J Street Rejects Allegation at International Court of Justice of Genocide In War Against Hamas in Gaza

January 16, 2024

With arguments concluded at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), J Street rejects the allegation of genocide against the State of Israel as argued by the Republic of South Africa in relation to Israel’s military actions in the Gaza Strip.

Following the horrific October 7 attack, Israel had the right and responsibility to respond militarily to protect its citizens, free those taken hostage, and ensure Hamas could not again pose a threat. Yet, even as we recognize Israel’s right to defend itself and its citizens, the Israeli government must meet its obligations under international law to ensure the safety of Palestinian civilians and the provision of and access to sufficient humanitarian aid. These are not just legal obligations – they are moral ones and are in Israel’s own strategic interest.

Given the stringent standard for holding a country responsible for genocide, we do not expect such a finding of genocide against Israel in this case. Yet, we do believe the Israeli government is obligated to ensure its military actions are proportionate, that Gaza’s civilians are not being inappropriately targeted and that they have access to basic humanitarian necessities from food to water, medicine and fuel.

Over these past months, we have strongly criticized specific actions that the Israeli government has taken including indiscriminate aerial bombing and continued obstruction of humanitarian assistance. We have urged a dramatic change in the war’s course to be more strategic, precise and targeted, and we continue to support further breaks in the fighting to enable hostage releases and improved flow of aid. We also have unequivocally denounced calls by some far-right Israeli officials for mass destruction of Gaza, transfer of Palestinian civilians, and re-establishment of Israeli settlements.

The Genocide Convention is an important component of the rules-based international order which arose in the aftermath of World War II, all the more important to the Jewish people because it emerges out of our own terrible historic suffering. International rules and structures, underpinned by institutions and frameworks like the ICJ and the Geneva Conventions, have led to an era of relative peace and prosperity and have provided a means of peaceful dispute resolution between states since 1946. We reject arguments that call into question the legitimacy of the Court, the Genocide Convention or South Africa’s right to bring this case. We continue to support efforts by the international community and international courts to appropriately investigate, prosecute and sanction Hamas for its clear violations of international law.

We also clearly reject the claim that the Israeli government is intentionally seeking the destruction of another people, and expect the ICJ to do the same. While a deliberately high bar was rightly set by the international community in defining the singular crime of genocide, there are many critical obligations of combatants under international law that the Court has jurisdiction to review, and which the US, our partners and multilateral institutions must take concrete action to uphold. We therefore expect that, should the Court order provisional measures to enforce those obligations in the coming weeks to protect the civilian population of Gaza, both Israel and the United States would respect those rulings.