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South Africa takes Israel to court for genocide in Gaza

Photo: The South Africa legal team after presenting at the ICJ. Credit: X/@Sophie_Mokoena

Today marked the first day of a historic international hearing by the International Court of Justice in a lawsuit charging Israel with genocide against Palestinians. The case was brought by South Africa — whose own history of struggle against apartheid has made the country strongly supportive of Palestine — and is backed by many governments and organizations around the world.

The ICJ was set up at the end of World War II as a body where countries can sue each other for violations of international law. Under international law, countries have an obligation to prevent genocide, like the one being committed by the Israeli war machine in Gaza. A panel of 17 judges from around the world will hear the case presented by lawyers from South Africa and elsewhere, and Israel will have a lawyer present as well.

This lawsuit is shining a spotlight on the crimes of the Israeli regime and is highly embarrassing for its main sponsor, the U.S. government. The ICJ does not, however, have the power to order the arrest of the war criminals responsible for the genocide. Like when an individual brings a lawsuit against another individual, the most a court can do is order financial penalties and remedial action. The ICJ could rule that Israel must end its assault, but it has no ability to enforce its decision.

The case brought by South Africa is an important act of solidarity, but it remains up to the people’s movements of the world to bring to bear the pressure that can stop the U.S.-Israeli onslaught and bring Netanyahu, Biden and all the other mass murderers to justice. 

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