isn’t only legally allowed, it’s expected and simply not a war crime. It’s against this well-established principle of law that the local media begins to run wild with anti-Israel genocide allegations.

Furthermore, radical jihad calls for residents to stay and fight, whereas the international law principle of precaution calls for civilians to be given advanced warnings to evacuate a conflict area. When civilian casualties accumulate, it’s Hamas’s unlawful building of military tunnel infrastructure underneath civilian areas and telling civilians to stay home which needs to be investigated. These deaths simply cannot be smeared upon the necessary operational activities of the Israel Defense Forces.

The root of all chaos is a staggeringly unlawful combination of rogue military tactics in Gaza.

Human shields and indiscriminate killing strategies are maximised to wicked extremes when hostages are taken unlawfully. It’s glaringly obvious that Gaza is a radicalised society under Islamic law hiding under the cover of international-law arguments.

The desire for a martyr’s death in battle seemingly permeates through all sectors of Gaza’s society including childhood education. It’s an inversion of morality when the application spearhead by Dr Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s former education minister, adamantly supports a society where children are seemingly indoctrinated into terror tactics and Jew hatred as part of their localised developmental curriculum.

This is supposed to be democratic South Africa, a society in which academic exploration is encouraged and hate speech is disallowed. An array of local Islamic media stations have turned the word “Zionist” into some sort of inverted swear word, when it’s fundamentally a 20th century social, religious, and political miracle. The Jewish people have an unbroken national, cultural, religious, and linguistic heritage spanning thousands of years, unbroken by the Holocaust and jihad.

How much more twisted can it get when a local body of Muslim professionals in the accounting, education, engineering, law, and medical fields are openly publishing about religious jihad in their membership bulletins?

I’ve written a letter to Clayson Monyela, the spokesperson for the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) and to President Cyril Ramaphosa to expose this and express my moral and professional disagreement.

I don’t expect a reply. Our government’s bias against Israel isn’t new. In 2018, it labelled unlawful improvised weapon attacks at Israel’s security fence as “peaceful protests”.

It’s therefore no surprise that our government wouldn’t support the victims of 7 October, including severely disabled survivors who had limbs blown off by hand grenades at a music festival!

The reputational war waged against Israel in the ICJ after the Nazi Holocaust cannot be undone. We cannot go back in time and press “CTRL+Z” on a keyboard. The acclaim afforded to South Africa for “standing up to the West” needs to be discredited. The direct opposite is true, because the Nobel Prize hall once honoured me, a South African Jew.

  • Joel Block is an international law researcher originating from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He’s an expert in international law as it pertains to missile defence systems like Israel’s Iron Dome.

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  1. Noga Patz

    Feb 8, 2024 at 12:07 pm

    It is precisely for all the above reasons that the team representing Israel at the ICJ hearing argued that Israel should not be judged under the Genocide convention, but rather be scrutinised in the modern context of the Rules of War (which, by and large, it is trying to adhere to). This valid argument as well as their persuasive contention regarding the lack of jurisdiction of the Court (in the absence of a real dispute between the parties) were completely dismissed by the esteemed body. Perhaps the word “Justice” should be dropped from its title…

  2. Benjy Joselowitz

    Mar 14, 2024 at 1:39 pm

    So, he gets a pat on the back and a punch in the belly.

    My take on this is that the whole world (including Israel) has gone mishuga (Thats Yiddish for Crazy)

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