26 January 2024
Early this morning, on January 26th, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a provisional ruling on a request brought to it regarding Israel’s fight against Hamas in Gaza. While the ruling is greatly flawed, it does affirm Israel’s right to security and self-defense in the face of terrorism. Notably, the court did not call for a ceasefire demanding Israel put an end to the war.
As I sat there this morning watching the Presiding Judge read out the series of decisions, I understood that the legal definition and criteria for any ruling about genocide were radically different than what I understood. From the Jewish experience, genocide is the organized effort to exterminate a people.
This definition, however, is not the one used by the ICJ. While there have been a significant number of Palestinians killed in Gaza, both Hamas terrorists and innocent civilians, there was no recognition of the measures Israel has taken to reduce civilian casualties and administer humanitarian aid to Gaza while fighting a terrorist organization that chooses to embed itself among innocent civilians. Moreover, while the court noted Hamas’ atrocities on October 7th and beyond, there was little willingness to formally acknowledge the continued threat that Hamas poses to Israel and Israelis.
The accusations of genocide and the ICJ decision only serve to continue dangerous antisemitic tropes and distort the meaning of the word genocide, and is particularly poignant on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Amid record levels of antisemitism, including incidents of hate toward Jews in Greater Washington, this dangerous rhetoric and unfounded claims of genocide unnecessarily puts Jews at risk around the world while ignoring Hamas’ ongoing displays of violence toward Israel.
Federation will continue to stand with Israel in its fight against Hamas, advocate for the safe return of all hostages, and support the evolving and emerging needs of Israel, Israelis, and members of the IDF.
Throughout nearly four months of war, in the face of trauma and devastation, our local and global Jewish community continues to show resilience, strength, and solidarity. The interconnectedness of the global Jewish people has perhaps never been as clear and as necessary as it is right now, especially in the face of yet another challenge.
Alongside our partners, lay leaders, and all of you, we will continue to foster community and peoplehood that has always sustained the Jewish people.
Thank you for all you do.
CEO, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington