South Africa’s Dangerous Battle Against Israel

On Dec. 29, 2023, South Africa filed a lawsuit in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, accusing Israel of committing genocide, pointing to the scores of dead Palestinians that have resulted from Israel’s campaign against Hamas.
While the case is still pending as of this writing, the court issued an order on Jan. 26 ordering Israel to take measures to prevent acts that would be considered genocidal under the 1948 Genocide Convention. The court also said that at least some acts that South Africa alleged fall under the Genocide Convention. However, it did not order Israel to cease its military campaign in the Gaza Strip. Both sides hailed it as a victory.
But South Africa wasn’t done there. Now the country’s foreign minister, Naledi Pandor, has made a new startling announcement that citizens who fought in the Israeli Defense Forces and return to South Africa will be arrested. He said in his statement, “I have already issued a statement alerting those who are South African and who are fighting alongside or in the IDF. We are ready. When you come home, we’re going to arrest you.”
This came after a warning in December when South Africa’s foreign ministry stated, in response to its citizens serving in the IDF, “Such action can potentially contribute to the violation of international law and the commission of further international crimes, thus making them liable for prosecution in South Africa.”
Now campaigns supporting the same type of action in France are underway, though the French government is being far more reasonable on the matter. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Christophe Lemoine answered a question regarding it, stating, “They have not yet committed these crimes, so if they do commit these crimes and it is proven, I will answer you when the time comes.” He also stated that “dual citizenship implies dual loyalty, so, we will not investigate what French-Israeli citizens do regarding their military obligations in Israel.”
South Africa is setting an extremely dangerous precedent, using its prosecutorial powers to punish dual citizens who serve in the army of a non-terrorist state. It is particularly troubling when you consider the fact that Israel heavily relies on foreign-born soldiers to serve in their already relatively small — but effective — army.
It would be one thing if a South African pledged their allegiance to ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah or another terrorist outfit internationally recognized as a terrorist outfit that regularly commits heinous acts against innocent people. But it is an entirely different thing to serve in the IDF.
Israel is not a terrorist outfit. It is a peaceful nation that has taken great efforts to ensure its campaign against Hamas does not affect innocent people. After all, Israel can hardly be blamed for killing innocent civilians, for example, in a hospital when Hamas intentionally stores their weapons there and refuses to allow innocent people to leave when Israel warns them of an attack.
South Africa does not understand this, and I can perhaps guess the reason why. Because South Africa, like most developed nations, has not, since its formation, been under constant threat of destruction by neighboring countries.
South Africa lives in relative peace. It hasn’t seen a war in over a century.
Now let’s be clear, it is an absolute tragedy that over 30,000 Palestinians, including many women and children, have lost their lives. It is a tragedy that over 70,000 have been injured. But something South Africa has clearly forgotten over the past century, in which it has experienced no war, is that in war, innocent people can perish at the hands of their own government who put them in harm’s way.
That’s why we have a specific definition of genocide. That’s why the definition is not “the killing of an innocent person.” Instead, genocide is defined as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” By no stretch of the imagination is Israel intentionally attempting to kill all Palestinians.
South Africa must cease its dangerous public campaign against Israel, lest it allow a terrorist group at Israel’s borders to flourish and expand past its own borders. South Africa is making itself an unwitting pawn in Hamas’ war against Israel, and it doesn’t seem like South Africa is willing to change course.
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