History Illustrated is a weekly series of insightful perspectives that puts news events and current affairs into historical context using graphics generated with artificial intelligence.
The International Court of Justice will decide whether Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza, but it’s a decision that is expected to take years.Now, though, the ICJ has first provided an interim ruling on Israel’s relentless war against the Palestinians — and, in the process, raised questions over whether the court is actually up to the job.The ICJ is a branch of the UN created in 1945. Its 15 justices hear disputes between countries, not individuals.The trouble is that the so-called World Court is often seen as slow and bureaucratic.The court also has no way of enforcing its rulings, and so its decisions have sometimes been ignored, as Russia did in 2022, when the ICJ ordered it to suspend its war on Ukraine.What’s more, the judges are elected by the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council, and that can lead to a perception of bias. Critics of the court have raised concerns over the president of the ICJ, who used to be an adviser to the US government, Israel’s strongest ally.Another drawback is that countries may refuse to recognise the court. But Israel, as a signatory of the Genocide Convention, had to appear before judges when South Africa took it to the ICJ.On Friday, January 26, the ICJ issued its interim decision. The court stopped short of ordering an Israeli ceasefire and instead directed Israel to take every measure possible to avoid genocide while also ensuring humanitarian aid.Even if the ICJ had ordered a ceasefire, it seems unlikely Israel would have abided by the ruling. That said, by failing to call for an end to the hostilities, the ICJ has no doubt left many Palestinians expecting only more brutality in the days and weeks to come.