Pro-Palestine supports march in Melbourne in December.
Palestinians in Australia want the government to back South Africa's court case against Israel. Image by Diego Fedele/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Australia urged to support genocide case against Israel

Dominic Giannini January 3, 2024

Palestinian Australians are calling on the federal government to support South Africa’s genocide case against Israel in the international court, as the war in Gaza continues.

South Africa has asked the International Court of Justice for an urgent order declaring that Israel is in breach of its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention in its campaign against Hamas in the strip.

Tel Aviv has rejected the accusation as baseless, saying it has acted within international law by defending itself against the Islamist group, which Australia has designated a terrorist organisation.

Australia has previously issued a statement of support for Ukraine’s case against Russia in the court after its invasion, and the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network wants the federal government to do the same for Gaza.

“We’ve heard high-ranking Israeli officials expressing genocidal intent … saying they intend to ‘flatten’ Gaza,” network president Nasser Mashni said.

“There can be no double standards when it comes to international law and genocide – Australia must today stand up for the people of Palestine and work together with the international community to put an end to Israeli genocide.”

A Pro-Palestine demonstration in Brisbane in November.
 Australia must stand up for the people of Palestine, supporters say. Image by Darren England/AAP PHOTOS 

But such a push “degraded the meaning of genocide and memory of actual mass atrocities”, Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Alex Ryvchin told AAP.

“Hamas acts with absolutely genocidal intent and given the opportunity would destroy every Jewish life.

“In contrast, Israel has a thriving Arab community which is ethnically identical to the Arabs in Gaza, which makes a mockery of these claims.”

It would also “provide political cover for Hamas but will have zero impact on the course of Israel’s just war”, he added.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was aware of the proceedings but that it was not appropriate to comment on matters before the court.

Hamas’ cross-border assault on southern Israel on October 7 resulted in the deaths of more than 1200 people while up to 240 people were taken hostage, the Israeli government said. Hamas confirmed it took people back over the border to Gaza.

Supporters at a Pro-Israel demonstration in Sydney in November.
 Up to 240 Israelis were taken hostage and moved into Gaza after the October 7 incursion. Image by Flavio Brancaleone/AAP PHOTOS 

Israel’s subsequent military action has resulted in the deaths of more than 22,000 people in Gaza, according to data provided by the local health ministry and Gaza Government Media Office and cited by the UN.

Half of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are at risk of starvation after Israel limited food and supplies into the strip and 90 per cent of people in the besieged enclave have regularly gone without food for a whole day, according to a recent UN report.

The Australian government has helped more than 188 citizens, permanent residents and their family members depart Gaza.

Israel used its first response to the accusations to blame Hamas for the suffering Palestinians are facing, saying the group was using them as human shields and stealing humanitarian aid.

Israel will appear before the international court “to dispel South Africa’s absurd blood libel”, government spokesman Eylon Levy said on Wednesday (AEDT).

The Genocide Convention outlaws attempts to destroy a people in whole or in part.

While the ICJ is considered the UN’s highest court, its rulings are sometimes ignored, including by Russia after it ordered Moscow to immediately halt its military campaign in Ukraine in March 2022.

A date for a hearing on South Africa’s case has not yet been set.

with Reuters