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Spain Applies to Join Genocide Case Against Israel at ICJ

Spain is one of several European countries that have recognized a Palestinian state in recent weeks.

The minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, José Manuel Albares, speaks during a press conference at the Palacio de Viana, on June 6, 2024, in Madrid, Spain.

Spain’s foreign minister announced Thursday that the country had applied to join the genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice, just over a week after formally recognizing a Palestinian state alongside other European countries.

South Africa brought the case and has led it through its early stages, which culminated on May 24 with the ICJ, the United Nations’ highest court, ordering Israel to halt its military offensive on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip — an order that Israel ignored. Mexico, Colombia, Nicaragua, Libya, and the Palestinians have already applied to join the case, while Chile and Ireland have also announced plans to intervene in support of the case.

“We do it out of commitment to the United Nations and to international law,” José Manuel Albares, Spain’s foreign minister, said Thursday in a social media post that included a video of his announcement speech. “To support the work of the court. To avoid more civilian deaths. For the peace.”

“We take the decision because of the ongoing military operation in Gaza,” Albares said, according to The Associated Press. “We want peace to return to Gaza and the Middle East, and for that to happen we must all support the court.”

Albares is a member of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), a center-left party that leads a coalition government. Sumar, a new left-wing party that is the junior partner in the coalition, has been strongly pro-Palestine; the party’s ministers have called Israel’s war in Gaza a genocide. Podemos, a left-wing party that was part of previous coalitions but now holds only five seats in parliament and has been largely replaced by Sumar, has taken a similarly strong position; its leader had previously called for Spain to back the ICJ genocide case.

The ICJ is one of several international institutions that pro-Palestine governments are using to try to isolate Israel and hold it to account for its ongoing assault on Gaza, which has killed more than 36,000 people, mostly women and children, in the last eight months. Israel’s military killed dozens early Thursday by bombing a school where refugees were sheltering. Most of the dead were women and children, the AP reported.

Spain is one of several European countries that have recognized a Palestinian state in recent weeks; indeed, Madrid has been central to organizing the European effort. Israel responded by threatening “severe consequences” to nations that recognize Palestine, and it held out a special level of ire for Spanish leaders.

“Hamas thanks you for your service,” Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz wrote in a message to Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on social media, along with a video that, in Al Jazeera’s description, “flipped between images of flamenco dancers and apparent scenes of the Palestinian group’s incursion into southern Israel on October 7.”

The move for recognition has widespread support among the Spanish public — 78%, based on a Madrid think tank’s survey, according to Al Jazeera.

Sumar has also pushed for Spain to support the arrest warrant applications for the leaders of Israel and Hamas submitted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which like the ICJ is based in The Hague, Netherlands. U.S. President Joe Biden has been criticized by humanitarian groups for condemning the ICC’s proposed warrants rather than supporting them. Neither the U.S. nor Israel recognizes the ICC’s jurisdiction.

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