Skip to main content

Israel Google ad accuses South Africa of 'blood libel' when searching for ICJ 'genocide' case

The accusation of 'malicious blood libel' appears at the top of Google’s results page when searching for ‘ICJ hearing’
Google's New York City headquarters. (AFP)
Google's search results have become the latest front in the battle to control the narrative on Israel's ICJ case (AFP)

The Israeli Government Advertising Agency has sponsored an advert accusing South Africa of “malicious blood libel” on Google.

When users search for "ICJ hearing" and related phrases, the advert appears at the top of Google’s results pages.

In its first line, the advert on Google reads: "The malicious blood libel advanced by South Africa seeks to slander the State of Israel."

The International Court of Justice, the United Nations' highest judicial body, began hearing South Africa’s case at the Hague on Thursday, which accuses Israel of committing genocide in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Blood libel is a reference to antisemitic lies originating in the Middle Ages that Jews murdered Christian boys to use their blood for religious rituals.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


Accusations of antisemitism have been frequently used by Israel to counter criticism of its treatment of Palestinians.

'Antisemitic and deeply offensive'

The link on Google directs users to a website run by the Israel National Digital Agency, which says that “Israel experienced a catastrophic act of genocide when armed Hamas terrorists invaded the country via land, air, and sea.”

The website describes the accusation of genocide against Israel as “antisemitic and deeply offensive to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust”.

It also asserts that “Israel’s war is not with the civilian population in the Gaza Strip” and claims that “to assist the civilian population in Gaza, Israel is facilitating various humanitarian aid initiatives”.

Since 7 October 2023, Israel has killed more than 23,000 Palestinians in Gaza, of whom the majority are women and children. It has imposed a total siege on the territory which the United Nations says risks an imminent famine among two million Palestinians forced from their homes. 

While Israel has said that the military is not targeting civilians and is seeking to eliminate the armed group Hamas, others including Israel's close ally the US have described its aerial bombing campaign as indiscriminate.

On 9 January, Middle East Eye reported that UN teams continue to be denied access to the besieged northern Gaza Strip by Israel, preventing urgent supplies from reaching hundreds of thousands of people in need.

The website run by the Israel National Digital Agency features links to what it calls “Independent Digital Resources”, which include unverified claims about the 7 October Hamas-led attack on Israel - including that babies were beheaded

MEE has approached Google for comment.

There have been similar Israeli government advertising campaigns in the past.
Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs sponsored an advert in February 2022 to appear at the top of the results page on Google when users searched for Amnesty International.

The advert labelled the human rights group as "antisemitic", and appeared less than a week after Amnesty released a report describing Israel as an apartheid state.

In October 2023, pro-Israel advertisements with graphic content appeared in video games targeting children. The videos were part of an advocacy drive by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.