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Giovanni Giacalone
Eyes everywhere

The ICJ’s ruling confirms that we need an objective definition of ‘terrorism’

The clear concept

The verdict is out. The UN’s ICJ ordered Israel to prevent acts of genocide against the Palestinians and to do more to help civilians, but it did not impose a ceasefire.

Unfortunately, the court accepted the South African misrepresentation of the war, depicting it as a possible genocide perpetrated by Israel, rather than a counter-terror response to the October 7th massacre carried out by Hamas and yes, that was an indiscriminate genocide against Israeli civilians.

The court seems to forget that the war is the consequence of that vile attack and it is a war between a terrorist entity, recognized as such by the United States, the UK, Japan, Canada, Australia, and the European Union but strangely enough, not by South Africa.

The court also failed to acknowledge that Gaza’s population needs to be protected from Hamas, rather than from the IDF.

It’s Hamas that is using the Palestinians as human shields, hiding under schools, mosques and hospitals, and firing at Israeli troops while hiding behind civilians. If it wasn’t for Hamas, there would be no war and there would be no risk for Gaza’s civilians.

Let’s recall that at the end of October 2023, Moussa Abu Marzouk, a prominent member of Hamas’s political bureau, declared to Russia Today’s Arabic channel that his organization is not responsible for protecting the Strip’s civilians, and said that the vast tunnel network underneath the enclave is only for the protection of Hamas terrorists.

The genocide was perpetrated on October 7th 2023 by Hamas against the Jewish people. Israel’s response is a normal and logical reaction to terrorism. Israel is protecting its borders and citizens. It is the war on terror fought by a sovereign State, the Jewish State, against Islamist terrorism. Precisely, against Hamas’ terrorism backed by the Iranian regime. A situation that is very similar to the one that occurred after 9/11 between the United States and Al-Qaeda. We can say that the October 7th massacre was Israel’s 9/11. Additionally, this is also a war of the free Western world against international Islamist terrorism. It is not just Israel’s war, because the target is the whole West, as the Houthi offensive in the Red Sea shows.

In early January, Admiral Luigi Binelli-Mantelli, former chief of the Italian armed forces, was very clear on the current situation in the Middle East: “…this (the Houthi-Iran offensive) is not simply aimed against Israel, it’s a direct challenge to all Western countries, testing our determination and cohesion to protect our economy and our common values and way of life”.

Going back to today’s ruling, it must be said that the court also called on Hamas and the PIJ in Gaza to immediately and unconditionally release all the hostages they hold; symbolic words, since the terrorists will certainly not listen. Indeed, the court did not impose on Hamas to stop using civilians as human shields, nor to surrender. Not a word on Hamas stealing humanitarian aid entering Gaza from the hands of Palestinian civilians.

Two interesting aspects are emerging from the ICJ’s ruling. The first one shows how the terms “terrorism” and “genocide” are used for political means and lack objectiveness. If a court cannot distinguish between acts of terrorism and legitimate State response, self-defense; if it cannot distinguish between an internationally proscribed terrorist organization and a sovereign State, then we are facing a serious problem.

Boaz Ganor, director of Herzliya’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism has been stating for a long time that we must reach an internationally recognized and objective definition of “terrorism” and he proposed one: “The deliberate use of violence perpetrated against civilians for political goals”. Otherwise, one man’s terrorist will be someone else’s freedom fighter.

It is clear that the South African legal move is strictly political; several publications such as the ones published by the Economist and the JPost documented the links between Palestinian/Islamist terrorism and South Africa.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry is correct when stating that “South Africa is functioning as the legal team of Hamas” and that “it seeks to allow Hamas to return to commit the war crimes, crimes against humanity and sexual crimes they committed repeatedly on October 7.”

The second aspect relates to the operational level: South Africa tried to stop Israel’s offensive against Hamas, but it did not work. The ceasefire was rejected by the ICJ.

Indeed, common sense and logic indicate that the genocide accusation against Israel is simply nonsense, since Israel could have wiped out Gaza in 30 minutes. It’s difficult to recall any other army that allowed civilians to flee, protected them from Hamas’ fire, and even told in advance where it would strike, to give civilians enough time to leave the targeted area. All these measures slowed down the IDF offensive against Hamas and put at stake its troops.

The genocide accusation’s objective is to undermine Israel’s military operations against Hamas.

The IDF is already operating under the scrutiny of the international community; the army is used to this. It is very unlikely that the ruling will have a significant impact on the counter-terror operations.

Hamas claimed that the ICJ ruling contributes to isolating Israel, but that is pure propaganda, since it is already very clear who sides with Israel, or we should say, who sides with those who are willing to fight Islamist terrorism, and those who are not.

The UN’s ICJ ruling confirmed that Dr. Boaz Ganor is totally correct: we need an internationally recognized and shared objective definition of terrorism.

One last thing, it is worth recalling that in the meantime, while the UN’s ICJ was announcing its verdict, the United States paused funding to the UN’s UNRWA due to the allegations that 12 of its employees may have been involved in the October 7th Hamas attack on Israel, as stated by the US Department of State spokesperson Matthew Miller: “The Department of State has temporarily paused additional funding for UNRWA while we review these allegations and the steps the United Nations is taking to address them”.

Once again, there is a serious issue within the UN (and that was already evident from the very beginning of the October 7th war thanks to Guterres’ statements), an issue that also requires prompt intervention.

About the Author
Giovanni Giacalone is a senior analyst in Islamist extremism and terrorism at the Italian Team for Security, Terroristic Issues and Managing Emergencies-Catholic University of Milan, at the Europe desk for the UK-based think tank Islamic Theology of Counter-Terrorism, and a researcher for Centro Studi Machiavelli. Since 2021 he is the coordinator for the "Latin America group" at the International Institute for the Study of Security-ITSS. In 2023 Giacalone published the book “The Tablighi Jamaat in Europe”.
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