Where do countries stand on South Africa’s genocide case against Israel?

Where do countries stand on South Africa’s genocide case against Israel?
South Africa is taking Israel to the ICJ to accuse it of genocidal acts, and has received support from many Islamic and Latin American nations.
4 min read
10 January, 2024

As the ICJ proceedings for South Africa’s claim of genocide against Israel commence this week, other nations have taken various stances on the country’s latest move as the devastating war on Gaza continues. 

On December 29, South Africa asked the ICJ for an urgent order declaring that Israel was in breach of its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention in its attacks on the besieged Palestinian territory. 

In an 84-page filing, South Africa cites the sustained bombing campaign which has destroyed hundreds of thousands of houses,  some 1.9 million Palestinians from their homes and killed over 23,000 people, according to Palestinian health authorities in Gaza. 

It also points to Israel's failure to provide essential food, water, medicine, fuel, shelter and other humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip. 

Israeli officials such as President Isaac Herzog have criticised the South African case as “atrocious”, while Israel is planning to claim that its brutal war on Gaza is justified by international law on the grounds of "self-defence". 

Which countries and organisations have backed South Africa’s claim against Israel? 

  • Turkey: The spokesperson of Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Oncu Keceli posted on X on January 3 to welcome South Africa’s case against Israel.  

  • Jordan: Jordan's foreign minister Ayman Safadi said Amman will be consulting with legal experts in a bid to file a document backing South Africa's claim on genocide in Gaza.  

  • OIC: The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which has 56 member states, also voiced its support for the case in December last year. “The OIC called upon the Court to respond expeditiously and take urgent measures to stop this mass genocide being perpetrated by the Israeli Defence Forces,” a statement from the group read.  

  • Malaysia: The Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed South Africa’s application and issued a statement on January 2 to reassert its call for an independent Palestinian state “based on the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.” 

  • Bolivia: The Latin American country has also backed South Africa’s application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which accuses Israel of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. Bolivia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it was joining the case as a signatory to the Genocide Convention "committed to peace and justice". 

  • Venezuela: Joining Bolivia, Venezuela announced that it would also support South Africa’s ICJ claim.  A government statement issued on Tuesday said that the country "recognizes South Africa's firm and historic step in defence of the Palestinian people and international law."

  • The Maldives, Namibia and Pakistan: The three countries have each expressed their support for the South African case during addresses at a UN General Assembly session on Tuesday. “Namibia both identifies and aligns with the arguments put forward by South Africa,” Namibian diplomat Neville Gertze said. 

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Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium Petra De Sutter issued a statement on X, announcing her plans to propose backing the ICJ case to the Belgian government.  

“Belgium cannot stand by and watch the immense human suffering in Gaza. We must act against the threat of genocide,” De Sutter posted on the social media platform. “I want Belgium to take action at the International Court of Justice, following the lead of South Africa.” 

France has not announced its position on the genocide case- however French ambassador to the UN Nicolas de Rivière emphasised the European country’s support for the ICJ.

“We'll see what they decide on this matter and we'll make sure that we'll support the outcome of the decision,” de Rivière said in a press conference on January 2. 

Which countries have not backed South Africa’s claim against Israel? 

The US, which has provided Israel with military and diplomatic support in its war, has dismissed the charge that Israel is committing genocide.

US national security spokesperson John Kirby condemned the application as “meritless, counterproductive, and completely without any basis” during a White House press briefing last week. 

The UK has also refused to support South Africa, despite submitting detailed legal documents to the ICJ in support of Gambia’s claims that Myanmar committed genocidal acts against the Rohingya ethnic group. 

Tayab Ali, the head of international law at Bindmans legal firm, told The Guardian that while the UK’s submission on Myanmar was significant in adhering to the genocide convention, he called the UK’s tactics “disingenuous” if they only adopted a “narrow” definition of genocide in Israel’s case.