Nations unite against Israeli occupation, call for Palestinian self-determination at ICJ

Ahram Online , Tuesday 20 Feb 2024

Countries from around the world lined up at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague on Tuesday to call for ending Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories during the second day of public hearings.

The Logo of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is seen next to Minister of Foreign Affairs of
The Logo of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is seen next to Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Palestinian Authority Riyad al-Maliki (R) and members of his delegation at the start of a hearing on the legal consequences of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, in The Hague February, 2024. AFP


The hearing featured representatives from South Africa, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Bangladesh, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, and Chile.

More than 50 states and at least three international organizations will address judges at the United Nations’ top court until 26 February.

Chile was the last country to present arguments today, and its legal representative Ximena Fuentes Torrijo noted that the policy and practices of settlements pursued by Israel since 1967 “indicates its intention to claim that its own population has the right to stay permanently” in the occupied territories.

“By virtue of its actions, including the exploitation of natural resources, the policies of settlements, the erection of the wall, the legalization of outposts, among others, Israel has demonstrated its intention to control indefinitely the occupied Palestinian territory,” she said.

High-ranking Israeli authorities clearly express that they have no intent to guarantee the right of Palestinian people to self-determination. Instead, the occupation has become indistinguishable from annexation as Israel neither regards itself nor behaves as a temporary occupant, she explained.

Maria Clara Paula de Tusco, the head of the United Nations division at the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: "By extending its jurisdiction over the occupied Palestinian territories and establishing two distinct legal systems, one applied to Israeli settlers and another imposed under military rule to Palestinians, Israel is practicing discrimination against the Palestinian population while impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise on an equal footing of their human rights and fundamental freedoms."

The first country to speak on Tuesday was South Africa, the nation to launch the separate ICJ case accusing Israel of acts of genocide in its war on Gaza.

South Africa urged the ICJ to issue a non-binding legal opinion that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is illegal, arguing it would help efforts to reach a settlement.

"We as South Africans sense, see, hear and feel to our core the inhumane discriminatory policies and practices of the Israeli regime as an even more extreme form of the apartheid that was institutionalized against black people in my country," Vusimuzi Madonsela, South Africa's ambassador to the Netherlands told the judges. 

"A clear legal characterization of the nature of Israel's regime over the Palestinian people can only assist in remedying the ongoing delay and achieving a just settlement," Madonsela added.

Roberto Calzadilla Sarmiento, Bolivia’s ambassador to the Netherlands, told the ICJ judges that his country considers that by continuously depriving and denying the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination for 75 years, Israel is in a clear breach of its international obligations.

Belize representative Assad Shoman told the ICJ: “Palestine must be free.”

Shoman said that Israel’s violation of international law with impunity must be stopped.  

Adding, "Israel cannot be permitted to continue flouting one of the most fundamental principles of the international law with impunity. Impunity breeds inhumanity."

Belgium’s legal expert Vaios Koutroulis focused on Israel’s settlement policy and its legal implications saying: "We condemn the use of violence against the Palestinian population and wish to highlight Israel’s obligations to put an end to violence and bring to justice the perpetrators."

Canada was also initially scheduled to present its arguments but decided to pull out at the last minute.

On Monday, Palestinian representatives asked the court to declare Israel's occupation of their territory illegal, also saying the court's advisory opinion could contribute to a two-state solution and a lasting peace.

Wednesday promises to be another busy day at the ICJ, with the 10 countries scheduled to present their oral arguments, including Egypt.

Israel is not attending the hearings but sent a written statement, saying an advisory opinion would be harmful to achieving a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.

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