January 10, 2024
Hon. Antony J. Blinken
Secretary of State
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Secretary Blinken,
Thank you for your and President Biden’s continuing support for Israel during the ongoing crisis. Your steadfast dedication to ensuring a peaceful and secure future for the people of Israel is deeply appreciated by the American Jewish community.
As you are aware, this Thursday and Friday, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the Hague will hold a hearing in the proceedings instituted by the South African government accusing Israel of committing genocide in Gaza. We were heartened by your comments yesterday characterizing the submission to the ICJ as a distraction, as well as your assertion that “the charge of genocide is meritless.”
We also greatly appreciate comments by National Security Spokesman John Kirby and State Department Spokesperson Matt Miller rejecting South Africa’s initiative and the application of the genocide label on Israel’s Gaza operations.
The unequivocal support from yourself and the United States will be vital for ensuring that these specious accusations against Israel are ultimately dismissed. This week the ICJ will hear arguments on the request for institution of preliminary measures requested by the Government of South Africa.
In its 84-page brief, South Africa argues that Israel’s military campaign in Gaza breaches its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention, and it is seeking an expedited hearing in order to implement provisional measures against Israel.
As a signatory to the Convention, ICJ preliminary measures could require Israel to cease its military operations in Gaza, which are a self-defense response to the horrific Hamas attack of October 7, which left 1200 people killed, mutilated, raped and burned, and a further 240 taken hostage. Israel’s military operation is aimed at dismantling Hamas, saving hostages, and ensuring the security of Israeli civilians by preventing future Hamas terrorist attacks against the Jewish State. As you noted, the charges against Israel are “particularly galling, given that those who are attacking Israel – Hamas, Hizballah, the Houthis, as well as their supporter, Iran – continue to openly call for the annihilation of Israel and the mass murder of Jews.”
There is simply no basis for the claim that Israel is engaging or has the intention to engage in genocide in Gaza or elsewhere. Israel has repeatedly stated its conflict is with Hamas terrorists – who are responsible for the October 7th massacre – not the millions of Palestinian civilians living in Gaza.
During its military operations, the IDF has gone to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties. This includes giving advance warnings for civilians to evacuate targeted areas, creating humanitarian corridors for civilian safe passage, facilitating the delivery of truckloads of humanitarian aid into Gaza, and working with the United States and others to develop best practices on avoiding civilian casualties.
Sadly, the government of South Africa has decided to ignore this reality in favor of an incendiary and dangerous political stunt, with the nefarious goal of undermining Israel’s right to defend itself and protect its own citizens.
An ICJ court decision that would potentially order Israel halt its defensive operation would make a mockery of the court’s authority and the Genocide Convention, and greatly endanger Israel’s security and the security of millions of Jews around the world. Israel would be forced to choose between abiding by a politicized interpretation of international law, and protecting its citizens from future Oct. 7-like attacks. And Jews worldwide, who are already confronting historic levels of antisemitism, would be subjected to false claims of supporting genocide, claims that are reminiscent of classic antisemitic tropes about Jewish bloodlust.
By undermining Israel’s security and its ability to defend its citizens, the ICJ hearings risk escalating the conflict and spreading it further. It emboldens and empowers those who continue to do harm against the Jewish state. As the United States’ top diplomat, your vocal support for Israel in the face of these charges will be instrumental in not only our government’s continued efforts to bring peace to the region, but also in bringing other world leaders to follow the United States’ lead.
As the ICJ hearing is fast approaching, we urge you to mobilize foreign leaders to speak out publicly against the outrageous charge of genocide and continue to urge more senior administration officials to do the same. We appreciate your support for Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas and other terrorist threats.
Opposing an ICJ ruling implicating Israel in genocide sends an important message about the shared US and Israeli interests of protecting innocent civilians in the face of terrorism and other threats to democracy and Western values.
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
American Jewish Committee
American Jewish Congress
American Zionist Movement
B’nai B’rith International
Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America
Jewish Federations of North America
National Council of Jewish Women
Simon Wiesenthal Center
World Jewish Congress North America