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The death of civilians is always unjust, tragic, and heartbreaking

3 min

The International Court of Justice had earned respect through courageous decisions, albeit non-coercive ones. Today, it is being instrumentalized for political purposes.

François Zimeray

The International Court of Justice had earned respect through courageous decisions, albeit non-coercive ones. Today, it is being instrumentalized for political purposes by those who level an accusation of genocide against a state whose population has precisely suffered a heinous, racist, and openly genocidal aggression, according to François Zimeray, a lawyer at the International Criminal Court and former French ambassador.

What is the ICJ, and how does it work? What is the value of its decisions? Does it have a means to enforce them?

François Zimeray : The International Court of Justice is the judicial organ of the United Nations that adjudicates disputes between states. Its establishment represents an indisputable advancement in human history, where conflicts between nations were primarily settled through bloodshed.

It is a jurisdiction with a hybrid nature, part legal and part political, where independent judges coexist with those who take their instructions from the capitals that appointed them. The Court had earned respect through courageous decisions, although they were non-coercive. 

It is now being instrumentalized for political purposes by those who level a genocide accusation against a state whose population has recently suffered a heinous, racist, and openly genocidal aggression.

What is the political significance of the accusation against Israel?

François Zimeray : This complaint stems from a perverse appropriation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by countries that are not directly involved but view it as an identity marker, such as South Africa, which aspires to anti-Western leadership, or those who find it a means to settle scores with their own past.

The accusation is supported by a coalition of states, including Algeria, which has rid itself of a two-millennia-old Jewish presence and yet fervently fosters antisemitic obsessions, and Belgium, burdened by its colonial legacy and whose leaders have been incapable of preventing the Islamization of their country. All these states seek to ease their conscience at the expense of civilians, both Palestinian and Israeli, which is despicable.

Does South Africa's complaint have a chance of succeeding?

François Zimeray :  If one sticks to reality, to the facts alone, there is no serious basis. But do facts still matter?

Ironically, those who relish the word 'genocide' are the same ones reluctant to label Hamas as a terrorist organization and base their indictment on facts and figures provided by this criminal organization.

They are the same ones who chant "from the river to the sea," which is, in fact, a genocidal anthem. 

As early as the evening of the October 7th massacre, when it became evident that Israel was a victim of unprecedented atrocities in recent history, one could see the beginnings of this false accusation.

The notion that Israel might be the victim of Palestinians was unbearable to those who had made it the embodiment of evil, confusing criticism of a policy with the demonization of a nation. Israel as a victim was perceived as an intolerable usurpation. 

This was when the phenomenon of victimhood inversion unfolded on a global scale: the victim became the perpetrator, and vice versa. This delusional accusation serves to negate the events of October 7th; by the way, who still talks about the hostages?

One can criticize many aspects of Israeli policy, its cynicism, indifference to the legitimate aspirations of Palestinians, and recently, the unworthy and inexcusable statements of certain leaders, but this state has neither sought nor committed genocide. It defends itself against an enemy of unprecedented cruelty, one that disregards human life, taking precautions rarely matched in conflicts.

What is your personal opinion on this matter?

François Zimeray : The death of civilians is always unjust, tragic, and heartbreaking. This is true in Gaza, as it is in Israel. But how does a false accusation bring them justice?

The stakes of the trial are significant; they go beyond the judgment the Court will render. The objective of the accusers is a symbolic expulsion of Israel from the common humanity. This bodes dark days for the Jewish people.

Because this war is not only fought in the sky, on and beneath the earth, or even on the bodies of Jews, it is equally waged on the battlefield of narrative.

What is at stake with this accusation is what will be told in the history textbooks of the next hundred years. To conduct Israel's trial in this manner is to definitively turn the page on the Nuremberg trials. This new narrative, aimed at legitimizing the criminalization of Israel and Jews, reopens the path to their future persecution in a derealized world without principles and without memory.

"You kill my brothers in Palestine, I kill you" - these were the words Mohamed Merah uttered before he assassinated four children aged three to eight and their fathers in the courtyard of a school.

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