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Israel Has Denied It Is Committing Genocide In Gaza, Telling The ICJ It Is Legally Defending Itself Against Hamas

Israeli lawyer Tal Becker said the case was South Africa’s attempt to "delegitimize" Israel and to weaponize the term "genocide".

Israel has denied it is committing genocide in Gaza, telling the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that it is defending itself against Hamas in the second day of a hearing in a case brought forward by South Africa, which says Israel has violated the Genocide Convention.

The ICJ began its two-day public hearing on Thursday Jan. 11, after the South African government formally sued Israel for committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza on Dec. 29, 2023.

The convention – an international treaty created in the aftermath of the Holocaust that has been signed by 152 states, including both Israel and South Africa – defines genocide as any of the following acts committed with the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national ethnic, racial or religious group”.

These include:
1. Killing members of the group;
2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
3. Deliberately imposing living conditions intended to destroy the group
4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

On the first day of the hearing, South Africa’s team of lawyers presented evidence that Israel has committed and is committing the first four acts, from dropping 6,000 bombs a week to kill more than 23,000 Palestinians and injure another 60,000 since Oct. 7, most of whom are women and children, to imposing measures to starve the population in Gaza, deprive them of clean water and obliterating the healthcare system.

It called out Israel’s systematic oppression and violence against Palestinians over the last 76 years.

On Friday Jan. 12, Israel’s representative, lawyer Tal Becker, alongside the country’s legal team, presented its defense to the ICJ.

In his opening remarks, Becker said the case was South Africa’s attempt to “delegitimize” Israel and to weaponize the term “genocide”.

He said that South Africa’s presentation had completely ignored Hamas’ role in the war and the threat to Israeli citizens.

He said the damage to buildings in Gaza were also caused by Hamas booby trapping them, accidentally destroying them by misfiring and turning them into legitimate targets for Israel by using them as a military site.

He also said that the more than 23,000 Palestinians killed was not an accurate number because it came from Hamas, adding that the number did not specify how many were militants.

He said that Israel has been putting extensive efforts into mitigating civilian harm, undertaking humanitarian initiatives to allow aid in, as well as providing medical attention to the wounded.

He said that the destruction and death in Gaza were directly caused by Hamas.

“The key component of genocide, the intention to destroy a people, in whole or in part, is totally lacking,” Tacker said. “What Israel seeks by operating in Gaza is not to destroy a people, but to protect a people, its people, who are under attack on multiple fronts, and in accordance with the law.”

He said that South Africa was inviting the court to betray the promise of “never again” to the Jewish people – and all people – and diminishes the meaning of the term “genocide”.

He said that South Africa’s case should be dismissed as “a libel, designed to deny Israel the right to defend itself according to the law from the unprecedented terrorist onslaught it continues to face and to free the 136 hostages Hamas still holds.”

South Africa has urged the court to institute an emergency order, also known as provisional measures, to stop Israel from committing further crimes in Gaza, as an official judgment may take years.

The ICJ is expected to present a ruling on the provisional measures within a few weeks.

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