One of the particularities of contemporary conflicts is the ability of civilians to post their destruction in real time on social media. It’s a horror that makes crisp an impotence in international law: it doesn’t respond in real time; on the whole, it offers retrospective justice for atrocity crimes. Which is why the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ’s) order last week for interim and urgent measures to protect the population of Gaza from acts of genocide is so significant.

The order flows from South Africa’s application to the court to have Israel’s actions in Gaza declared genocidal and, more immediately, to put in place provisional measures, primarily to protect noncombatants, pending the outcome of the central genocide case...

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