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Israel Occupation is justified, France tells the ICJ, while other States call for international law

Egypt, the UAE, US , Russia, France and Colombia are among the 11 countries addressing the International Court of Justice today to outline the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem since 1967

February 21, 2024 at 9:04 am

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) today heard arguments from a number of countries on the legal consequences arising from the policies and practices of Israel in the occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, for the third day this week.

Events in Gaza, Colombia’s representative, Andrea Jiménez Herrera said, were providing a “map of horror and devastation … as a result of the scorched earth policies of Israel.” Today, she continued, Gaza has become a situation of “death and despair”.

In the West Bank, meanwhile, Israel annexes Palestinian land de facto, and thus “denies a people their right to self-determination”. As a result, she continued, “What is at stake here is ensuring the safety and, indeed, the very existence of the Palestinian people.”

That warning was echoed by Cuba’s Ambassador to the UN, Anayansi Rodriguez Camejo, who told the Court that describing Israel’s actions against Palestinians as apartheid would be to leave out the “intention to exterminate the Palestinian people, as an ethnic or religious group to whom the right to self-determination applies.”

Camejo insisted that “The international community must make it clear that today force can be used against the Palestinians but this force will not stop justice”.

Egypt’s delegation highlighted the numerous limitations on access that Palestinians have to their sacred sites, including Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as restrictions on travel for Palestinians who are unable to access Area C of the Occupied West Bank or trade freely.

“On a daily basis, under Occupation, Palestinians face institutionalised discrimination and segregation, under a dual system applying different laws to Palestinians and Israelis,” Legal Adviser for Egypt’s Cabinet of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jasmine Moussa, told the ICJ.

Israeli military laws, meanwhile, “entrench racial discrimination between Palestinians and Israeli settlers”. Palestine has been subjected to “longest protracted Occupation in modern history,” Moussa added, and “history will judge us on how we respond today.”

Addressing the Court, Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, the UAE’s permanent representative to the UN, also highlighted that international law applies to all nations and “cannot be an a la carte menu. It must apply equally to all, and it is all the more essential in the long shadow cast by the Palestinian question and injustice that has persisted for more than seven decades.” She stressed that the “even-handed application of international law is essential if that order is to function.”

Saudi at the ICJ: ‘Israel’s actions dehumanise Palestinians’

Opposing the ICJ’s remit with regards to providing an advisory opinion on Israel’s Occupation of Palestinian Territory, the United States told the Court that “you have a difficult task before you”. As the ICJ is apparently making a decision “focusing on the actions of only one party, the United States disagrees with that.”

The US’s representative added that “The challenge for the Court is how to provide its advice in a way that promotes the framework rather than disrupting its balance, potentially making the possibility of negotiations more difficult”. Therefore, he said, it would not be constructive for the Court to call for an “unilateral and immediate withdrawal by Israel that does not account for Israel’s legitimate security needs.”

While Russia’s ambassador to the Netherlands urged the ICJ to pursue justice and reiterated the country’s long-held stance on the necessity for the establishment of a Palestinian State on the 1967 borders, as well as condemning illegal settler activities in the Occupied Territories, Gambia took it a step further.

Dawda A. Jallow, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, hailed the efforts to hold Israel accountable at the ICJ as an effort to save future generations as a whole. Israel cannot justify its Occupation of Palestinian Territories even on alleged preventative measures, the Gambian official stated, calling the ongoing Occupation “wholly disproportionate to any legitimate aim”.

Guyana was also hard-hitting in its criticism of the Zionist Occupation, with its representative highlighting the role of international law as an essential necessity for reaching a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a just and lasting peace. He also countered the US’s claim that an Occupation’s legality depends on its actions, stressing that forceful acquisition and annexation of territory is unlawful.

“Temporariness is the very essence and core of Occupation”, Guyana’s representative said, regarding the ongoing and permanent nature of Israel’s control over the Palestinian Territories. “Permanent Occupation is not occupation at all. It is military conquest, it is annexation,” he stated, calling for its end.

Not all States today opposed the Israeli occupation, however, with the Legal Director of France’s Foreign Ministry, Diégo Colas, claiming that Israel’s efforts to suppress Palestinian Resistance justify Tel Aviv’s Occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

While acknowledging that such measures cannot be maintained several decades after operations have passed, he claimed that the Israeli Occupation is not wrong in itself. Colas did admit, however, that Israel must grant the occupied Palestinians protection and rights, and said that France will never recognise the forceful acquisition of territories.

The most one-sided and biased view in favour of Israel’s Occupation was likely Hungary’s, though, with a spokesperson parroting typical Israeli talking points throughout his statement, such as the blame of Hamas for the decades of conflict, the freedom from accountability for Tel Aviv and praise for the Abraham Accords as the long-awaited beacon of peace.

Budapest’s position is that the ICJ case against Israel is a provocation that will only fuel tensions, the delegation said, with Hungary’s ambassador to the Netherlands, András Kocsis, then calling on the Court to halt proceedings as Israel did not give its consent to the case.

The stances of the US, France and Hungary in their addresses to the Court mirror Israel’s own response to the proceedings. Tel Aviv is not attending the hearings but has sent a five-page written statement saying an advisory opinion would be “harmful” to attempts to resolve the conflict because questions posed by the UN General Assembly are prejudiced.

According to Netanyahu’s office, the hearings are “designed to harm Israel’s right to defend itself from existential threats”, and “dictate the results of a diplomatic settlement without any negotiations”.

In tomorrow’s round of hearings, the ICJ is due to hear from China, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and Libya, among others, during the fourth day of the proceedings.

READ: ‘No country is defending Israel at the ICJ because its actions are indefensible’