The recent BBC Hardtalk interview on 25 April 2024 with Judge Joan Donoghue was the president of the International Court of Justice at the time provides much-needed clarity on the court’s provisional measures order in the case brought by South Africa against Israel. Her authoritative explanation makes it clear that contrary to claims by the South African government, media, and some partisan ‘experts’, the ICJ did not find the allegation of genocide against Israel to be a plausible claim.

Judge Donoghue unambiguously stated that the court’s test of plausibility applied only to South Africa’s right to present its claim, not the substance of the genocide allegation itself. The court determined that the Palestinians have a plausible right to be protected from genocide, allowing the case to proceed on that basis. However, Donoghue firmly corrected the widespread mischaracterisation, stating ‘it didn’t decide that the claim of genocide was plausible.’

This is a stern rebuke to the South African government’s reckless rhetoric falsely equating Israel’s defensive actions against Palestinian terrorism to genocide. It is deeply concerning that such inflammatory and legally baseless allegations have been irresponsibly perpetuated by Minister Pandor and government officials, as well as amplified in media reports, and lent legitimacy by partisan commentators.

Judge Donoghue’s sober assessment provides the much-needed context that the court’s provisional order centred on preventing potential irreparable harm while the merits are examined – it did not prejudge the substance of South Africa’s genocide claim one way or the other. All parties ought to heed her clarifying remarks and cease the deliberate mischaracterisation of Israel’s acts of self-defense against the internationally designated Hamas terrorist organisation.

We call on the South African government to walk back its incendiary accusations against Israel, which do nothing to resolve the situation constructively. Unfounded allegations of genocide only inflame tensions further and disrespect the millions of victims of actual genocides in Africa and around the world.