Mathew D. Rose – The German judge at the ICJ: the wrong man in the wrong court?

Israel can do whatever it wants, including genocide and ethnic cleansing, and Germany will unconditionally support it.

Mathew D. Rose is an Investigative Journalist specialised in Organised Political Crime in Germany and an editor of BRAVE NEW EUROPE


On 18 March 2008 in a speech before the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, the then German chancellor Angela Merkel declared Germany’s special historical responsibility for Israel’s security. “This historical responsibility is part of my country’s raison d’État (Staatsräson). This means that security is never negotiable for me as German Chancellor.” Germany claims to have a “special responsibility” towards Israel. Its commitment to Israel is more than simply a policy goal; it is a fundamental part of present-day Germany’s existence. Merkel’s successor, Olaf Scholz, has recently confirmed this several times, declaring “At this moment, there is only one place for Germany. That is on the side of Israel.” In other words, Germany has a hierarchy of international law and Israel predominates this beyond any legal considerations. Israel can do whatever it wants, including genocide and ethnic cleansing, and Germany will unconditionally support it.

Since the events of 7 October 2023 and the ensuing genocide by Israel in Gaza and ethnic cleansing of the West Bank, Germany, together with the United States, is not only the most vociferous supporter of Israel’s war crimes, but also after the US its second most important supplier of armaments to realise these goals. In other words, complicitous in these criminal acts.

No European state has come down so hard on free speech regarding criticising Israeli war crimes. The Christian Democrats, the main party of the German Right, have proposed a law outlawing any kind of antisemitism with up to a 6 month prison term, or, if this involves a foreign born citizen, to cancel their citizenship and have them deported. This may include any criticism of Israel’s war crimes. In fact it goes much further, as Germany has assumed the right to arbitrarily define anti-Semitism. This includes declaring which Jews are anti-Semitic and stripping them of their right of free speech.

This would all not matter except for the fact that a German judge, Georg Nolte, will be sitting in judgement of South Africa’s application instituting proceedings against Israel before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, for alleged violations by Israel of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the “Genocide Convention”) with regard to Palestinians in the Gaza.

Nolte is a little known figure, unlike his notorious father. He appears to be one of those “good liberal Germans” academics, saying the right things. In May 2021 Nolte explained to a German daily newspaper to the question “What does international law say about the right of self-defence and how does it define war crimes?” regarding the 2014 Gaza War:

“However, this right to self-defence must be exercised in compliance with international humanitarian law,” meaning the Geneva Conventions are the central basis. War crimes are serious violations of the Geneva Conventions, as described in Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The following examples are mentioned: wilful killing, torture, wilful attacks on the civilian population and on civilian objects that are not military targets.

The Newspaper goes on to write:

When applying the principles of international law to a specific act of war, it depends on the exact circumstances, says Nolte, on the military-technical options available to a party and on the proportionality of the means used. “A party must engage military targets as precisely as possible and how this is possible with its weapons.” Israel has different military-technical capabilities than Hamas.

Georg Nolte explains: “Anyone who launches rockets into populated areas without aiming at a military object and hits civilians in the process is committing a war crime.”

Nolte says: “If a party attacks a building in whose basement two or three Kassam rockets are stored, but knows that there are 200 children in the building, that is disproportionate. On the other hand, the fact that there are individual civilians in a military building is not in itself a reason why it should not be fired upon.

Like a “good liberal German” academic, Nolte makes all the right sounds, but what happens when theory encounters reality? First one has to understand that in Germany judges are nominated less for their qualification and increasingly for their political affiliation. The same applies to the international court system. Nolte most likely did not get to where he is for his principled humanitarian views, but because he is considered by his government to be a safe pair of hands.

To oppose the raison d’État of his own nation would require an incredible amount of civil courage, and this is practically non-existent in Germany. As the ICJ proceedings were commencing on 11 January in The Hague, another of those “good liberal Germans”, the German economic minister Robert Habeck of the Greens, declared during a visit to Israel that “Accusing Israel of genocide is a reversal of victims and perpetrators”. A day later a German govenment declared that it intends to intervene as a third party in the main hearing on the side of Israel against South Africa’s application.

Should Nolte decide against Israel, there is a real danger that his career would be ruined. He would probably be excoriated in Germany by state and corporate media as a traitor and shunned by his friends and colleagues. Considering Germany’s “special responsibility” towards Israel, one can say that any German judge is inapt to sit on a trial that involves Israel. Justice will not be his or her lodestar.

In German law a judge can be disqualified due to a lack of impartiality called “Befangenheit”. Judges can even disqualify themselves from a case for this reason. So Nolte does have a way out of this, although the consequences would probably be the same as voting against the political interests of Germany.

It is most likely that this case will not be decided on rational legal grounds, but by power politics – those of the West – subverting the judicial process. After the West has managed within three months to destroy its claim to moral authority and that of all the international institutions it created to maintain its hegemony, the International Criminal Court (ICC) being the latest victim, doing the same with the International Court of Justice would simply be the logical next step. Unfortunately being a UN institution, this will also damage the little integrity the UN still possesses.

There might be a way out of this. The ICJ could affirm South Africa’s application, thus saving face, well knowing that Israel, the US, Germany, and Britain will ignore this decision. The actual judgement if Israel and its accomplices have committed genocide would then conveniently draw on for decades.

Whatever happens, the West will be the loser in the Hague. If it exonerates Israel, it will further confirm what most of the world has come to comprehend in the past three months: international institutions are mechanisms to enforce Western hegemony. It will also signal the end of the concept of an international community. If it approves South Africa’s application, it will confirm that most of the West is complicit to genocide, losing face internationally. As Craig Murray points out, the International Court of Justice is just as much on trial as Israel.

What Nolte then did

Nolte voted with the other judges in confirming that South Africa’s case of Israeli genocide in Gaza was plausible, inlcuding the Order of measures to be taken by Israel ot prevent genocide. Probably like most of the other judges Nolte knew that not doing so would destroy the ICJ as an institution. South Africa’s case was also so strong and Israel’s so weak.

Nolte however was the only judge to issue a “Declaration” – whereby a judge delivers a separate opinion. It was a face-saving exercise for Nolte in which he distances himself from the court’s decision. He considers it a purely procedural decision that has up to now no real basis to support it.

Still, BRAVE NEW EUROPE sent judge Nolte one of these to protect his identity should he despite his Declaration have any problems in Germany

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