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HomeExpertsGlobal Legal Shift: South Africa Leads Historic ICC Ruling on Israel-Gaza Case

Global Legal Shift: South Africa Leads Historic ICC Ruling on Israel-Gaza Case

“The West won the world not with the superiority of its ideas, values, or religion, but with the organized violence it could exert. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do.”

American political scientist Samuel Huntington

Two weeks after the end of public hearings, the International Criminal Court announced its preliminary decision in the South Africa-Israel case. The decision-making process, which was closely followed by the whole world, became one of the fastest verdicts in the court’s history.

The court’s decision was as expected by everyone. The International Criminal Court concluded that there was serious suspicion of genocide by Israel in Gaza, a development that resulted in a favorable outcome for South Africa. Israel was requested to take all necessary measures to prevent the commission of genocide, to prevent and punish the incitement of genocide, to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, to prevent the destruction of evidence, and to submit a report on the implementation of the decision to the court within one month.

The court’s decision shows significant support for South Africa’s arguments in the courtroom. While Israeli and Ugandan judges voted against many of the decisions, the other 15 judges voted in favor. However, the panel did not bind Israel to end the war while ordering it to prevent a possible genocide.

Indeed, South Africa stated, “Nothing but the decision of this court can stop this pain.” However, the court did not address this issue and showed an attitude like it had lost consciousness in its decision regarding the ceasefire request. Without demanding a halt to military operations, the court preferred to stay completely away from discussions about Israel’s right to self-defense, neither ruling for a ceasefire nor opening a discussion on this request. The court had shown a similar stance in the Russia-Ukraine case before.

The court’s decision is largely similar to the verdict given in the case between Gambia and Myanmar a few years ago. The court requested Israel to take measures similar to those applied by the Burmese government against the Rohingya Muslims.

‘Genocide’ decision likely to take years The International Criminal Court decided that there is a credible risk of genocide by Israel in the Gaza Strip and will now evaluate whether there is an actual genocide in its main phase. This determination may take years. It took the court 10 years to conclude that the Srebrenica massacre was genocide.

Following the court’s decision, third states will probably evaluate how they can continue to provide military support to Israel, and likely, local courts will also speed up this decision phase. Like nearly half of the states ruled by the International Criminal Court, Israel will likely refuse to implement this decision. If the matter reaches the UN Security Council, the US may use its veto power to protect its client state.

Before the court’s decision, many speculated that the judges’ votes would align with their own states, but this was proven wrong, marking the supremacy of law and the trust in the court. The ICC, especially considering its record on issues related to Palestine, has always been unfairly smeared with accusations of political bias.

The fact that judges are representatives of law rather than their own states was exemplified even by the Israeli judge voting in favor of humanitarian aid. The first black woman judge from Uganda, however, voted against. The Ugandan judge argued that there was no indication of genocide, thus the court had no jurisdiction in the case. The German judge did not believe that Israel conducted its military operation with the intention of genocide.

This defense is a widespread claim that ignores the role of law as a tool for political solutions, especially considering the ongoing destruction in Gaza. Even using a humanitarian aid measure as leverage on this basis is quite brutal.

South Africa faces a tough battle in the main phase. Proving a reasonable risk of genocide is much more difficult and crucial than proving the existence of actual genocide.

However, most importantly, this case has shown the world how the balance of power in international relations has changed. The Global South, long seen through the lens of the Global North, is now turning the mirror back on its colonizers. Non-Western international jurists, once underestimated by their Western counterparts, are now using the language of law to dismantle their arguments.

In a world largely defined as unipolar with the US as the leading military power, it is significant that South Africa emerges as a leader of the Global South and gains credibility as a state with ethical values.

International jurists think that the court’s decision is not a cure-all for the Palestinian issue and is useless and sterilized as long as Gazans cling to life by a thread. In the short term, the ICC’s interim measure decision might not provide the Palestinians with much in terms of concrete, physical benefits. However, it might isolate Israel, eliminate the legitimacy of its actions, and perhaps even lead to rational thinking.

The world owes a debt of gratitude to the South African legal team Daniel Levy, a former Israeli lawyer living in London, said, “The world owes a great debt of gratitude to the South African government and its legal team.” He remarked that the application to the ICC and successes regarding interim measures were unprecedented in Middle Eastern conflicts. It’s a pity that rich and powerful Muslim countries did not play a role in achieving justice for the Palestinians. However, the despots could not be mobilized. While the political heirs of Nelson Mandela took the first step, they continued to remain silent.

The decision of the International Criminal Court is a step in the right direction, but calls for a ceasefire should continue since the court ignored this cry. The Global South is at a crossroads, supported by law, justice, values, and the will of a large part of the world, in this fight between law and smugness.

Genocide of the Palestinians will not bring lasting peace to Israelis. It will provide equal rights and a dignified life for Palestinians. Sooner or later, Israel will have to accept land swaps for peace as a sensible action. More violence will breed more strife, and as demonstrated by the ICC, the world may not remain a passive observer to these events as in the past.

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YUKSEL DURGUT
YUKSEL DURGUT
YÜKSEL DURGUT is a journalist with a primary focus on global politics and foreign affairs. He serves as the Foreign Relations Director of the International Journalists Association e.V. and holds the position of Editor-in-Chief at Journalist Post.
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