Justin Trudeau
Justin TrudeauREUTERS/Jessica Lee

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday that Canada believes in the importance of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as an institution but that does not mean that it supports South Africa’s case claiming that Israel committed genocide in Gaza.

"Canada has long been a tremendous supporter of the international rules-based order and processes and structures that have been put in place over the past decades to be able to actually ensure that international law is respected and enforced," Trudeau told a press conference in Guelph, Ontario.

"And the ICJ, International Court of Justice, is a key part of that. Our wholehearted support of the ICJ and its processes does not mean we support the premise of the case brought forward by South Africa," he added.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly issued a statement later in the day in which she echoed Trudeau's remarks.

"Under the UN's 1948 Genocide Convention, the crime of genocide requires the intention to destroy or partly destroy a group because of their nationality, ethnicity, race or religion. Meeting this high threshold requires compelling evidence," she said.

"We must ensure that the procedural steps in this case are not used to foster antisemitism and targeting of Jewish neighborhoods, businesses and individuals. At the same time, we will continue to stand against Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment," added Joly.

She continued by saying that Canada remains deeply concerned about the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and supports urgent international efforts to secure a sustainable ceasefire.

"This cannot be one-sided. Hamas must release all hostages, stop using Palestinian civilians as human shields and lay down its arms," Joly stated.

Responding on Saturday night to the statements, Shimon Koffler Fogel, President and CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) said, “We expected to see a clear rejection of South Africa’s application in a formal statement to be issued by the government. Unfortunately, minutes before Shabbat began in Ottawa, the statement released by the government lacked any clear and unequivocal condemnation of South Africa’s application.”

“If Canada truly stands against terror, against antisemitism, and with international law, then it should have issued a response similar to its allies like the US and Germany. South Africa’s application is a libelous genocide claim against Israel and an abuse of the international legal system to which Canada professes an abiding commitment,” he added.

“To fail to do this is to give a free pass, yet again - as we saw with the UNGA vote weeks ago - to Hamas and its supporters, and will result in further inflaming antisemitic hatred against Canadian Jews. South Africa seeks to let Hamas get away with murder, and Canada must not stand by it."

Germany announced on Friday that it will intervene as a third party in South Africa’s case against Israel at the ICJ and will present its own case to the court that Israel has not committed genocide.

Germany’s government said in a statement that there is “no basis whatsoever” for an accusation of genocide against Israel at the International Court of Justice.

The United States on Thursday rejected South Africa’s allegations that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza.

Speaking to reporters, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said, “We have said repeatedly that we believe these allegations, this case is unfounded and that there is no basis for accusations of genocide against — against Israel. That’s not a word that ought to be thrown around lightly. And we certainly don’t believe that it applies here.”

State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel made similar comments in his press briefing, saying that “the allegations that Israel is committing genocide are unfounded.”

“Those who are violently attacking Israel, who continue to openly call for Israel’s annihilation and the mass murder of Jews – genocide is one of the most heinous acts any entity or individual can commit, and such an allegation should only be made with the greatest of care,” he added.