Originally published in the Globe and Mail on January 11, 2024.
Read the original op-ed here.

In the dying days of 2023, a group of prominent Israelis sent a letter to Israel’s Attorney General.

In 11 pages, it documented “extensive and blatant” cases of incitement to genocide in Gaza from Israel’s political and media class. And it demanded that the country’s judiciary do something to stop it.

The examples are chillingly familiar by now. “The Gaza Strip should be flattened, and for all of them there is but one sentence, and that is death,” said one member of the Knesset, Yitzhak Kroizer. Or “[We] should have killed many times 20,000 people, [we] should have begun with a blow of 100,000,” said journalist Zvi Yehezkeli.

The devastating conclusion of the letter? “Today, calls of these types are an everyday matter in Israel.”

So when South Africa filed its case with the International Court of Justice, accusing Israel of committing genocide, it was not the first to make the charge of incitement: it was joining of chorus of moral voices that has been making this claim, including Israelis.

This should not be a surprise. After almost 100 days of livestreamed starvation and blood-soaked rubble in Gaza, Jews and non-Jews around the world are saying: enough.

In the face of Israeli’s defiant impunity, the international community has an absolute moral and legal obligation to step in to stop this insensate convulsion of violence and destruction.

people gathering on street during daytime
Photo by Rami Gzon / Unsplash

I’m proud to be one of thousands joining the call for Canada to support South Africa’s brief at the ICJ. I am also proud to be part of a growing wave of Jews who are standing up in this moment to say: Not in our name.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) would have you believe it speaks for the entire Jewish community – a self-serving fiction intended to wish away our diversity of perspectives. Witness statements like this in The Globe and Mail: “Shimon Koffler Fogel, president and CEO, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said Canada’s Jewish community expects the Canadian government to ‘denounce South Africa’s spurious charge.’”

Yet for months, Jews have been showing up in unprecedented numbers to call Israel to account. Newer groups like If Not Now and Jewish Voice for Peace in the U.S., and Jews Say No to Genocide here in Canada are surging with new members, shattering the myth that Jews speak with one voice.

Of course, there never was a monolithic “Jewish community.” But now we are having harder conversations than ever – grindingly hard.

Beloved legal figure, former Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Abella, wrote recently that “It is a legal absurdity to suggest that a country that is defending itself from genocide is thereby guilty of genocide.”

That sentiment may resonate with many Jews in Canada, but some of us find it distressingly detached from reality.

Look: Hamas launched a horrific attack on Israeli civilians on Oct. 7th (which South Africa unequivocally condemns in its case).

But Hamas has not killed more than 100 Israeli children every single day for almost 100 days.

Hamas has not levelled entire Israeli neighbourhoods, flattening them to dust.

Hamas is not choking the supply of food and water into Israel to induce mass starvation of Israelis.

Hamas has not destroyed 33 per cent of all the buildings in Israel.

Those are all things that Israel is doing to Palestinians in Gaza.

Photo by Mohammed Ibrahim / Unsplash

South Africa’s case is deeply upsetting to read. It’s utterly convincing. A legal absurdity to call this genocide? It’s a moral absurdity to call it anything else. And Jewish dissent is a long tradition.

In September 1967, 100 days into the Occupation that is now 56 years long, 14 Israelis wrote an open letter, published in Haaretz.

They felt a similar fault line in history opening up at their feet, and in 52 Hebrew words, they spoke with moral clarity and foresight that rings, hauntingly, down the years.

“Our right to defend ourselves against annihilation does not grant us the right to oppress others. Conquest brings in its wake foreign rule. Foreign rule brings in its wake resistance. Resistance brings in its wake oppression. Oppression brings in its wake terrorism and counterterrorism. The victims of terrorism are usually innocent people. Holding onto the territories will turn us into a nation of murderers and murder victims.”

Today, nearly 100 days into Israel’s belligerent fury in Gaza, many Jewish Canadians are rising up to say to the government of Canada: support South Africa at the International Court of Justice. Stop the genocide now.