On Friday, the German government firmly rejected allegations made before the UN's top court accusing Israel of committing "genocide" in Gaza. Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit emphasized that Germany considers Israel to be acting in self-defense, responding to an "inhuman" attack by Hamas on October 7. Germany announced its intention to intervene as a third party before the International Court of Justice, utilizing an article that allows states to seek clarification on the application of a multilateral convention.
Hebestreit stated that Germany will present its own case to the court, asserting that Israel has not violated the genocide convention and has no intention of committing genocide. Germany, as a signatory of the 1948 Genocide Convention, is exercising its right to join cases and present arguments. It is not claiming to be legally impacted by South Africa's case, hence not requiring the ICJ's permission for third-party intervention. The Genocide Convention, enacted in response to the Holocaust, defines genocide as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group."
Hebestreit confirmed that Germany intends to intervene as a third party in the main hearing, indicating Berlin's involvement in South Africa's primary case against Israel. This intervention suggests that Germany will participate in the proceedings that could extend over years to determine whether Israel has violated the Genocide Convention.
However, this move does not impact the ongoing proceedings of this week, where South Africa seeks an interim injunction for Israel to implement a ceasefire. A decision on this immediate matter is expected within a month.
Hebestreit highlighted Germany's commitment to the UN Genocide Convention, considering it a crucial instrument, especially given Germany's history and the Holocaust. He emphasized the Convention's significance in preventing another Holocaust and expressed opposition to the political instrumentalization of the Convention.
Acknowledging differing international views on Israel's military operation in Gaza, Hebestreit asserted that the German government decisively rejects the accusation of genocide against Israel before the International Court of Justice. He stated that the accusation lacks a factual basis.
The Prime Minister's Office reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed gratitude to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for Berlin's decision, stating that Germany's stance on the truth resonates with all citizens of Israel. Netanyahu denounced the accusations as a "blood libel" filled with hypocrisy and malice, emphasizing the importance of upholding moral principles shared by both countries and the civilized world.
Scholz, the first Western leader to make a solidarity visit after the October 7 onslaught, reiterated Germany's support for Israel during challenging times. He emphasized Israel's right and obligation under international law to protect its civilians.
Israel's legal team in The Hague contested the fundamental claims of South Africa's genocide allegations at the International Court of Justice. They argued that the ICJ lacks jurisdiction over the complaints, as they pertain to the laws of armed conflict, not genocide. The team also addressed accusations of genocidal intent, asserting that inflammatory comments by Israeli politicians do not reflect state policy. They attributed harm to Palestinian civilians to Hamas's use of civilian infrastructure for military purposes.
The legal team highlighted Israel's efforts to warn civilians and provide humanitarian assistance during the conflict. The war was triggered by the October 7 Hamas-led massacre, leading to a wide-scale military campaign by Israel in Gaza. The casualty figures mentioned are contested, and the IDF claims to have targeted thousands of operatives in Gaza, including those responsible for the October 7 attack.