Analyzing the ICJ’s Ruling In Light of Israel’s (Non)Compliance  

As it continues to use starvation as a tool of war and engage in collective punishment of a civilian population, Israel's actions constitute a flagrant violation of the ICJ's order issued in February

Analyzing the ICJ’s Ruling In Light of Israel’s (Non)Compliance  

On March 18th, Israel requested the ICJ not to issue emergency orders over the possibility of famine in Gaza, stating that South Africa’s request for additional measures was both “morally repugnant” and an abuse of procedures. This request comes at the same time that a coalition of aid groups, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) released a report saying that civilians in Gaza were suffering from "catastrophic levels of hunger," and that half of Gaza's population, or 1.1 million people, were on the verge of famine.

The facts and circumstances mentioned above are sufficient to conclude that at least some of the rights claimed by South Africa and for which it is seeking protection are plausible. This is the case with respect to the right of the Palestinians in Gaza to be protected from acts of genocide and related prohibited acts identified in Article III, and the right of South Africa to seek Israel’s compliance with the latter’s obligations under the Convention.” 

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), six weeks ago, stated the aforementioned in its order for provisional measures on the case against Israel for its genocidal acts in direct violation of the Genocide Convention, against the Palestinian people. The case against Israel was filed by South Africa, who on December 29th, 2023, submitted an 84-page application, providing documented evidence for actions that South Africa considered amount to genocide.  

A series of hearings were initiated, in which both parties presented their arguments, and on February 26th the ICJ passed its ruling, with 15 of the 17 judges on ICJ panel voting for emergency measures which covered “most” of what South Africa had asked for. However, the ICJ remained shy of what it had commanded Russia to do in the case of Ukraine – the call for an immediate ceasefire.

Rather, in this case the court ordered Israel take six provisional measures, which to summarize capture the following directives: taking all measures within its power to prevent genocide, ensuring that its military does not commit genocide, taking all measures within its power to prevent and punish incitement to genocide, taking immediate and effective measures to enable urgent humanitarian assistance and basic services, preserving evidence relating to allegations of acts under article 2-3 of the Genocide Convention, and reporting to the Court within one month about measures taken to give effect to the order. 

The ruling was both welcomed and criticized by Palestinians, and pro-Palestine supporters around the world, not because it favored one party more than the other, but rather the due to the ambiguity of the order – leaving much on the efficacy of implementation, its implications, and what it symbolizes to one’s own perspective. The devil is in the detail, and here is where the detail gets all convoluted. 

It is imperative to consider that the preliminary ruling made, or the case filed, was not to definitively ascertain whether Israel was committing genocide, but rather to establish the first – yet significant – step of a much longer judicial process which may take years to materialize. In essence, ICJ’s decision on the hearing was a validation that there is merit in South Africa’s case against Israel.  

For many this was a cause for celebration, a moral and symbolic victory, exposing and ratifying Israel’s flagrant disregard for international law, calling it out for its ruthless military campaign that had unleashed unimaginable pain and suffering on the civilian population of Gaza – a narrative never fully acknowledged or endorsed by Western media. For others, the decision was hollow, and fell tremendously short of establishing a strong precedent as the Court had previously done when it ordered the Russian Federation to “immediately suspend military operations that it commenced on 24 February 2022 in the territory of Ukraine.” Simply put, the ICJ could have, but did not call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. 

The debates and arguments to unravel and demystify what each of the six measures mean and whether they equate to an implicit call for ceasefire are rendered obsolete when one factors in Israel’s unrestrained onslaught and the ever-increasing death of innocent children, women, and men in Gaza, both during the hearings, and after the ruling. 

Between October 7th, when Israel began its war on Gaza, and December 29th, 21,507 people had been killed. On January 26th, when the ruling came out, the number had gone up to 26,083 (including at least 10,000 children), and six weeks post the ruling the death toll has reached as staggering figure of 30,878 civilians (including 13,000 children). Almost all of the 2.3 million inhabitants of Gaza have since been rendered homeless struggling for survival, and are now not only dying of Israel’s indiscriminate bombing on Gaza, but also of hunger and starvation.

Six weeks after the ICJ’s order, Israel continues to disregard its obligation to comply with all the provisional measures as evident from the increase in the death toll, as well as deliberate efforts to block Palestinians access to humanitarian aid. By not lifting restrictions on the entry of humanitarian aid and lifesaving equipment, or allowing additional aid access points and crossings coupled with relentless bombardment, Israel continues to violate what was meant to be the “binding” order of ICJ with complete impunity. Furthermore, numerous cases of torture, killings and torching of civilian homes had been reported in clear disregard of the ICJ order. 

What Israel is doing is using starvation as a weapon of war, an act of collective punishment that amounts to a war crime. Human Rights Watch has observed that “Israeli authorities are deliberately blocking the delivery of water, food, and fuel, willfully impeding humanitarian assistance… and depriving the civilian population of objects indispensable to its survival.”

As the situation currently stands, Israel has fuelled the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, putting more than two million Palestinians at risk of irreparable harm. To make the situation all the more dire and threatening is the prospect of a full-scale ground assault on Rafah in southern Gaza, where over 1.5 million civilians are currently sheltering. The situation is already catastrophic, with no parallels in the history of conflict and violence. This one-sided onslaught on Rafah, which Israeli Prime Minister confirms that he will press ahead with, will amount to nothing less than mass murder of millions of innocent people. 

An immediate and sustained ceasefire must be pushed for by all global leaders, making sure that Israel complies, for it is the only avenue for saving lives and ensuring that ICJ’s provisional measures including the delivery of lifesaving humanitarian assistance is implemented. The world is at the risk of not only losing thousands of innocent lives, but very much the soul of humanity as it witnesses the genocide of Palestinian people in real-time, being captured with precise and graphic details. 


Ahmed Nauraiz Rana is an Economist, who consults with the World Bank Group in Washington DC. His work focuses on the design and implementation of investment climate reforms targeted toward creating an enabling environment conducive to poverty reduction and business-led growth. He has supported and advised various governments on how to promote private sector development while improving their country’s business environment.  Previously, he has worked with the IFC and UNDP on areas of private sector development focusing on entrepreneurship, market creation, and informality with cross-cutting emphasis on gender mainstreaming and digitalization. Nauraiz has published several reports and papers on these topics. Nauraiz holds a dual-degree Masters in Economic Development and Public Policy from Columbia University, and the London School of Economics. He holds a Bachelor’s in Economics and Finance from the University of Waterloo.