We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Alamy Stock Photo

Varadkar rules out joining South African genocide case against Israel in UN Court

Israel has denied the accusation and promised to defend itself in court.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said the Government does not intend to join South Africa in its case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in which it has accused Israel of committing genocide in Gaza. 

Israel has denied the accusation and promised to defend itself in court. 

The question was put to Varadkar on RTÉ Radio this afternoon and comes after he and Tánaiste Micheál Martin received a letter from four senators yesterday that called on the Government to support the case at the ICJ.

Asked if the Government would join the case, Varadkar said: “We do not intend to do so”. 

“That case will be heard,” he said, adding that it will be up to the Court to make its determination. 

The Taoiseach said: “I really think this is an area where we need to be very careful.” 

Varadkar said that what has been happening in Gaza since Hamas’ 7 October attacks has been “appalling” and that war crimes have “very possibly” been committed by both sides in the conflict. 

But he was reluctant to go as far as labelling Israel’s assault on Gaza a genocide. 

“Genocide is something very particular,” he said. “It is defined as the deliberate attempt to destroy an entire nation or entire race or to do so in large part.

“And one group of people that has experienced that in the world are Jewish people, the Holocaust, 6 million Jews killed here in Europe and Hitler had a plan to kill many millions more. That is genocide.

“And of course, there have been other examples of genocide such as the Armenian Genocide, and what’s happened to some indigenous people, for example, in the new world. We need to be very careful about genocide in that context.” 

Under the UN Genocide Convention, genocide is described as a crime committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, in whole or in part.

Finally, Varadkar pointed to the action of Hamas on 7 October, when militants broke through the fences surrounding Gaza and killed over 1,000 people. 

“Bear in mind what Hamas did on 7 October. Hamas went into Israel, killed 1400 people… essentially because they were Israelis because they were Jews, because they lived in Israel. Was that not also genocide?” he asked. 

The group of Irish senators who sent the letter to the Taoiseach and Tánaiste are not alone in calling for Israel to answer accusations of committing genocide in Gaza, where the death toll has now passed 22,800 people and the UN describes conditions as “uninhabitable”. 

In the months since the Israeli siege, bombardment and subsequent ground invasion of Gaza began, there have been mounting calls from numerous experts for the campaign to be labelled a genocide. 

A group of UN experts warned of the possibility back in mid-November. 

Israeli Holocaust and genocide historian Raz Segal has also made that assessment, pointing to the “annihilatory language” of top Israeli officials. 

Craig Mokhiber, a director at the United Nations, resigned in late October saying: “Once again we are seeing a genocide unfolding before our eyes and the organization we serve appears powerless to stop it.”

Since South Africa submitted its application to the ICJ, a number of other countries have supported it, including Turkey, Malaysia and Jordan. 

The Taoiseach was also asked about the possibility of recognising Palestinian statehood, to which he replied he would rather do so as part of a multilateral effort, rather than as a single state. 

“I understand why people would like to see us do it unilaterally. I actually don’t think that would be a successful decision.

“It would be something that would make us feel better about ourselves no doubt and would be denounced in Israel and welcomed in Palestine but forgotten about within a few days,” he said. 

Varadkar also reiterated his desire to see a ceasefire in Gaza.