South Africa’s December 2023 application for the International Court of Justice to determine whether Israel was guilty of genocide against the people of Gaza surprised many people. However, it was not as sudden an action as some seem to believe. Rather, it followed almost three decades of South Africa’s engagement with the issue of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, with both Israelis and Palestinians, as well as almost a decade of the South African government incrementally downgrading its relations with Israel.

This paper traces and examines these complex relations and South Africa’s attempts, at different times, to play some role in the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli question.