ICJ hearings: Egypt says Palestinians face forced displacement, collective punishment by Israel for over 75 years

Ahram Online , Wednesday 21 Feb 2024

Participating in the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) advisory opinion on Israeli violations in Palestine on Wednesday, Egypt said Palestinians under Israeli occupation have endured forced displacement, collective punishment, indiscriminate violence, and daily human suffering of untold proportions for 75 years.

Yasmine Moussa
A still photo of the legal advisor in the office of Egypt s Foreign Minister Yasmine Moussa


Yasmine Moussa, legal advisor in the office of Egypt's foreign minister, made the statement on behalf of Egypt’s delegation.

Egypt’s representative said Israel seeks through its annexation policies to change the demographics of the occupied Palestinian territories and impose sovereignty over them.

The advisory opinion, which includes 52 states and three international organizations, was requested by the United Nations General Assembly from the ICJ in 2022 regarding the legal consequences of the Israeli policies and practices in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.


Impossible Life in Gaza Amid Israeli Action

Moussa said over 29,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed and some 2.3 million forcibly displaced by Israel in violation of international law, noting that Israel deliberately seeks to make life in Gaza impossible by imposing siege and starvation and obstructing humanitarian aid to the strip.

She said with the impending attack on Rafah where 1.4 million sought refuge, Israel is continuing its policies of forcible expulsion of Palestinian civilians while the UN Security Council has repeatedly failed to call for a ceasefire.

Moussa underlined Israel’s illegal policies in the West Bank, where it is escalating attacks, demolishing Palestinians' homes, and supporting settlers' violence.

"Increased settlement activity continues to erode the basis of a two-state solution, dimming prospects of a lasting peace in the region," she asserted.

These Israeli policies, she added, are part of a broader plan to uproot Palestinians from their land.

She affirmed the jurisdiction of the ICJ to hear the advisory opinion as per the UN Charter, especially since the hearings will address the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

"It is shocking that at this critical moment, some states would rather see this court abscond responsibility as the principal judicial organ of the UN by declining to render this advisory opinion.

"What message does this send about these states’ respect for international justice and the rule of law?" Moussa added.

A Palestinian Statehood: Urgent Call for Resolution

The Middle East yearns for peace, stability, and a comprehensive, lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Moussa said.

The resolution should be based on the principles of international law and include the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, she added.

Egypt’s representative said Palestinians have been subjected to the longest occupation in modern history, slamming Israel’s policies of implanting settlements in the West Bank and the occupied Jerusalem to create “facts on the ground” in violation of the international law confirming its illegal nature.

She noted that 20 years ago Palestine representatives laid out before the court Israel’s intensive colonization and settlement policy that had at the time transferred 400,000 illegal settlers to the occupied Palestinian territories.

Currently, the figure stands at 750,000, she added, noting that such measures aim to alter the status of the occupied territories.

Moussa asserted that Israel's prolonged occupation violates several international legal principles, including the Law of Occupation, the principle of self-determination, and the prohibition of the acquisition of territory through force.

She said there is overwhelming evidence that Israel's policies, foremost of which are the settlement, demolition, and annexation of the Palestinian territories, have aimed at altering the demographic composition of Palestinian lands and imposing its sovereignty over them, which is prohibited for an occupying power by international law.

Egypt's representative highlighted Israel's policies of mass displacement of Palestinians in Gaza, quoting a UN special rapporteur who labelled such measure as “ethnic cleansing.”

“This leads to the conclusion that the Israeli occupation is, in fact, an illegal annexation conquest and a de facto colonial endeavour,” asserted Moussa.

Egypt, she added, firmly denounces the obstruction of Palestinians’ right to self-determination, which is a violation argued by Palestine as an “essential feature” of Israel’s prolonged occupation.

Moussa called on Israel to immediately cease all its practices of racial discrimination, segregation, and subjection against the Palestinian people.

“Israel’s prolonged occupation is illegal and as an ongoing international wrongful act it must be immediately brought to an end,” Moussa pointed out.

“How can such practices which were described by several participants as crimes against humanity be consistent with any notion of human rights and human dignity in the 21st century?” she continued.

Moussa voiced Egypt’s rejection of claims of Israel’s self-defence, saying, “Israel cannot invoke self-defence to maintain a situation created by its own illegal conduct or to justify violations of peremptory norms of international law.

“For how much longer do the Palestinian people need to wait before they are able to exercise their legitimate rights under international law? For how much longer will the United Nations continue to manage the humanitarian impact of Israel’s violations without addressing their root causes?”

Moussa concluded her speech by affirming that Egypt regards Israel’s prolonged occupation as a continuing violation of international law and that it is obliged to cease its illegal occupation.

She urged world countries not to recognize the illegal situation created by Israel, including its settlement and annexation actions.

She underscored that no peace, security, or prosperity can take place without upholding the rule of law for the Palestinian people.

Along with the oral argument, Egypt submitted two written memoranda to the court concerning Israel's violations since 1967.

The ICJ hearing comes amid mounting international legal pressure on Israel over its war on Gaza, where it has killed and injured over 100,000 Palestinians.

The hearing comes a few weeks after a high-profile case brought by South Africa before the ICJ accusing Israel of committing genocidal acts during the current Gaza offensive.

In late January, the ICJ ruled that Israel must do everything in its power to prevent genocide and allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, but stopped short of ordering a ceasefire.

On Friday, the court rejected South Africa's bid to impose additional measures on Israel but reiterated the need to carry out the ruling in full.

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