International Holocaust Remembrance Day: The Irony or Coincidence of the Timing of the Hague?

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day when the world is to remember the systematic murder of 6 million Jews throughout Europe during World War II. But ironically Israel — the Jewish state — is standing accused of genocide.

The much anticipated ruling today from the World Court in the Hague wasn’t exactly earth shattering. The International Court of Justice ruled that Israel must ensure that humanitarian aid makes it to Gaza and that its military avoids genocidal acts.

But it did not grant South Africa’s demand for an immediate ceasefire.

It did say that it is also “gravely concerned” by the fate of Israeli hostages (136 is the official number) and called for their “immediate and unconditional release.”

A majority of justices said they believe that conditions in Gaza are likely to deteriorate further and that Israel must ensure humanitarian aid into the region. The court also said that Israel must “take all measures in its power” to prevent the commission of genocidal acts against the Palestinians.

They require that Israel report back in 30 days, but not stop fighting. Israel will have to show it is allowing in aid, following international law and not displacing or targeting Palestinian civilians.

So does anything change?

Not at all. For now.

Former Israeli Ambassador Alan Baker said Israel may have hoped that justices would have concluded “there is no intention to commit genocide, therefore there’s no need to rule on any provisional measures to prevent action contributing to genocide.” 

“But because we’re talking about a UN (Unite Nations) body we’re talking about half of the justices, if not more, who receive instructions from their governments and don’t act purely on the principles of the basis of justice, it was highly unlikely that the court would set aside the South African request,” for a ceasefire, he said on a forum with MediaCentral. “We assumed the court would come midway between the two which is exactly what it did.”

“It didn’t call for ending the fighting it just called upon Israel to take measures to prevent any acts that could be interpreted as falling within the definition of genocide and to take measures to ensure humanitarian assistance and to take action against any of those officials or others who have been involved in incitement to genocide.”

Nevertheless, leaders from Hamas to Turkey are elated by this ruling. 

A senior Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters that the decision isolates Israel and called for “forcing the occupation to implement the court’s decisions.”

Hamas is not named as a party to the proceedings and so are not bound by any requirements mentioned here.

South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said she is “satisfied that the provisional measures that we sought to be addressed, would be addressed by the Court.”

Israel, for its part, will “continue to defend itself against Hamas, a genocidal terror organization,” according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“On October 7th, Hamas perpetrated the most horrific atrocities against the Jewish people since the Holocaust, and it vows to repeat these atrocities again and again and again,” he said.


Even more ironically is the fact that one of the ad hoc judges is former Israeli Supreme Court President Aharon Barak who is a Holocaust survivor himself. He added to his opinion an autobiographical response.

“Genocide is more than just a word for me; it represents calculated destruction and human behaviour at its very worst. It is the gravest possible accusation and is deeply intertwined with my personal life experience,” he wrote.

You can read the whole opinion here.  

He writes that when he was 5, the German army occupied his city, Kaunas, Lithuania. 

“Within a few days, almost 30,000 Jews in Kaunas were taken from their homes and put into a ghetto. It was as if we were sentenced to death, awaiting our execution,” he wrote. “On 26 October 1941, every Jew in the ghetto was instructed to gather in the central square, known as ‘Democracy Square.’ Around 9,000 Jews were taken from the square on that day and executed by machine gun fire.”

Earlier in this complicated day, during a forum for Holocaust Remembrance Day, the cousin of a kidnapped Israeli in Gaza captivity with her two young children including the now 1-year old Kfir Bibas, said this is tantamount to a modern day Holocaust.

Yossi Schneider said waiting every day to see which of the hostages would be released back in November “was the Schindler’s List of our time.”

Schneider said that he recently looked up what milestones a baby of Kfir’s age would have hit at this point. But instead, he said. Kfir spent a third of his life in captivity.

If he is still alive.

Hamas claims that Shiri Bibas and her two sons were killed in an Israeli airstrike. Her husband, Yarden, was abducted separately and was said by Hamas to be alive at the time they said the rest of the family was killed.

Meanwhile, today Hamas released a video of three Israeli teenagers still being held blaming the Israeli government for endangering their lives and abandoning them in Gaza.

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