Globe And Mail Misrepresents South Africa’s Recent Loss At The International Court Of Justice (ICJ)

February 22, 2024

The South African government, evidently hell-bent on weaponizing international law in order to defame Israel, has twice brought cases to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, alleging that Jerusalem is committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

In December, South Africa demanded that the world court demand Israel halt its counter-terrorism operations against Hamas. The court refused. Instead, the court demanded that Hamas free the Israeli hostages it holds, and reminded Israel to work to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza, a step Israel is already taking.

Again in February, South Africa’s government brought another urgent case to the court, demanding that, in advance of expected Israeli operations in the Gaza region of Rafah, that the ICJ force Israel to cancel its efforts there.

Once again, the court refused, providing back to back refutations for South Africa.

But in his February 16 article in The Globe and Mail entitled: “Top UN court tells Israel to ensure safety of Palestinians in Gaza,” reporter Geoffrey York, the newspaper’s Africa bureau chief, managed to creatively frame South Africa’s loss as a victory.

York’s article led by telling readers that “The increasingly dangerous situation in the city of Rafah requires Israel to comply immediately with existing court orders to ensure the ‘safety and security’ of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the International Court of Justice has ruled.”

However, simply reminding Israel to continue to take steps to minimize civilian casualties was not new, as it was already spelled out in the court’s previous interim judgment. It was South Africa’s key demand to force a halt to Israel’s expected operations in Rafah that was the rationale for Pretoria to file a new case, which was rejected by the ICJ.

That element, the core component of the new case, was only told three paragraphs down.

Despite the straightforward rejection of South Africa’s case, York continued by re-framing the issue, writing that “Independent analysts said the court’s decision was significant because of its strong tone and language, including its urgent reminder of Israel’s obligations.”

York then quoted one source, Mark Kersten, an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of the Fraser Valley, who claimed that the court was “very sternly warning Israel.”

What York did not tell readers is that Kersten has vocally condemned Israel in recent weeks. On January 3, Kersten was the guest on a CBC radio program in Vancouver, where he said there was a “real risk of genocide in Gaza,” and praised South Africa’s case as being “compelling and fact-driven.”

Less than three weeks later in January, Kersten co-authored an opinion column in The Toronto Star, where he gave extended positive coverage to South Africa’s complaints, and ignored the most fundamental arguments against Pretoria’s genocide accusations.

Kersten’s account on X (formerly Twitter), features scores of anti-Israel posts, including those referring to “atrocities in Gaza,” and advocating for the resumption of funding to UNRWA, the United Nations agency with extensive ties to Palestinian terrorism and whose 12 staff members were complicit in Hamas’ October 7 massacres.

Not only did Geoffrey York’s article de-emphasize the most fundamental complaint by South Africa, instead suggesting that the court – by maintaining the status quo – somehow represents a novel update, and as his singular source, he quoted a vocal anti-Israel activist academic, without ever telling readers of Kersten’s clear views on the topic at hand.

HonestReporting Canada has conveyed our concerns directly to senior editors at the Globe about York’s article which reframed South Africa’s loss at the ICJ into a victory, and for its quoting one source for context: a vocally anti-Israel academic who has accused Jerusalem of running the “real risk of genocide” and “atrocities” in Gaza.

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