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‘We should all be pissed’: Canadians divided over Trudeau not supporting South Africa's 'genocide' allegations against Israel

The prime minister made Canada's position clear with his government saying they do not "accept the premise of the case brought by South Africa"

Canadians were left infuriated after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his government does not back the case brought to the United Nations' International Court of Justice (ICJ) to try Israel against allegations of genocide with its military operation in the Gaza Strip.

During a press conference on Friday, Trudeau responded to a reporter's question on Canada's position over the trial of Israel currently underway at the ICJ, saying his government's support of the principal judicial organ of the United Nations does not mean the country backs "the premise of the case brought forward by South Africa."

On Thursday, South Africa became the first country on Dec. 29 to file a suit against Israel, accusing the country of committing genocide as part of its ongoing military operation in the Gaza Strip before laying out the allegations in its offense during the opening session at the ICJ.

People from around the world, including Canadian lawyers, politicians, activists and support groups, lauded the Rainbow Nation for taking a major step in bringing about peace in the Middle East.

Organizations such as Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East and the National Council of Canadian Muslims were joined by Liberal MPs Salma Zahid and Iqra Khalid, as well as the Green Party of Canada and the NDP's Foreign Affairs Critic, Heather McPherson, in urging Trudeau to do the same.

However, a statement by his government late Friday made it clear the prime minister will not be leading the country into supporting South Africa's case against Israel.

"Canada's unwavering support for international law and the ICJ does not mean we accept the premise of the case brought by South Africa. We will follow the proceedings of South Africa's case at the International Court of Justice very closely," Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly shared in a statement.

"Under the UN's 1948 Genocide Convention, the crime of genocide requires the intention to destroy or partly destroy a group because of their nationality, ethnicity, race or religion. Meeting this high threshold requires compelling evidence."

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) welcomed Trudeau's stance on the law suit against Israel but wants the Canadian government to reject "the libelous genocide allegations" in a formal statement.

The CIJA told Yahoo Canada Joly's statement lacked any clear and unequivocal condemnation of South Africa’s application.

“If Canada truly stands against terror, against antisemitism, and with international law, then it should have issued a response similar to its allies like the US and Germany. South Africa’s application is a libelous genocide claim against Israel and an abuse of the international legal system to which Canada professes an abiding commitment."

“To fail to do this is to give a free pass, yet again - as we saw with the UNGA vote weeks ago - to Hamas and its supporters, and will result in further inflaming antisemitic hatred against Canadian Jews," CIJA President Shimon Koffler Fogel told Yahoo Canada.

Canadians left 'infuriated'

Social enterprise On Canada Project denounced Canada's lack of support for the allegations of genocide against Israel at the ICJ and expressed its disappointment in an Instagram video captioned, "Thank you, South Africa 🙏🏾✊🏾 and shame on Canada 🇨🇦 and other western nations."

The National Council of Canadian Muslims and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East also criticized Trudeau and his government saying "its support for international law doesn't apply to Palestinians" and the prime minister' fails "to support Canada's commitment to international law."

On the contrary, politicians like MP Anthony Housefather were "pleased" to hear Trudeau's position on the matter and labelled accusations of genocide against Israel as "baseless" and "unconscionable."

Israel defends itself

South African lawyers ended a dominating opening session on Thursday with a plea for an immediate stop to the war in the Middle East, leaving room for their Israeli counterparts to present defense on Friday.

In response, Israeli leaders defended their military operation in Gaza by air and ground following Hamas' Oct. 7 attack. They called the defense of their people legitimate and blamed Hamas for committing genocide instead.

Israeli legal advisor Tal Becker told the court his country is fighting a "war it did not start and did not want."

ICJ cannot enforce ruling even if it orders a ceasefire

Even if the International Court of Justice, which is a civil and not a criminal court, rules in favour of South African demands to order an immediate halt to Israel's military operations in Gaza, it holds no power to enforce its ruling since it has no jurisdiction to try individuals accused of war crimes.

However, if Israel doesn't comply, it could face U.N. sanctions, although those may be blocked by a veto from the United States, the country's staunch ally.