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South Africa’s genocide charges against Israel are continuing to provoke international tensions as a growing list of countries take sides on the case, sparking a new feud between Germany and one of its former colonies in Africa.

Namibia, which suffered a genocide under German occupation in the early 20th century, has reacted angrily to Germany’s announcement that it will intervene to support Israel against the genocide accusations at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

“The German government is yet to fully atone for the genocide it committed on Namibian soil,” Namibian President Hage Geingob said in a statement issued by his office on the weekend.

He said he was shocked and concerned that Germany is rejecting the “morally upright indictment” that South Africa has brought to the world court.

The court, the highest United Nations judicial body for disputes between states, held two days of hearings last week to hear South Africa’s allegations and Israel’s response. South Africa is seeking an urgent court order to halt Israel’s siege of Gaza and its military offensive in the Palestinian territory.

To obtain an emergency order, it is required to show that there is at least a plausible risk that Israel is violating its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention. A decision is expected within days or weeks.

Hundreds of people gathered at Johannesburg’s airport on Sunday to give a hero’s welcome to the South African legal team as it returned from The Hague. Many people at the airport carried banners and signs supporting the Palestinian cause.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a speech on Saturday evening, said he had thanked Germany’s government for its support. He also insisted that the world court cannot stop Israel’s actions in Gaza.

“Nobody will stop us – not The Hague, not the axis of evil and not anybody else,” he said, referring to Iran and its militia allies.

More than 15 countries – including Brazil, Indonesia, Pakistan and Turkey – have voiced support for South Africa’s application, while the United States and Britain have criticized it. The Canadian government said on Friday that it strongly supports the world court but that this support “does not mean we accept the premise of the case brought by South Africa.”

Germany, with its statement on Friday, has become the first country to announce that it will intervene on Israel’s side in the genocide case.

“The German government decisively and expressly rejects the accusation of genocide brought against Israel before the International Court of Justice,” government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit said in a statement.

“The accusation has no basis in fact,” he said. He added that Germany opposes the “political instrumentalization” of the world court.

Namibia’s president, Mr. Geingob, responded by urging Germany to reconsider its support for “the genocidal and gruesome acts of the Israeli government against innocent civilians in Gaza.” He added: “On Namibian soil, Germany committed the first genocide of the 20th century in 1904-1908, in which tens of thousands of innocent Namibians died in the most inhumane and brutal conditions.”

Under a reconciliation agreement between the two governments in 2021, Germany apologized for the killings and promised to officially call them “what they were from today’s perspective: a genocide.” As part of the deal, Germany also promised hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for Namibian development programs. But some leaders of the Herero and Nama people, who suffered the worst toll in the genocide, are still seeking formal reparations from Germany.

Meanwhile, human-rights activists are scrutinizing Canada’s official statement on Friday, which appeared to be carefully crafted as a compromise between the two sides in the court case at a time when the federal Liberal caucus is divided on the issue. They noted that the federal government is not formally opposing South Africa’s case, and its reference to the “premise” of the case was vague.

Several activists, however, criticized the Canadian statement for linking the court case to the threat of antisemitism. The statement said: “We must ensure that the procedural steps in this case are not used to foster antisemitism and targeting of Jewish neighbourhoods, businesses, and individuals.”

Kenneth Roth, former executive director of Human Rights Watch, said the statement “fuels the dangerous effort to equate criticism of Israel with antisemitism.” This, he said, “undermines the important fight against antisemitism.”

Alex Neve, an international human-rights lawyer and a senior fellow at University of Ottawa’s graduate school of public and international affairs, said antisemitism must be completely condemned but “it is not antisemitic to turn to the world’s highest court to uphold international law.”

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