NCC Responds to the ICJ Case Ruling in South Africa v. Israel

NCC Responds to the ICJ Case Ruling in South Africa v. Israel

“Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” 
Romans 14:19 (NRSVue) 

Washington, D.C., February 2, 2024— The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA received the announcement of the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), ordering Israel to take measures to prevent genocide in its war with Hamas and ensure the provision of humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, with both angst-filled appreciation and deep concern. Appreciation for the recognition by this topmost court of the United Nations (UN) of the dangers of where hostilities may ultimately lead; concern that the Court did not call for an immediate ceasefire, despite growing alarm in the international community over the deteriorating situation in Gaza.  The Court’s ruling was issued on Friday, January 26, in the case of South Africa v. Israel

In light of what many, including the NCC, consider Israel’s disproportionate military response since the attack by Hamas on October 7, which led to the killing of more than 1,200 Israelis along with the capture of more than 240 hostages, we have consistently spoken out, on our own and with partners, against these acts. We continue to call for the immediate release of the hostages. Yet, it is devastating that more than 26,000 deaths have occurred among the Palestinian population in Gaza, thousands of them children. The legitimate aim of rooting out Hamas leadership to prevent another surprise attack does not justify the massacre of innocents.   

NCC has called for a ceasefire as well as an end to the killing, forced migration, and limitation of access to humanitarian aid. We fear these acts may amount to ethnic cleansing, and may even be genocidal, if not in intent, then in result.   

“We are gravely concerned over the loss of life, the escalating violence throughout the Middle East, the hostages still being held, and the worsening humanitarian crises. Just as we remember horrific atrocities in the past, we must recognize the devastation occurring in Gaza right now,” stated NCC President and General Secretary Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie. 

While we are aware of the difficulty of enforcing decisions by the UN or its various bodies, we agree with the ICJ and its call for an end to the violence to prevent genocide. And even though the ICJ stopped short of doing so, we again call for an immediate ceasefire.  This may also help to de-escalate the increasing tensions throughout the region that threaten to lead to a wider war.  

“We encourage collaborative efforts that reflect proper stewardship of resources and unite with like-minded organizations to advocate for peace in Gaza and across our global family. This war cannot spread globally. There must be a ceasefire,” stated Bishop Teresa E. Snorton, Chair of NCC’s Governing Board. 

The NCC is leading a major effort in February, the Pilgrimage for Peace initiative, to call upon the United States government to leverage its influence to bring about this same end. The NCC is uniting with Faith for Black Lives, Rabbis for Ceasefire, Hindus for Human Rights, the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Philadelphia), Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Black Church Center for Justice and Equality, Until Freedom, Kairos Center, Freedom Church of the Poor, and others for a transformative journey from Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Penn., to the White House in Washington, D.C. from February 14 to February 21.   The NCC mourns the lives lost on both sides and during the ongoing tragedy in Gaza. We will continue to watch, pray, and encourage our partners to move with urgency to prioritize the end of this war.