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US doubles down on dismissing genocide claim despite ICJ ruling

The White House has brushed aside the ICJ's demand for Israel to cease its genocidal acts and reiterated its support for Israel
US national security spokesperson John Kirby said the White House continues to believe that South Africa's allegations against Israel are meritless, counterproductive and completely without any basis and fact (Kevin Dietsch/Getty)

The White House has brushed aside the ICJ ruling that Israel must prevent genocidal acts against Gaza and will continue to double down on its unconditional support for Israel's war in Gaza, Friday's White House press briefing revealed.  

US national security spokesperson John Kirby reiterated Israel's "right to defend itself" despite the ICJ's same-day interim decision accusing Israel of genocidal acts in Gaza. 

In response to a question from the press on whether the Biden administration "stands by the words characterising those allegations (South Africa's genocide case against Israel) as meritless, counterproductive and completely without any basis and fact whatsoever", Kirby replied "Yes."

The spokesperson then revealed the White House's complete disregard for the ICJ's interim ruling, stating that "it has not been found that they are committing genocide, we have no indication that that is going on, that they are deliberately exterminating the people of Gaza".

A member of the press then pointed out that over 100 countries are calling for a ceasefire, as well as a majority of the American public, according to recent polling. The reporter then asked whether the ICJ ruling has not presented further evidence that the Biden administration's policy on Israel's war in Gaza is "out of touch with what Americans and the world demands of US leadership". Kirby replied that "the president believes that the people of Gaza deserve to live in peace and security" but that a general ceasefire is "not the best approach". 

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"We will continue to give Israel the support it needs", he reiterated.

Kirby declared that while "the right number of civilian casualities is zero", he added that there is "no indication that validates a claim of genocidal intent or action by the IDF".

Israel's bombing campaign and ground invasion after the 7 October Hamas-led attack has claimed over 26,000 lives in three months. On 9 October, Israel's defence minister Yoav Gallant described Palestinians as "human animals" and vowed to "act accordingly". 

Since then, genocidal phrases such as "erase Gaza", "the monsters in Gaza" and "wiping out the enclave" have made the rounds among Israeli politicians. 

The ICJ ruling

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered an interim ruling calling on Israel to refrain from impeding the delivery of aid into Gaza and improve the humanitarian situation. 

It also ordered Israel to take all measures within its power to prevent acts of genocide in the besieged enclave and prevent and punish incitement to genocide.

However, it did not order Israel to halt military operations in Gaza, one of South Africa's key demands in the case it brought to The Hague earlier this month.

“The court recalls that its orders on provisional measures have binding effect and thus create international legal obligations for any party to whom the provisional measures are addressed," the court said on Friday, adding that Israel would be obliged to report to the court within a month on what it was doing to uphold the measures.

It also called for the release of the remaining captives taken by Hamas during its 7 October attack in southern Israel. More than 100 people remain in captivity while over 200 were initially taken, but some were released in an exchange deal.

While the court is not expected for some time to rule on whether Israel is committing genocide in its war on the besieged enclave, it ruled on Friday on several of the nine interim measures South Africa requested.

The nine interim measures requested by South Africa included an immediate cessation of military operations in Gaza, preventing forcible displacement of Palestinians, ceasing any restrictions on humanitarian aid entering the enclave, refraining from committing genocide and inciting it, and preventing the destruction of evidence of alleged crimes in Gaza. 

The ICJ only has jurisdiction over states and can therefore give orders to Israel, but not to Hamas, a non-state entity. 

Friday's ruling by the ICJ is legally binding. However, there is little The Hague-based court can do to enforce compliance. States could potentially call on the UN Security Council to implement separate sanctions on Israel if it failed to comply with the ICJ's orders. 

The Israeli government has previously said that not even The Hague could stop it from restoring “security to both the south and the north” of the country. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the ICJ ruling on Friday in a video message. 

He said that the ruling amounted to "discrimination" as Israel was fighting a “just war like no other” and would continue to “defend itself".

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