Unpacking International Support for South Africa in the Genocide Accusation

South Africa says more than 50 countries have expressed their support for its case at the UN's top court accusing Israel of genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza war

by Sededin Dedovic
Unpacking International Support for South Africa in the Genocide Accusation
© Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

At the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, South Africa accused Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians during the Gaza war. The contentious case caused a global divide, with over 50 countries expressing support for South Africa, primarily from the Arab world and Africa.

However, Western countries, including the United States, Great Britain and Germany, strongly rejected the accusations, pointing to deep-seated divisions over the 75-year-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No conflict in recent times has divided the world more than this one in the Gaza Strip.

A really complex situation, and a large number of countries looked at their own interests, regardless of the subject of South Africa's lawsuit against Israel. The ICJ hearings held on Thursday and Friday marked a critical point in the ongoing conflict, reaching the hundredth day since the start of what has been described as one of the region's most significant wars.

The importance of ending the conflict was emphasized, and the very end of the war will surely mark a new era in the Middle East and in the world. Most of the countries supporting South Africa's accusations against Israel are from the Arab world and Africa, with Turkey the only European nation to publicly express support.

Significantly, no Western country supported South Africa's claims. It is evident that there are two blocs in today's world, but there should be no division on such issues.

Palestinians displaces during bombing© Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images

Global reactions

The United States, a staunch ally of Israel, rejected the accusations as baseless, while Great Britain considered them unfair and Germany rejected them outright.

China and Russia, two influential players on the international scene, have remained relatively silent on the issue, and the European Union has refrained from commenting. Certainly not South Africa either, but no one expected this kind of response from the biggest players, primarily Russia, which supported Hamas at the beginning of this brutal war with large civilian casualties.

Israel strongly rejects accusations of genocide, arguing that its military actions are a defensive mechanism aimed at protecting its people. The Israeli government claims the offensive is targeting leaders of Hamas, the extremist organization that runs Gaza.

Israel claims that the conflict was triggered by a surprise attack launched by Hamas on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and the capture of around 250 hostages. It is interesting that Israel justifies almost 10,000 murdered children by protecting its own people.

Although Hamas shares responsibility for the start of the war and for the entire situation in the region, this attitude of Israel and the leading countries seems incredible.

Humanitarian crisis

In response to the Israeli offensive in Gaza, over 23,000 Palestinians lost their lives.

Worryingly, more than two-thirds of the victims were women and children. Large parts of northern Gaza now lie in ruins, with entire neighborhoods destroyed by airstrikes and tank fire, rendering them uninhabitable. The children were massacred, left without body parts and parents, and now they have to face the winter and the lack of food and water.

But even though Hamas is an extreme and terrorist organization, we cannot blame them alone for these terrible and unimaginable facts.

Palestinian children in refugee camp© Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images

South Africa's case received support from various international blocs, notably the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which accused Israeli forces of committing mass genocide and targeting Gaza's civilian population indiscriminately.

The Arab League, which consists of 22 member countries, also supported South Africa's case. This was of course expected, while the support of the strongest countries was absent. Beyond the Arab world, Namibia and Pakistan joined South Africa, as did Malaysia.

The 22-member Arab League, which overlaps almost entirely with the OIC, similarly endorsed South Africa's position. However, major countries such as India, Russia and China chose to remain silent, possibly to avoid jeopardizing their regional relations with a final position on the sensitive issue.

Positions of global leaders

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while remaining silent on the issue, expressed solidarity with Israel, condemning the Hamas attack as an act of terrorism. In contrast, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva supported South Africa's case but refrained from directly accusing Israel of genocide, instead calling for a ceasefire.

He stated that Israel committed terrible crimes against civilians, but did not want to confirm the term genocide. Despite global scrutiny and legal action, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remained steadfast, declaring that even the world court could not stop Israel's war against Hamas.

He said that Israel is determined to completely destroy Hamas and then give the Palestinian Authority control over the Gaza Strip. He repeated that this is a war and that in war there are civilian casualties and people must accept that reality.

This statement seems frightening considering the level of disaster experienced by Palestinian civilians. The case at the ICJ highlights the deep-seated divisions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with sharply contrasting international opinions.

The geopolitical implications are huge, as major powers join either side or choose to remain silent. The ongoing legal battle heightens the challenges of finding a peaceful solution to a conflict that has lasted three quarters of a century, leaving countless lives destroyed and regions in ruins.

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