The Crisis In The Middle East

Genocide Convention invoked in Israel-Palestinian War


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Genocide Convention, 1948

Mains level: Not Much

Central Idea

  • South Africa has petitioned the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to declare Israel in breach of the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Genocide Convention, 1948

Full Name Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
Adoption Date December 9, 1948
Primary Aim To prevent and punish the crime of genocide
Definition of Genocide Acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group
Key Provisions Includes killing or causing harm to members of a group, deliberately inflicting destructive conditions, imposing measures to prevent births, and forcibly transferring children
Punishable Acts Genocide, conspiracy, incitement, attempt, and complicity in genocide
Implementation and Enforcement States must enact legislation to give effect to the Convention’s provisions and provide penalties for perpetrators;

Genocide recognized as a crime under international law

Historical Context Created post-Holocaust and World War II as a global commitment against atrocities
Legal Framework Impact Established legal basis for defining and prosecuting genocide, influencing international criminal law
India’s Involvement Ratified by India on August 27, 1959;

Principles incorporated into India’s domestic legal system

South Africa’s Stance and Actions

  • Preventive Obligation: Following its application to the ICJ, South Africa stated its obligation to prevent genocide, seeking urgent provisional measures to halt violence in Gaza.
  • Israel’s Response: Israel has strongly condemned South Africa’s accusations, terming them as “blood libel.”
  • Potential Impact of ICJ Ruling: Even if the ICJ issues provisional measures, Israel, like Russia in the Ukraine case, may choose to ignore them.

Historical Roots of South Africa’s Position

  • Longstanding Criticism of Israel: South Africa has a history of criticizing Israel, including suspending diplomatic relations and expressing solidarity with Palestine.
  • Colonialism and Empathy for Palestine: South Africa’s own history of colonialism and apartheid has fostered empathy towards the Palestinian cause.
  • Influential Figures: Leaders like Nelson Mandela have historically supported Palestinian rights.
  • Resistance to Western Influence: South Africa’s stance is partly influenced by a desire to resist Western-dominated worldviews, evident in its approach to global issues like the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Economic and Political Considerations

  • Trade Relations with Israel: Despite being Israel’s largest African trading partner, South Africa has maintained its support for Palestine.
  • Shift in African Nations’ Stance: While many African countries have softened their stance towards Israel, South Africa remains steadfast due to the ANC’s anti-discrimination roots and resistance to Western hegemony.


  • Balancing Trade and Ideology: South Africa’s actions reflect a complex interplay of historical empathy, political ideology, and economic considerations in its foreign policy.
  • Global Implications: This move at the ICJ underscores the ongoing tensions in international relations, particularly in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and broader geopolitical dynamics.

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