Elchanan Poupko

Hague’s Rulling Rewards Terrorism

Presiding judge Joan Donoghue, right, opens the session at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Patrick Post)
Presiding judge Joan Donoghue, right, opens the session at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Patrick Post)

While many in Israel are celebrating today’s decision in the International Court of Justice in the Hague, the damage the decision has done will last generations. Every terrorist group from ISIS to Hezbollah and Al-Shabab listening to the decision has learned two things: hide yourself among civilians while killing others, and the army fighting back at you will be labeled as genocide, and the name of the terrorist entity name will not be even be mentioned in that decision. All any terrorist group targeting the West and countries that abide by the genocide convention need to do now is take these two steps to attack civilians with impunity: a) attack from within a civilian population. b) Ask South Africa, Russia, and Iran’s close ally, to file a claim on their behalf against your victim in the ICJ. It is an outright win for terrorism. 

Had the ICJ concerned itself with the well-being of civilians, the last thing it would do is reward those who embed themselves in civilian populations and punish those who struggle to weed out terrorist targets from among the civilian population. 

Another victory the ICJ has handed terrorists today is to count them as civilians. The court’s president, Ms. Joan E. Donoghue, went on to read the numbers of casualties in Gaza, putting it around 25,000. Using this figure while ignoring the fact that more than 9000 of those killed are armed Hamas terrorists is a crime against the innocent people of Gaza. Lumping dead terrorists among civilian casualties is exactly what Hamas seeks to do while hiding among civilian populations. The court provided every terrorist group in the world with a greater incentive to hide among civilian populations. Terrorists hiding among civilians will now forever know that if they are killed, their death will be counted as a civilian casualty. 

The grotesque meaning of this is that the court has now gifted terrorists with higher legal protections and status than law-abiding soldiers in proper armies. Join the Canadian army and get killed in combat? Your death is recognized as being a legitimate target. Join ISIS and Al-Shabab and get killed while cowardly hiding behind civilians? Those who killed you will be tried with genocide. This is a profound insult to all active duty soldiers around the world, as well as the many heroic veterans–fallen and alive. The ICJ has just recognized terrorist life as having a higher status than a soldier’s life, and that is something we cannot tolerate. 

The court has further imperiled countries tht abide by international law by criminalizing soldiers for the speech of inconsequential politicians. Anyone with access to Wikipedia knows that Israel’s President Isaac Herzog has zero decision-making authority in the Israeli government. Yet, at the forefront of the ICJ’s accusations against Israel came quotes from President Herzog, as well as other statements that are not policy by other Israeli politicians. Imagine what would happen if the United States were to be attacked in the future by a terrorist organization, or frankly anyone, with figures like Marjorie Taylor Green, Madison Cawthorn, George Santos, Matt Gaetz, Thomas Massie, and Lauren Boubert making public statements on social media on an ongoing basis. If everything a politician says—especially in times of war after enduring the worst and most barbaric attacks your people have ever seen––in times of war is evidence of genocide, many more Western countries will be seeing themselves charged with genocide any time we find ourselves under attack. 

The fact that judges on the court come from “Morocco, Lebanon, Somalia, China, France, Germany, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Slovakia, Uganda, India, and Jamaica”, while China, Lebanon and Morocco do not protect the full free speech of their civilians, puts Western countries who do encourage free speech at a more vulnerable position than totalitarian dictatorships and terrorist ruled countries like Lebanon. 

Another threat to Western countries is the court’s defense of stateless terrorism. The court’s failure to mention Hamas even once, despite Hamas being responsible for the outbreak of this war, means the court will not take into entities that are not countries. While the court may not be able to bring Hamas to justice,  it indeed should have mentioned Hamas. The court has given Hamas a free pass and cleared it of all responsibility. This will incentivize other terrorist groups to commit crimes against humanity, knowing they will not bear any responsibility in the international sphere. 

The court’s decision does not imperil Israel’s future, but it does cast a shadow on the ability of Western countries to defend themselves against terrorism. The court has rewarded Hamas with impunity and rewarded the world’s most vicious terrorists for committing crimes against humanity and hiding among a civilian population. Future generations will mourn this dark decision. 

About the Author
Rabbi Elchanan Poupko is a New England based eleventh-generation rabbi, teacher, and author. He has written Sacred Days on the Jewish Holidays, Poupko on the Parsha, and hundreds of articles published in five languages. He is the president of EITAN--The American Israeli Jewish Network.
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