Peter John Beyfus

Stand Firm: Am Yisrael Chai!

The South African government has submitted to the International Court of Justice in The Hague its highly selective evidence of Israel’s alleged genocide of Palestinians living in Gaza, and advocates for the State of Israel have responded by providing hard evidence of the IDF’s uncovering of Hamas’ munitions in public building such as hospitals and schools, as well as revealing the intricate tunnel network used by Hamas to wage war against Israel. In addition, the efforts made by Israel to minimise civilian casualties by leafleting and telephoning those who were likely to be caught up in military action has been submitted with, again, proof. 

Let us be clear about the legal definition of genocide. It is contained in Article II of the Convention:  “a crime committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, in whole or in part”. It does not, and this is very important, include political groups and certainly not proscribed terrorist organisations. Like so many highly emotive terms, such as ethic cleansing, apartheid, racism, genocide has become politicised to slander Israel, presenting a one-sided view of the State. What is ironic, if it were not tragic, is the most vociferous critics of Israel are so often guilty of the very crimes they accuse the Jewish state of perpetrating. South Africa does not have an unvarnished reputation. Amnesty International has exposed human rights abuses in the country; there have been racist attacks against white South Africans, and ongoing civil disorder and corruption. Other loud voices come from Russia and China, both countries have a sullied history of brutal oppression and, arguably, behaviour that may well fall within the remit of the Convention on Genocide. Arab states fare no better in the weighing of moral integrity. 

What is blatantly missing from the egregious move on the part of South Africa is reasoned argument about the origin of the Israel-Hamas war. The killing of Israeli citizens and the abduction of hostages by Hamas on the 7 October seems to have conveniently slipped the mind of the accusers. Hamas has failed to release the hostages despite many calls to do so, including the United Nations. Countries that enjoy democratic institutions have confirmed  Israel’s right to self-defence, and this war is about just that, ensuring the people of Israel are safe from future murderous attacks by Islamist inspired terror groups. 

Since the Hamas attack of the 7 October, the world has witnessed an unprecedented upsurge in antisemitism. Jews, who have lived in countries espousing liberal values, have been made to feel unsafe by the activities of pro-Palestinian marches and intimidatory behaviour. Jewish places of worship, schools and businesses have been forced to seek additional protection from those who avowedly advocate race hatred. No other minority group has been so maligned, made to feel so insecure, except in those countries that care nothing for human rights, and there are many of them!

The judges of the ICJ have one of the most challenging decisions in the history of the court. They will be guided by the evidence, examining the facts in a totally dispassionate manner. If the court finds in favour of South Africa, then it will not only present terrorists with a major victory but spawn worldwide anti-Jewish behaviour, the likes of which we have not witnessed before, except in Nazi Germany and imperial Russia. I am confident the judges will see the flawed arguments of South Africa and dismiss the charges of genocide as unfounded.

About the Author
Peter John Beyfus is an historian, published author, poet, and a person who prides himself on “thinking outside the box”. I have written many essays on Jewish themes, published in various journals, including ‘Wessex Jewish News’ and ‘Westminster Quarterly’, the magazine of Westminster Synagogue, London.