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Updated Jan 26, 2024, 4:49pm EST
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UN’s top court says Israel must take all measures to prevent genocide in Gaza

Insights from the Financial Times, the Guardian, and CNN

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The News

The International Court of Justice on Friday said Israel must take all measures to prevent genocide in Gaza in a preliminary ruling in response to a landmark case brought by South Africa.

It stopped short of issuing emergency measures for Israel to halt its military activities in the enclave, as requested by Pretoria, which accuses Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in its war against Hamas.

Friday’s interim decision, the first in the case, also doesn’t rule on the question of whether Israel is committing genocide in the enclave, a verdict that will likely take years to reach.

The ruling is not enforceable by the court. And Israel, which has strongly rejected South Africa’s allegations, is believed unlikely to comply with any orders.

Hamas-run Gaza’s health ministry says at least 26,000 people have been killed by Israel’s strikes in response to the Oct. 7 attack on Israel left around 1,100 people dead.

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SIGNALS

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Human rights advocates warn the US and UK to ignore court ruling at their own peril

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Sources:  
The Elders, The Guardian

The U.S. response to the ICJ’s ruling reiterated that genocide allegations against Israel are “unfounded,” but human rights advocates immediately called on the U.S. and Israel’s Western allies to “respect the Court’s ruling.” By dismissing the case, the U.S., UK and other Western powers are undermining their claims to be the custodians of “moral authority” in the world, wrote commentator Nesrine Malik. The U.S. and UK “can’t afford to” to ignore the ICJ’s ruling, argued Steve Crawshaw, the UK’s former Human Rights Watch, because Western powers’ “pick-and-choose approach to justice” when it comes to other global conflicts like Ukraine, will be exposed as hypocrisy to millions of people. “If The Hague court’s judgment helps kick western governments into an understanding of the need for a more balanced approach, that will be valuable,” Crawshaw wrote.

The ruling is a win for Palestinians and its allies in the Global South

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Source:  
Financial Times

For Palestinians and their supporters, the ruling is likely to inspire greater confidence in the international courts. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and members of South Africa’s ruling party erupted in cheers after Friday’s order, AFP reported. The case is viewed as “a test of the credibility of an international system [Palestinians and their allies] have long regarded as stacked against them,” the Financial Times wrote ahead of the decision. Palestinians will also likely see the ruling as a first step to holding Israel accountable. “This is the first serious international effort at ending this appalling situation and demanding accountability after 75 years of being denied our basic rights, equal to all other peoples,” the Palestinian envoy to the U.K. told the newspaper, describing the case as a “defining moment.”

The ICJ case exposes a global divide and threatens the West’s status quo

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Sources:  
The Washington Post, CNN

Western commentators have criticized South Africa’s hypocrisy in not calling out Russia’s “genocidal campaigns in Ukraine,” the Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor wrote. But that comparison frustrates many in the Global South who ”see a pronounced gap between America and European outrage over Russian war crimes and their complicity in the destruction of Gaza,” he argued. While Israel’s Western allies have remained firm in their support for the country, several non-Western countries like Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico support international legal action against Israel for its military campaign in Gaza. The show of unity and force from the so-called Global South countries is evidence that “the old Western-dominated order is increasingly being challenged, a situation likely to only further intensify as the West loses its once unassailably dominant economic position,” a political lecturer told CNN.

Supporting the genocide charge could allow Hamas to continue its terrorism

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Source:  
The Hill

Critics of the case earlier said that endorsing the genocide charge would allow Hamas to continue its assault on Israelis while limiting Israel’s ability to defend itself. Hamas’ founding charter explicitly outlines the group’s “genocidal intent vis-a-vis Israel and Jews,” argued Ken Jacobson, the deputy national director of the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group, in a column for The Hill, adding that Israel has made “multiple efforts to avoid civilian casualties” while Hamas has limited the movement of Palestinians and placed them in areas where Israel would attack, accusing the group of using them as human shields.

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