Pro-Palestine judge elected as ICJ president

A Lebanese judge known for his past criticisms of Israel has been elected as the new president of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and will now oversee a genocide case brought against Tel Aviv over its military campaign in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Judge Nawaf Salam was appointed to lead the ICJ for a term of three years, the global body said in a press release on Tuesday, noting he has been a member of the court since 2018 and previously served as Beirut’s envoy to the United Nations.

“My election as President of the International Court of Justice is a major responsibility in achieving international justice and upholding international law,” Salam said in a statement shared on X (formerly Twitter).

The new president has repeatedly slammed Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians over the years, stating the country “must stop violence” and end its military occupation of the West Bank back in 2015. In another statement issued the same year, not long after Israel’s Independence Day, he wished Israel an “unhappy birthday” and highlighted “48 years of occupation”.

Salam has also spoken in favor of full Palestinian membership at the UN, where the de facto State of Palestine currently enjoys observer status only.

With his election to the top post at the ICJ, Salam will now preside over South Africa’s genocide case against Israel, launched last December over allegations that Israel’s military action in Gaza had violated international law. In its submission to the court, Pretoria argued the operation had “specific intent … to destroy Palestinians in Gaza as a part of the broader Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group”, and likened Israel’s policies to its own history with apartheid.

Tel Aviv has vocally rejected the charges, calling them “outrageous” and a form of “blood libel” against Israel

“History will judge South Africa for its criminal complicity with the bloodiest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, and it will judge it without mercy,” Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy stated, referring to a Hamas terrorist attack which left some 1,200 people dead in Israel last year.

While the ICJ ruled on January 26 that Israel must take all precautions to prevent genocide and destruction in the Palestinian territories, South Africa has argued that it is ignoring the order, citing hundreds of civilian casualties in Gaza in the weeks since. More than 27,000 people have been killed in the Palestinian enclave since Israel’s operation commenced last October, with hundreds of thousands more displaced, according to local health officials.

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