What qualifies as genocide? Breaking down the ICJ case against Israel.

South Africa has brought a case against Israel at the International Court of Justice, alleging that Israel is violating international law by committing and failing to prevent genocidal acts “to destroy Palestinians in Gaza,” setting up a showdown in the court and in the court of public opinion as preliminary hearings on the case began Thursday.

Israel condemned the claims. “We are fighting terrorists, and we are fighting lies,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in remarks Thursday. “Today, again, we saw an upside down world, in which the State of Israel is accused of genocide at a time when it is fighting genocide.”

The case hinges on the definition of genocide and whether the judges find that Israel’s actions in and plans for the Gaza Strip meet that bar under international law.

It “can take years to resolve a case on the merits” at the International Court of Justice, said Adil Haque, an expert on ethics and law in wartime at Rutgers University.

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