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Beware media spin about Hague Ruling

The ICJ ruled against Israel in genocide case brought by South Africa

By Rebekah Jones

News articles always come with bias.

Every reporter brings in their own life experiences, however limited they may be, when reporting news, even if they are making honest attempts to be fair and unbalanced.

Often, they don’t realize they’re doing it.

Take the New York Times’ coverage of the Hawaii fires last year.

The Times – who had no reporters based on the island chain – flew in a video game reporter from Las Angeles to cover the devastation left behind a series of fires that devastated Native history.

The reporter chose to highlight the stories of white residents finding their Rolex watches in the rubble instead.

Universal backlash ensued, with no formal apology from the reporter or the Times. Not only was their no acknowledgement of the insensitivity, but the reporter did it again later that day with another story about a white woman finding diamond earrings in the rubble of her condo.

Their privilege blinded them to why their reporting was so offensive.

More often, the bias stems from political, religious, or philosophical bias — and it can be equally blinding.

Coverage of the death toll in Gaza

The coverage of Israel’s assault on Gaza serves as a stark example of how media bias can go unchallenged because of universally accepted ideals across the media spectrum.

The Hague issued a preliminary ruling against Israel today, January 26, 2024, ordering Israel to immediately stop all acts of genocide against the people of Gaza, and to return in 30 days with a report demonstrating what steps it has taken to reduce civilian suffering in the strip.

The Israel-Gaza conflict produced some of the most offensive, absurd, and dehumanizing propaganda in modern conflict reporting.

A lot of that propaganda infiltrated the highest levels of American government. President Biden, on multiple occasions, repeated false narratives promoted by Israeli officials, which the White House was forced to immediately walk back in complete humiliation.

When Biden questioned the death toll figures produced by the Gaza Health Ministry, for example, the international community soundly corrected him. Israeli officials even use the Ministry’s figures for tracking the death toll, a recent investigation found.

Yet, in reporting from major media outlets in the US, the press still qualifies those figures by referring to the agency as the “Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.”

In a search of 20 major outlets and newspapers articles covering Gaza this week, I found that nearly half of media outlets are still qualifying the death toll coming from Gaza. You can see the list at the bottom of this article. It should serve as a proxy for gauging media bias in reporting news from the conflict.

The Hague’s Ruling Against Israel

Early this morning, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled against Israel in its initial findings related to South Africa’s case against the nation related to genocide in Gaza.

The ICJ ordered Israel to take all measures within its power to prevent its troops from committing further acts of genocide, punish acts of incitement, take steps to improve the humanitarian situation and report back on its progress in a month.

Israel sought to have the case thrown out. The ICJ denied their request. Israeli officials railed against the ruling online, with the top Defense Ministers tweeting “Hauge schmague.”

For months, Israel’s alleged war crimes have been fraught with controversy. Use of the word genocide began shortly after Israel cut off food, water, and communications to Gaza’s 2.3 million residents.

The United States and Israel have become increasingly isolated from a world rallying against Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Social media influencers, including Aaron Parnas, began misrepresenting the ICJ findings as soon as the ruling against Israel was released. Parnas falsely claimed the ruling said no genocide is occurring.

The media has spun this summary into “ICJ stops short of calling for a ceasefire,” even though in order for Israel to be in compliance, Israel would need to nearly meet the conditions of a ceasefire.

Because the spin machine has already began distorting the facts of the ICJ’s ruling, here’s a brief overview of what the ruling actually said.

The case against Israel and what the court found:

South Africa filed an application instituting proceedings against Israel before the ICJ concerning alleged violations by Israel of its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in relation to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on December 29, 2023.

The Application alleged that, “acts and omissions by Israel... are genocidal in character, as they are committed with the requisite specific intent... to destroy Palestinians in Gaza as a part of the broader Palestinian national, racial and ethnic group” and that “the conduct of Israel — through its State organs, State agents, and other persons and entities acting on its instructions or under its direction, control or influence — in relation to Palestinians in Gaza, is in violation of its obligations under the Genocide Convention.”

Article 41 of the Statute states the ICJ has the power to indicate provisional measures when irreparable prejudice could be caused to rights which are the subject of judicial proceedings or when the alleged disregard of such rights may entail irreparable consequences.

The court must first decide whether to implement emergency measures to reduce the risk of genocide before proceeding to the next phase of a trial, which could take years before reaching a conclusion.

The authority to indicate provisional measures will be exercised only if there is urgency, in the sense that there is a real and imminent risk that irreparable prejudice will be caused  before the ICJ gives its final decision.

The condition of urgency is met when the acts susceptible of causing irreparable prejudice can “occur at any moment” before the ICJ makes a final decision on the case.

The ICJ ruled against Israel in recognizing the urgency of Gaza’s condition, stating “In these circumstances, the [ICJ] considers that the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is at serious risk of deteriorating further before the Court renders its final judgment.”

Having met the urgency requirement, the ICJ ruled against Israel again by concluding that the “the conditions required by Statute for it to indicate provisional measures are met. It is therefore necessary, pending its final decision, for the [ICJ] to indicate certain measures in order to protect the rights claimed by South Africa that the [ICJ] has found to be plausible.”

The provisional measures ordered constitute recognition by the ICJ that Palestinians were protected under the convention, crimes are likely being committed under the Genocide Convention, and that the ICJ will continue with South Africa’s case against Israel.

The ICJ included statements made by Israeli officials which communicate clear genocidal incitement and genocidal intent, both crimes under the Genocide convention.

The ICJ’s ultimate conclusion states:

“In the Court’s view, 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 Hague also urged militant Palestinian groups to release any hostages taken during last year’s attack on Israel.

However, the Hague cannot order the return of hostages from what it deems a stateless terrorist organization. Its authority comes from the member nations it recognizes as sovereign entities – including Palestine, which was accepted as an observer state in 2012. As Hamas is not a recognized authority – being an unelected, militant group holding large parts of Palestine hostage – the ICJ has no means of enforcing that request.

As of June of last year, 139 of the 193 UN member states have recognized the state of Palestine (165 of 193 recognize Israel), and within the global community, Palestine’s sovereignty is not questioned.

Media bias check:

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