As per recent news where South Africa has taken Israel to the International Court of Justice under "numerous examples of ‘direct and public incitement to commit genocide by Israeli state officials’, including by the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu", what would the consequences be, political and otherwise, if an adverse-to-Israel ruling is made?

Note that I'm not referring to what the ICJ would order, but literally everything else, from worldwide reputation damage, possibility of sanctions, additional support to the Palestinian cause, etc.

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    What makes you think it would have a negative effect on Israel? It could backfire and validate Israel's complaint that it is being targeted unfairly by the international institutions and, because ICJ only adjudicates between countries, it would force Israel's enemies to acknowledge its statehood in order to mention the scarlet letter that it got.
    – wrod
    Commented Jan 8 at 12:50
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    it's not enough for an answer. An answer should be able to provide references or rely on well-established facts. This in an unprecedented territory both on facts and on law. So no clear answer can be given.
    – wrod
    Commented Jan 8 at 13:27
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    @AhmedTawfik I think you wanted to ask something like this question?
    – C.F.G
    Commented Jan 8 at 14:10
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    Hmmm, I didn't vote to close, nor did I downvote. But you are asking us to predict the future, you know? Assuming South Africa's argument prevailed, it would depend which particular actions the ICJ had found Israel to be in breach on: intents to "voluntarily emigrate" Gazans elsewhere could just be shelved. Blockade could be lifted. Geneva conventions shortcoming could be addressed by tactical adjustments, ICJ may find both Hamas and IDF in breach of those conventions. Or only Hamas. Israel may be vindicated. Or, as the article states, Israel could ignore the ruling. Commented Jan 8 at 16:30
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    Does this answer your question? How can an International Court of Justice order to stop the war in Gaza be enforced? Commented Jan 9 at 15:26

2 Answers 2


You can expect there to be reputational damage for the court - no matter how it rules - because regardless which side you are on, you'll agree that there's a lot of dishonest propaganda from the other side. So if the court rules against your side clearly the court is beholden to those who spread the dishonest propaganda.*

Therefore you should expect a kind of muted ruling, either "what Israel is doing is no genocide but it should do more to limit civilian deaths nonetheless", or "Israel is at risk of committing a genocide so it must stop now or we will call it a genocide". So in your scenario of an adverse-to Israel ruling, I'm going to assume a scenario where Israel is ordered to let food into Gaza to stop the starvation, and it will be called out for being at risk of causing a genocide, but what it has done won't be explicitly called a genocide, yet.

There will be reputational damage to those political parties outside of Israel whose values are in line with human rights but who did oppose a ceasefire, like the Labour party in the UK, and The Democratic Party in the USA. Germany's public sentiment is harder to predict, because while such a ruling would cause decreased trust in the establishment, the most relevant anti-establishment force in Germany is the AfD on the far right. Germany's political influence in the EU would likely decline in the short term, because it's an easy target at that point.

The international response to Israel is almost impossible to predict because it makes a massive difference whether Netanyahu gets a war with Lebanon or not, and whether Biden actively joins military operations in such a war. If the military operation stays contained to Gaza, there's a possibility of continued opposition from Israel to letting in enough food and water to stop the starvation, which would then lead to the threat of sanctions by some nations, possibly even the EU.

*I'm not saying there isn't a clear and obvious right or wrong in this case, clear and obvious liars, and lies, and blatantly obvious truth, but that is off topic on this site. It's each individual's duty to find out what the truth is and not simply believe the first propagandist they run into.



What are the non-ICJ-enforced consequences to Israel if found guilty of genocide by the ICJ?

"Non-ICJ-enforced consequences" is superfluous because the ICJ and the greater UN for that matter has no ability to enforce any of their proclamations / findings. ( The ICJ is one of the six principle organs of the United Nations ) The ICJ require their supporters to enforce their findings on their behalf like the UN. Neither has a standing army, neither even has a police force.

So what are the consequences? The obvious consequences are if those convicted travel internationally, conduct banking internationally, or own or try to purchase property internationally. Supporters of the ICJ are bound to arrest them and hand them over to the Hague. Technically all member of the UN are members of the ICJ, but some members of the U.N. like the United States do not recognize the courts findings. The United States under President Ronald Reagan 1986 withdrew from the ICJ after it found the U.S. had violated international laws in Nicaragua v. United States when it mined Nicaragua's harbors.

For individuals the ICJ has had a better track record over time. Take the case of Ratko Mladić the war criminal. It took about 16 years but the ICJ eventually got him. Indicted July 1995, Arrested in Northern Serbia May 2011. Convicted 2017. Even then though I would say Mladic's experience is due more to certain countries not forgetting about him and slowly methodically tracking him down and applying pressure along with his falling out of favor in Serbia. Absent these things the ICJ indictment remains more annoyance than a summons to eventual consequences.

  • From the link on "Ratko Mladić": "he was found guilty of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)". Which is to say it was not ICJ. It was a different court. "ICTY" was established by resolution 827 (it's all in the link).
    – wrod
    Commented Jan 10 at 0:34
  • Yeah, my understanding is the ICJ does not prosecute individuals, but rather states. Commented Jan 10 at 1:39
  • Note that any USA officers arrested and handed to the Hague will cause the USA to trigger the Hague Invasion Act. Commented Jan 10 at 9:31

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