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Israel on trial

Rejecting claim of genocide, Israel says Hamas guilty of ‘genocidal intent’

Israel says South African law suit endangers future genocide investigations

Israeli supporters hold photos of kidnapped victims held by Hamas, during the International Court of Justice (ICJ) hearing. (Photo by Charles M Vella / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

Israeli lawyer Tal Becker led Israel’s defense at the International Court of Justice in The Hague in response to the allegations leveled by South Africa that Israel is operating in Gaza with “genocidal intent” in its war against the Hamas terror organization.

Becker said Israel is “singularly aware of why the Genocide Convention was adopted,” saying that reason is “seared in our collective memory.” 

He mentioned Polish Holocaust survivor, Raphael Lemkin, who is credited with inventing the word genocide. 

Becker said that Hamas, not Israel, started the war. He accused South Africa of neglecting Hamas’ role in starting the war, and said the South African government's accusation was “barely distinguishable from Hamas’ own rejectionist rhetoric.” 

The Israeli lawyer stated South Africa’s charges against Israel “weaponize the term genocide against Israel” and tell “a grossly distorted story.” 

He referred to several statements by Hamas leaders and its own charter, which he said contained an “agenda of annihilation.” 

“If there have been acts that may be characterized as genocidal, then they have been perpetrated against Israel,” Becker stated. “If there is a concern about the obligations of states under the Genocide Convention, then it is in relation to their responsibilities to act against Hamas’ proudly declared intention of annihilation.” 

Becker referred to a video, shown to the court, of senior Hamas member Ghazi Hamad, in an interview with Lebanese TV on Oct. 24, 2023, in which Hamad claimed that the events of Oct. 7 were only the beginning.

“Al Aqsa Flood is just the first time,” Hamad said, “there will be a second, a third, and a fourth.” 

Becker invoked the Holocaust, which gave birth to the Genocide Convention in 1948, by referring to the events of Oct. 7 as “the largest calculated mass murder of Jews in a single day since the Holocaust.” 

Israel’s lead counsel, Malcolm Shaw, took the stand shortly after Becker, and echoed several of his statements, including at one point saying: "If there is any genocidal intent, it is the events of October 7.”  

Shaw argued that South Africa’s petition for “provisional measures” was flawed because they targeted only one side in the conflict and, if granted, would remove Israel’s right to self-defense while imposing no restrictions on Hamas to continue its aggression. 

Shaw also questioned South Africa’s standing in bringing a dispute according to the terms of the Genocide Convention calling it a “unispute.”

Another British lawyer, Christopher Staker, took the stand to argue that South Africa’s request for provisional measures would not only not prevent genocide but would prevent Israel from defending itself. He also highlighted how the request was astonishing in that it calls for a “unilateral stop from one party to the conflict, leaving the other free to continue.” 

Taking such a stance would endanger the right of other states to defend themselves, Staker argued. 

Israel’s legal team asked the court to dismiss both the request for provisional measures and the lawsuit alleging “genocidal intent.” 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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