“The Gravity Level”: Israel and the Evolving Question of Genocide

David Scheffer, then the Clinton administration’s roving U.S. ambassador for war crimes, visits Kosovo in 1998.
David Scheffer, then the Clinton administration’s roving U.S. ambassador for war crimes, visits Kosovo in 1998. Photo: David Brauchli/Sygma via Getty Images
Julia Ioffe
January 15, 2024

Last week, ahead of the hearing of South Africa’s case against Israel at the International Court of Justice at The Hague, I brought you a conversation with my friend David Scheffer, the former U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes and a founding father of the International Criminal Court. I normally wouldn’t return to someone I just interviewed the very next week, but there were two things that made me break a rule I didn’t know I had. The first is that so many of you wrote in about David’s interview to say how much you appreciated his perspective and depth of knowledge, and how much texture it added to your understanding of these most charged of issues. The second is that I watched most of the six hours of hearings at the I.C.J. on Thursday and Friday, and had lots of questions myself, including: What did David make of the arguments presented by the dueling parties? So I gave him a call, again. 

Our conversation, which has been edited for clarity and length, is shorter than last week’s, but I found it to be just as revelatory. I hope you do, too.