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A moment of clarity at the International Court of Justice

January 26, 2024

I woke up today to hundreds of messages about the genocide case brought by South Africa against Israel. Some were calling it a victory, an unequivocal legal demand for Israel to prevent genocide in Gaza. Some were expressing disappointment that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) did not call for a ceasefire. A part of me is also sad, but there are several things that make this ruling a landmark decision, offering multiple reasons that give me hope.  

First: it was a clear validation of the severity of the crisis in Gaza. You could not help but be moved by the highest court in the world clearly recognizing the humanitarian devastation taking place.  

Second: the fact that the court confirmed it has jurisdiction and that it is plausible there is genocide happening is notable. The current ruling is an interim decision, and the case can continue.  

Third: the provisional measures the court outlined effectively mean that the killing of Palestinians must stop and the siege must be lifted. In practice, that’s pretty darn close to a ceasefire. Israel is also required to prevent and punish people inciting genocide.  

We don’t know how Israel (or the U.S.!) will respond. But for the first time, an international legal authority has put the military on notice that it cannot continue killing. The rest of the world is on notice too, including countries like the U.S. who continue to support Israel’s military operations. There are no more excuses.   

See ActionAid’s official statement on the ruling here.