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Israel rejects genocide charges at International Court of Justice

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Today Israel defended itself against a charge of genocide at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Lawyers called the case against Israel's military campaign in Gaza a, quote, "deliberately curated, decontextualized and manipulative description of hostilities." NPR's Berlin correspondent Rob Schmitz reports.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: In Israel's opening arguments before the court, lawyer Tal Becker said his country is singularly aware of why the Genocide Convention was adopted due to the systematic murder of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust, which spurred the convention invoked in South Africa's accusation against Israel.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TAL BECKER: The applicant has now sought to invoke this term in the context of Israel's conduct in a war it did not start and did not want, a war in which Israel is defending itself against Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations whose brutality knows no bounds.

SCHMITZ: Becker and the rest of Israel's legal team spent much of the nearly three hours of testimony before the 17 judges of the United Nations court outlining the ruthlessness of Hamas' attack on October 7, which, according to Israel, killed 1,200 people. Becker defended Israel's military campaign, insisting Hamas was to blame for the severity of the destruction in Gaza, claiming the group commonly uses Palestinian people as human shields, making Israel's campaign a particularly difficult one.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BECKER: The court is also told of the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, but it is not told of Hamas' practice of stealing and hoarding aid. It is not told of the extensive Israeli efforts to mitigate civilian harm, of the humanitarian initiatives being undertaken to enable the flow of supplies and provide medical attention to the wounded.

SCHMITZ: According to the Gaza Health Ministry, more than 23,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's three-month bombing campaign, and more than 85% of all 2 million-plus Gazans have been forced to flee their homes. A ruling in this case may not come for years, but the court may make a provisional ruling in the coming weeks that could order Israel to halt its military campaign, an order that the International Court of Justice will not be able to enforce. Rob Schmitz, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Rob Schmitz
Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Berlin, where he covers the human stories of a vast region reckoning with its past while it tries to guide the world toward a brighter future. From his base in the heart of Europe, Schmitz has covered Germany's levelheaded management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics in Poland and creeping Chinese government influence inside the Czech Republic.