Israel is often at odds with the amorphously dubbed “international community,” but the past week saw Israeli arguments winning the day. It should be a wakeup call for those who always see Israel on the wrong side of the issues.

Many Israelis and American Jews instinctively roll their eyes when someone talks about the “international community.” If the conversation turns to the United Nations, distrust often morphs into disdain. The double standards to which many feel Israeli behavior is subjected, the laughable and simultaneously inconceivable inclusion of serial human rights abusers on U.N. bodies dedicated to investigating rights abuses, and the disproportionate focus on Israeli behavior by the U.N. and by human rights organizations create an environment in which Israel feels as if it is pitted against the world. This feeling has only been heightened since October 7, as Israel has been a defendant before the International Court of Justice, evidence of widespread sexual violence and brutality against Israeli women has been dismissed or even justified, and accusations of Israeli genocide have become commonplace on the left while Hamas atrocities have been downplayed.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague

Yet the past week saw Israel vindicated in a number of ways in an actual international court and in the international court of opinion. It should be a helpful reminder for Israelis to absorb that the international community is not always out to get them, and that the benefits of engaging with outside actors is that Israeli claims can achieve a weight that they would not have if it is only Israel that is making them. More importantly, it should serve as a clear message to those who instinctively believe—often without evidence—that Israel is always in the wrong and always a bad actor in the face of allegations by parties who claim to be objective or neutral arbiters but are in fact neither.

On Friday, the International Court of Justice, which is the U.N.’s judicial body and rules on disputes between states, handed down its preliminary findings and provisional orders in South Africa’s case against Israel accusing it of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. While Israel wanted to see the case dismissed outright, the ICJ declined to do so, but the measures it ordered were a de facto admission that claims of Israeli genocide during the over 100 days of fighting so far are unsupportable. The court did not order Israel to halt its operations in Gaza—something that would have been expected had the court determined that Israel is committing genocide—but rather to take all possible measures to prevent genocidal acts and protect Palestinian civilians, and to ensure that basic services and humanitarian assistance are provided to Palestinians in Gaza. The ICJ also called for Hamas—over whom it has no jurisdiction since it is not a state actor—to release all hostages unconditionally and not only concurrently with or after a ceasefire. This demand was a clear statement about the indefensibility of Hamas continuing to hold Israeli hostages and a rebuke of those who insist that Hamas cannot or should not do so until Israel takes steps of its own. While Israeli leaders had plenty of fodder to denounce the ICJ nonetheless over its non-dismissal of the case and its order for Israel to prosecute officials who have incited to genocide, the upshot was a ruling that upheld Israel’s conviction that it is fighting a just war against an enemy actively engaged in war crimes, and a rejection of the charge that Israel is carrying out a genocide in Gaza.

The main courtroom of the ICJ

Israel received another affirmation later that same day when UNRWA announced that it had fired employees who were involved in the October 7 attacks. This was followed by the U.S. suspending its funding to UNRWA, a number of other countries quickly following suit, and U.N. Secretary General António Guterres opening an investigation. This week, it was reported that Israeli intelligence assessed that 10% of UNRWA’s 12,000 employees in Gaza have direct ties to Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad (though what is meant by ties is unclear), and more damningly that Israel has evidence that 190 UNRWA employees are Hamas or PIJ operatives. The impact of states now pulling their funding from UNRWA is so significant that the organization now estimates that it can only continue operations for one more month unless the situation changes.

Israel has long claimed that UNRWA is compromised by Hamas and has given up any pretense to uphold the principle of neutrality, one of its four self-identified humanitarian principles. UNRWA, the U.N., and much of the international humanitarian community has dismissed Israeli claims for years, and scoffed at the notion that UNRWA has in any way been captured by Hamas. While the extent of Israel’s allegations can be debated and the evidence it has compiled is yet to be publicly independently corroborated, UNRWA’s own admission that some of its workers were involved in October 7 is a stunning rebuke to those who defend UNRWA unreservedly and claim that Israel’s problems with the organization stem only from its political arguments about Palestinian refugees. It is also instructive to compare the rapid and extensive suspension of aid to UNRWA by donor states—including the U.S., the UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Austria, and Finland—to the reaction when Israel listed six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist groups after alleging that they were connected to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which is a U.S.-designated terrorist group. While Israel passed intelligence to the U.S. that it said corroborated the charge that the NGOs were acting as PFLP fronts, the U.S. disagreed and never listed them as terrorist organizations alongside the PFLP. In the UNRWA case, in contrast, there was clearly fire and not only smoke that led the U.S. and other donors to act immediately. 

While the evidence regarding UNRWA creates a thorny policy problem—UNRWA remains the only organization currently situated to be able to distribute and coordinate large-scale humanitarian assistance in Gaza, even while it is deeply and unreservedly compromised, and that makes shuttering it now unwise—it should end the debate over whether Israeli concerns about UNRWA are legitimate. UNRWA has been treated by the international community as a neutral and politically disinterested service provider that is constantly under Israeli rhetorical assault solely for political reasons, and those continuing to make that argument are now far less credible. While UNRWA’s functions remain important and even Israeli intelligence assessments yield the conclusion that the large majority of UNRWA employees do not have terror connections, the fact is that UNRWA has a Hamas problem by its own admission. If the best argument to ignore all of this and continue apace is that only 12 UNRWA employees have been documented so far as participating in the October 7 terrorist assault, then I wish the people making that argument the best of luck.

The UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City

A critical takeaway from all of this should be that the international community, no matter how much Israelis find it vexing, can serve as an important shield and corroborator for Israel. Leftist protestors were not slowed down one bit by Israel dismissing their overreaching claims of genocide, but those claims are now harder to sustain—even if they will continue apace anyway—in the wake of international law’s highest body declining to order Israel’s operations in Gaza to stop. It was easy to dismiss Israeli gripes about UNRWA as hasbara in the service of a battle against Palestinian refugeehood, but that no longer carries the same weight after UNRWA fired its own employees and many of its largest donors halted its funding. While it is absolutely true that hostility to Israel permeates the U.N. and many international institutions and NGOs always have Israel in their crosshairs, that same international community can vindicate Israel in ways that nobody else can.

On the other side, those who have been screaming about genocide and referencing international law and Israel’s allegedly manifest violations of it at every opportunity should have the decency to revisit their prebaked assertions. I don’t expect that most of the protestors who deploy the genocide charge as if they are noting a fact as straightforward as the sun rising in the east will be swayed by the ICJ or any other evidence that contradicts their convictions, but they should acknowledge that the rug has been pulled out from under them. Israel’s war conduct is not perfect, and there are likely plenty of violations of international law and much objectionable conduct that people can find. But that does not make it genocide, and based on the ICJ’s provisional orders, Israel’s war is both ungenocidal and a legitimate defensive response to Hamas’ illegitimate and indefensible actions. If you want to rely on international law to tar Israel, you need to respect that same international law when it tells you that you are wrong.