Former UK opposition leader Corbyn to join South Africa’s delegation accusing Israel of genocide

 Former U.K. opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn will join a South African delegation for this week’s hearings at the International Court of Justice, where the country accuses Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in the war in Gaza, the South African government said Tuesday.

South Africa brought the case against Israel last month, accusing it of intending “to destroy Palestinians in Gaza,” and asked the U.N.’s top court to order Israel to halt its attacks. Israel rejected South Africa’s allegations of genocide “with disgust” and said it will defend itself at the court.

South Africa’s Justice Ministry said Corbyn was one of a number of “senior political figures from progressive political parties and movements across the globe” who will join the South African delegation at the Hague in the Netherlands for two days of preliminary hearings which begin on Thursday.

Corbyn was the only one of those foreign political figures in its delegation named by the South African government.

Corbyn’s leadership of the left-of-center Labour Party in Britain was stained by allegations of antisemitism. He is a longtime supporter of the Palestinian cause and a fierce critic of Israel. He was suspended from the Labour group in Parliament in 2020, and later barred from running for the party after Britain’s equalities watchdog found party officials had committed acts of “harassment and discrimination” against Jews and said anti-Jewish prejudice had been allowed to spread within Labour under his leadership.

Corbyn expressed support for South Africa’s case against Israel on Monday and criticized the British government in a message posted on X, formerly Twitter.

“Every day, another unspeakable atrocity is committed in Gaza,” he wrote. “Millions of people around the world support South Africa’s efforts to hold Israel to account. Why can’t our government?”

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that Britain stands by Israel as it wages war on Hamas in response to the group’s surprise Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, when Palestinian militants killed around 1,200 people, mainly civilians.

Earlier Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken dismissed the case filed by South Africa against Israel, calling the allegations “meritless” and saying they distract from efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Israel’s assault in Gaza has killed more than 23,200 Palestinians, roughly 1% of the territory’s population, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza. About two-thirds of the dead are women and children. The death toll does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

South Africa’s delegation to the Hague will be led by Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola and will also include senior figures from the office of President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Ministry of Justice, the Justice Ministry said in a statement.

“We are determined to see the end of the genocide that is currently taking place in Gaza,” Lamola said.

Justice Ministry spokesperson Chrispin Phiri delivered a separate statement on video naming the South African delegation while wearing a red and white checkered Palestinian keffiyeh scarf around his neck.

South Africa is not a global diplomatic heavyweight but its decision to open a case against Israel is a reflection of its historic support for the Palestinians that dates back to the days of the late anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela.

Mandela compared the plight of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank with that of Black South Africans under the apartheid system of forced racial segregation in his own country, which ended in 1994. South Africa has for years referred to Israel as an “apartheid state.”

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party remains a strong supporter of the Palestinians. Last month, Mandela’s grandson, Mandla Mandela, an ANC lawmaker, hosted Hamas officials at a conference in South Africa and invited them to a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of his grandfather’s death.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies said it was “disgusted” by the presence of Hamas in South Africa.

By Shahla Bajwa