ICJ’s ruling on Gaza hailed as moral and diplomatic victory

todayJanuary 29, 2024 52

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Professor of International Relations at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, John Stremlau, has described the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) ruling in South Africa’s case against Israel as a huge moral and diplomatic victory for the country.

On Friday, the court ordered Israel to take all measures within its power to prevent acts of genocide in the Gaza Strip after South Africa petitioned it for an immediate ceasefire, saying that Israel was violating the UN Convention on Genocide with its continuous bombardment of the Palestinian territory.

South Africa believes Israel has shown genocidal intent in Gaza.

Stremlau says the court calling for action to protect civilian lives is historic and South Africa need to be celebrated for it.

He says South Africa’s presentation at the ICJ was well put together and plausible, adding that there are parallels between the apartheid that South Africa went through and what the Palestinians are experiencing.

Professor Stremlau says he doesn’t understand why Ugandan judge, Julia Sebutinde, dissented, however, adding that her vote(s) was insignificant in this case.

He says having the majority judges vote together should be a source of pride for South Africa.

Professor Stremlau says Israel must now put the court’s measures to action.

Stremlau is also of the view that South Africa also did the US a huge favour, as the country couldn’t speak out since it is known to be Israel’s staunch ally.

Like International Relations Minister, Naledi Pandor, Professor Stremlau says although he had hoped for a ceasefire, the provisional measures pronounced are sufficient.

Prima facie case

Handing down the ruling on Friday, ICJ President, Judge Joan Donoghue, said the court found a prima facie case of genocide against Israel and the ICJ has jurisdiction to hear the case.

Among its six provisional measures, it ordered Israel to immediately allow for emergency relief for civilians in the Gaza Strip and for Hamas to release all hostages.

The ICJ also expressed concern over the loss of life and human suffering in the Palestinian territory.

ICJ order

‘SA not anti-Semitic’

In his weekly newsletter on Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa rejected claims that South Africa’s lawsuit against Israel was anti-Semitic and an attempt to diminish the enormity of the Holocaust.

“On the contrary, it is the experience by humanity of the Holocaust and other acts of genocide that motivates our efforts to prevent anything of this nature from happening again,” he said.

The President says South Africa could not afford to turn a blind eye to the killing of thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

“As government we have been consistent about the application of international law. We have been equally consistent in condemning the atrocities committed by Hamas against Israeli civilians on 7 October 2023 and in calling for the release of hostages still being held in Gaza. Yet, as we argued in our case before the ICJ, this attack on civilians in Israel cannot justify the subsequent acts committed by the Israeli military against the residents of Gaza.”

“This court application is about the Palestinian people; their suffering, the deprivation of their rights, and the denial of their right to self-determination. Yet, in bringing this application we are seeking to reinforce, protect and advance the rights of all people at all times.” Ramaphosa said.


More than 26 000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been reportedly killed in the Gaza Strip since Israel began its retaliatory attacks on Hamas in October.

Written by: Nonhlanhla Harris

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