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🌍 The World Court to hand down its interim ruling on Israel-Gaza genocide case tomorrow

Plus: North Korea takes down reunification landmark

Hi Intriguer. When I served in Tel Aviv, I used to stroll through Rabin Square, a lively and cosmopolitan plaza with bustling cafes and restaurants.

It was on the steps of that square where former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by Yigal Amir, an Israeli law student and ultranationalist who opposed Rabin’s signing of the Oslo Accords.

I often thought about the counterfactual history there, and how that one act ultimately derailed the two-state solution and prospects for peace.

It’s just one of the many heartbreaks in Israeli-Palestinian ties bringing us to today’s briefing, and the World Court’s imminent and highly-anticipated interim ruling on current hostilities.

- Helen Zhang, Co-Founder

Was this forwarded to you? We're a team of ex-diplomats producing a concise and engaging geopolitical briefing for 85k+ leaders each day. It’s free to subscribe.


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The World Court to hand down its interim ruling on Israel-Gaza genocide case tomorrow

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced overnight it'll hand down tomorrow (Friday) its highly anticipated interim ruling on South Africa's genocide case against Israel. Here's what you need to know.

South Africa lodged its case on 29 December, alleging Israel's actions in Gaza breach the Genocide Convention. South Africa's ruling party (the African National Congress) has long drawn parallels between its own experiences resisting apartheid, and Palestinian experiences with Israel.

Supporters applauded South Africa's efforts to end a conflict that's seen most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people displaced and more than 25,000 killed.

Critics said the case made a mockery of the ICJ, weakened the very concept of genocide, and reflected hypocrisy by South Africa (which declined to arrest an alleged genocidaire in 2015, and hosted another earlier this month).

Tomorrow's ruling is not on whether Israel is breaching the Genocide Convention (that ruling will take years). Rather, it's on South Africa's request for emergency orders like more aid to Gaza, and a halt to Israel's military operation.

For this, South Africa had to prove its genocide claims were “plausible”. It then had to prove its proposed emergency measures were necessary.

So South Africa argued on 11 January that:

  • Israeli officials have voiced genocidal intent, such as in Prime Minister Netanyahu's reference to ancient Israel's destruction of Amalek

  • Israeli soldiers have acted on that intent (lawyers referenced videos of soldiers “joyfully detonating entire apartment blocks”), and

  • Israeli actions have been genocidal in nature, causing destruction, displacement, and death aimed at the "destruction of Palestinian life".

In response, Israel argued the following day that:

  • Not all public comments reflect official policy, and Netanyahu's ‘Amalek’ speech also said Israel "does everything to avoid harming non-combatants"

  • Israel is targeting Hamas, not Palestinians, as evidenced in its evacuation orders and warnings to civilians

  • Palestinian casualties are the result of Hamas booby traps, misfired rockets, and its widespread use of civilian infrastructure, and

  • Any order for Israel to cease efforts to rescue its hostages and defeat Hamas would violate the country’s basic right to self-defence.

South Africa's foreign minister has announced she's flying to The Hague for tomorrow's interim ruling. Israel hasn't yet commented on the court's announcement.


As ever, this is such a polarising issue in part because it features such opposing yet confident narratives.

The Palestinian people might describe a history of occupation, oppression, and denial of their right to self-determination, culminating in a situation now so dire it’s ended up as a genocide case at the world’s highest court.

The Jewish people might describe their own history of injustice, genocide, and a connection to the land of Israel that stretches back to the Bronze Age, culminating in today’s single Jewish state among neighbours seeking its end.

These competing narratives have paralysed the UN Security Council, which is partly why South Africa felt justified going to the ICJ instead.

The most likely outcome tomorrow is that neither party gets all it wants: e.g., the ICJ might find it's "plausible" the Genocide Convention is being breached, in turn ordering Israel to adjust but not halt its operation.

This type of ruling may not drive immediate change, especially given the ICJ’s lack of enforcement and Israel's vow to still rescue its hostages and defeat Hamas.

But it could put pressure on Israel's allies like the US, on Netanyahu domestically, and on the international order itself as its limits are laid bare.

And we’ll likely see those same opposing narratives play out; whether it's allegations of the West's selective enforcement of international law, or allegations of the world's selective focus on its lone Jewish state.

Also worth noting:

  • The treaty defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

  • Both Israel and South Africa were able to appoint 'ad hoc' ICJ judges for this case, bringing the total bench to 17 judges. ICJ rulings are binding and non-appealable, but also largely unenforceable.

  • Separately, the ICJ will next month start oral hearings on the “Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”.

  • Unlike the ICJ, the International Criminal Court (ICC) can try individuals. It opened an investigation into the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in 2021. Various states (including Israel) don’t recognise it.


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  1. 🇰🇷 South Korea: President Yoon is in hot water after a video resurfaced of the first lady accepting a $2,200 Dior bag as a gift. The scandal comes just months before South Korea’s National Assembly elections.

  2. 🇪🇺 EU: The European Commission has unveiled plans to “strengthen” the bloc’s economic security, likely with China in mind. The proposed measures include toughening the screening of foreign investments and tightening the export rules for dual-use goods (i.e., goods with civilian and military applications).

  3. 🇲🇻 Maldives: Local authorities say a visiting Chinese ship won’t be conducting research within Maldivian waters, after news of the ship’s docking triggered concerns in regional media. The XIANG YANG HONG 3 will reportedly dock at Malé “for rotation of personnel and replenishment” only.    

  4. 🇲🇽 Mexico: A US panel has ruled that a $10B lawsuit filed by Mexico in 2021 against six US gun manufacturers can proceed, overruling a lower court that had dismissed the case. Mexico says the manufacturers are responsible for an influx of illegal guns crossing the border.

  5. 🇮🇶 Iraq: The US has hit three military facilities in Iraq used by Iranian-backed militias, in retaliation for attacks that injured US personnel last week. US airstrikes also killed three Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabab members in Somalia over the weekend.


Here’s what people around the world googled yesterday 

  • 🇮🇪 The Irish searched for ‘Chinese piano player’ after a viral incident in which Chinese tourists asked not to be filmed by a pianist in London’s St Pancras station.

  • 🇨🇦 Canadian tennis fans googled ‘Medvedev’ to read up on the Russian tennis player’s quarter-final win at the Australian Open (where Russian and Belarusian flags are banned).

  • 🇰🇷 South Koreans read up on ‘일본 미인대회 우크라이나’ (Japanese beauty pageant Ukraine), after a Ukrainian-born naturalised citizen won the Miss Japan pageant.


Credits: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen.

The Arch of Reunification was a 30-metre (98 ft) tall arch near North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang. We say “was”, because North Korea just demolished it. The arch was commissioned after a landmark inter-Korean summit in 2000, as a way to capture the hope for peace and reunification across the Korean peninsula. The North’s decision to axe the arch follows a marked deterioration in North-South ties. 


Where do you think the ICJ will land in its interim ruling tomorrow?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Yesterday’s poll: Do you think China's economic woes are worse than what the government is letting on?

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 🤔 Yes, the authorities are hiding something (90%)

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 👍 No, they're close enough (9%)

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ ✍️ Other (write in!) (1%)

Your two cents:

  • 🤔 W.W.M: “I live in China half the year. I have property and contacts all over the country. The Chinese know things are worse and are quietly planning for it. Chinese don't do "politics" they just roll their eyes up and wink when you talk about the conditions in the country.”

  • 🤔 S.B: “Regional governments don’t want to disappoint Xi with bad news. So they embellish everything.”

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