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France may not accept ICJ ruling because it’s ‘morally wrong’ to charge Israel with genocide

January 19, 2024 at 1:18 pm

French Europe and Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris, on January 12, 2024 [Ludovic Marin / via Getty Images]

France has joined the ranks of Western nations refuting allegations that Israel is engaging in genocide against Palestinian civilians in Gaza. French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne has suggested that Paris may not accept the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s ruling against Israel for genocide, because it “crosses a moral threshold”.

“To accuse the Jewish state of genocide is to cross a moral threshold,” Sejourne  said. “The notion of genocide cannot be exploited for political ends. This has always been our position.” The foreign minister did not explain how a judgement by the world’s highest legal body against Israel warranted such a description, but for critics on social media it was another indication of how the apartheid state is beyond the law.

READ: France: investigate 4,000 French soldiers for ‘war crimes’ in Palestine, says MP

Critics blasted these comments as hypocritical saying France’s recent recognition of an alleged genocide in Ukraine is politically motivated. Just last year, the French parliament voted with President Emmanuel Macron to label Russia’s 1930s Holodomor in Ukraine a “genocide”. The move is widely seen as politically motivated support for Ukraine amid current tensions with Moscow.

Prominent Professor of Economics Yanis Varoufakis also slammed Sejourne: “The French government has joined the German government in stating that international law on genocide does not apply to Israel – that, because Jews have been subjected to genocide, Israel has moral & legal immunity for any war crime, even a genocide, it chooses to commit.”

An ICJ ruling against Israel would carry legal weight as the UN’s principal judicial organ. As a founding signatory, France has an obligation to respect such rulings rooted in international law. Sejourne’s rhetoric suggests a willingness to selectively apply the genocide label for political aims but ignore it when inconvenient.

For supporters of an ICJ probe into Israeli actions in Gaza, the apparent hypocrisy reveals the struggle between international law and political interests. An evidence-based finding of Israeli genocide by ICJ judges would be legally binding, yet France seems poised to disregard the court’s credibility due to its unquestioning support for the apartheid state of Israel.

Pointing to the contradiction in Sejourne’s position, social media users pointed to recent comments by France’s Ambassador to the UN, Nicolas de Riviere. He is reported saying that “France [will] see what [the ICJ] decide on this matter and we’ll make sure that we’ll support the outcome of the decision.”

In a speech on Tuesday, President Macron did not mention South Africa’s case during a wide-ranging news conference, but he said that “all lives are equal” and that many in France were “shaken” by the plight of civilians in Gaza.

Sejourne’s comments a day later came in response to a question from Daniele Obono, a lawmaker for the leftist France Unbowed Party, who argued that “if it wants to be consistent with its values, France must urgently follow South Africa’s lead.”

“History is watching us, and it won’t be kind to those who knew and did nothing,” she said.

READ: The ICJ hearing on genocide contributes to healing the Palestinian historical trauma