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Palestinians demand immediate end to Israeli occupation at ICJ

February 19, 2024 at 4:49 pm

The hearings on the advisory proceedings of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legal consequences of Israel’s practices in the Palestinian territories begin with a presentation by the Palestinian delegation in The Hague, Netherlands on February 19, 2024 [Selman Aksünger – Anadolu Agency]

The six-day public hearing into Israel’s policies in the occupied Palestinian territories at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) commenced today with Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister, Riyad Al-Maliki, accusing Israel of subjecting Palestinians to decades of discrimination and apartheid.

“The only solution consistent with international law is for this illegal occupation to come to an immediate, unconditional and total end,” he said.

Over 50 states will state their positions before the ICJ in the Hague until 26 February, following a 2022 request from the UN General Assembly for an advisory, non-binding opinion on the occupation.

Al-Maliki, told the ICJ  that “2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza, half of them children, are besieged and bombed, killed and maimed, starved and displaced.”

He added: “More than 3.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, including in Jerusalem, are subjected to colonisation of their territory and racist violence that enables it. The genocide under way in Gaza is a result of decades of impunity and inaction. Ending Israel’s impunity is a moral, political and legal imperative.”

During the hearing, international lawyer representing Palestine, Paul Reichler, highlighted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s UN map of the “New Middle East” and quoted Heritage Minister, Amichai Eliyahu, on 3 August 2023, who said: “Sovereignty must be extended within the borders of the West Bank and in the most prudent way, to create international recognition that this place is ours.”

Statement by Israel’s heritage minister, Amichai Eliyahu on the 3 August 2023

“The evidence is before you,” he told the court. “It is indisputable, under the umbrella of its prolonged military occupation, Israel has been steadily annexing the occupied Palestinian territory and it continues to do so. Its undisguised objective is the permanent acquisition of this territory and the exercise of sovereignty over it in defiance of the prohibition of the acquisition of territory by force.”

After stressing that Israeli officials have admitted their intention of sovereignty over the entire occupied Palestinian territory, he added: “For Israel, there is no Palestine, it simply does not exist.

The Palestinian representatives further urged the ICJ to declare Israel’s discriminatory actions against the Palestinian people as apartheid.

African Union (AU) Ambassador Dr Namira Nabil Negm noted that victims of apartheid South Africa and Namibia, among other countries, share the perspective that apartheid exists in the occupied PAlestinian territories.

She described the collective punishment that Palestinians are subjected to by Israel and its “toolbox of population control and inhumane acts” that restrict “every aspect of Palestinians’ life from birth to death” including indiscriminate killings, mass arrests, torture, forced displacement, movement restrictions and blockade.

In contrast, she said, settlers are rarely if ever prosecuted for crimes against Palestinians, allowing them to act with “absolute impunity” and causing considerable harm. Despite calls from the UN Security Council for Israel to disarm the settlers, Negm highlighted that this situation persists.

Professor Philippe Sands outlined how Israel’s policies have infringed upon the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. Israel permits the persistence of numerous illegal settlements, restricting Palestinians from exercising permanent sovereignty over essential natural resources such as land, freshwater, agricultural and mineral assets. Additionally, Israel obstructs Palestinian access to hydrocarbon deposits, both onshore and offshore and denies them the right to determine their political status and direction.

Israel persists in prohibiting and punishing political expressions of Palestinian identity and nationhood. Flags are outlawed and attacked. Civil society organisations and political parties are declared to be unlawful.

“Leaders and elected representatives and civilians more generally including so many children are assaulted, exiled, imprisoned or killed. General assembly resolutions and many treaties can confirm that these rights exist under international law and they’ve been systematically violated,” he explained.

This is the UN General Assembly’s second request to the ICJ for an advisory opinion concerning the occupied Palestinian territories. In July 2004, the court declared that Israel’s Separation Wall in the West Bank breached international law and should be dismantled, yet it remains standing to this day, having been reinforced and made longer.

Lawyer Professor Alain Pellet called for the UN and third parties to ensure that Israel is not provided military or technological aid that could be used in the occupied Palestinian territories to prolong or intensify the occupation and the discriminatory apartheid.

“For almost 57 years, […] Israel has constantly stuck to its policy of oppression and discrimination against the Palestinian people in breach of the most fundamental principles to international law and by its practices has continually exacerbated the situation with the unconcealed objective of making impossible the realisation of the Palestinian peoples right to self-determination,” he said.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Riyad Mansour, Palestine’s UN envoy, emphasised that over two million Palestinians in Gaza are being pushed close to the brink of the border with Egypt.

Palestinian children, women and men, he explained, are consumed with the onslaught of disease, despair, destruction and death, which is spreading rapidly.

In the remaining occupied Palestinian territories, he added, Israeli settlers “rampage and terrorise” all Palestinian, towns, cities and communities.

“No village, town or city, no community, no sanctity, spared,” he stated. “Israeli leaders no longer feel the need to hide their intentions. They speak openly of getting rid of the Palestinian people one way or another, they defy the law. And the law is barely fighting back.”

The judges are expected to take several months to deliberate before issuing their opinion.

WATCH: Palestine at the ICJ: Israel has given Palestinians 3 options, displacement, subjugation or death