In concluding remarks, Israel says it is witnessing “effort to pervert the meaning of the term ‘genocide'”

Israel said that the accusation of genocide brought against it by South Africa was an attempt to “pervert the meaning of the term ‘genocide’ itself.”

In concluding remarks at the end of a two-day hearing at the International Court of Justice, Gilad Noam, representing Israel, urged the court not to grant South Africa’s request for “provisional measures,” which could lead to the court ordering Israel to pause its military campaign in Gaza.

If the court finds in South Africa’s favor, Noam said it risks benefitting terrorist groups.

“Entertaining the Applicant’s request will not strengthen the commitment to prevent and punish genocide, but weaken it. It will turn an instrument adopted by the international community to prevent horrors of the kind that shocked the conscience of humanity during the Holocaust, into a weapon in the hands of terrorist groups who have no regard for humanity or for the law,” he said.

Noam argued that granting provisional measures would “lead to a perverse situation,” since it “would effectively allow Hamas to continue attacking the citizens of Israel” while constraining Israel’s ability to defend itself.

The International Court of Justice deals with disputes between states. Because Hamas is not a state, the court lacks jurisdiction over it. If Hamas’ leaders are to be tried, it would be before the International Criminal Court – which also sits in The Hague, but tries individuals rather than states.

Noam said if “resort to force in self-defense against an enemy hiding behind civilians can be portrayed as genocide and trigger provisional measures,” then “an an inevitable tension will be created between the genocide convention and states defending themselves against the ever increasing capacities of terrorist organizations.”

Noam concluded:

In living memory of the atrocities that gave birth to the term ‘genocide,’ in the aftermath of which the State of Israel was founded, we are witness to a concerted and cynical effort to pervert the meaning of the term ‘genocide’ itself.”

The hearing has now ended. In the coming days and weeks, the ICJ’s panel of judges will decide whether to grant South Africa’s request to order a halt to the Gaza offensive.