Palestine demands end to Israeli occupation at ICJ hearing

Foreign Minister Riad Malki urges judges at the International Court of Justice to order an end to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian delegation told the hearings in The Hague, Netherlands that international law has failed to protect Palestinians for decades [Selman Aksunger/Anadolu via Getty Images]

Representatives for Palestine have called for an end to the occupation of Palestinian territories and the system of apartheid enforced by Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki and Palestine’s United Nations envoy Riyad Mansour, along with several academic and legal experts, represented Palestine at the hearings that began in The Hague on Monday and will last through February 26.

The case, which is separate from the genocide case by South Africa against Israel for its ongoing deadly war on Gaza, is to determine the legal consequences of Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinian territories.

In December 2022, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) passed a resolution calling on the ICJ to give an advisory or nonbinding opinion on Israel’s 57-year occupation of Palestinian territories. It received 87 votes in favour, with the United States being among 26 to vote no.

Reporting from the Hague, Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith said there are two questions that all submissions will have to address.

“The first is what are the legal consequences of the ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories by Israel and preventing the Palestinians from their self-determination by prolonging the occupation, settlement building and annexation of the Palestinian territories,” he said.

“And then the second question is how those policies affect the legal status of the occupation and what are the legal consequences that arise for all states, not just Israel.”

At the hearing on Monday, Mansour said Israel must bear the consequences of actions that run counter to international law, not be rewarded for them. He described tearfully how international law has failed to protect Palestinian children.

“We call on you to confirm that the Israeli presence in the occupied Palestinian territory is illegal and that its occupation must come to an immediate, complete and unconditional end,” he said.

“Without accountability, there is no justice; and without justice, there can be no peace.”

Palestine’s representatives, including Namira Negm, elaborated in detail how Israel’s policies and practices in the occupied Palestinian territories amount to apartheid.

Amnesty International also issued a statement on Monday saying Israel must end its “brutal” occupation of Palestine “to stop fuelling apartheid and systematic human rights violations”.

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, says the ICJ is not judging whether the occupied Palestinian territories are occupied, since that is already determined by UN Security Council resolutions, but whether Israel wants to turn prolonged occupation into de facto annexation.

“Everything about this occupation looks permanent,” he said, adding that this is demonstrated by the spreading of Israeli settlements.

Palestinian lawyer Muhammed Dahleh said the hearings are extremely important as the Palestinians have been trying for decades to use international law and international diplomacy to bring attention to their cause to no avail.

INTERACTIVE - ICJ hearing on Israel occupation of Palestine-1708328081
(Al Jazeera)

“This addition now of the advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice might mean that actually many countries in the world will have a legal basis to deal with the Israeli occupation and maybe even the Israeli state and the Israeli government in a different way,” Dahleh told Al Jazeera from occupied East Jerusalem.

After the last hearing is held on February 26, the judges are expected to take several months to deliberate before issuing an advisory opinion.

This is the second time the ICJ, upon a request from the UNGA, has been asked for an advisory opinion related to the occupied Palestinian territory.

In July 2004, the World Court found that Israel’s separation wall in the occupied West Bank violated international law and should be torn down. The wall still stands to this day.

Israel is not taking part in this week’s hearings and reacted angrily to the 2022 UN request, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it “despicable” and “disgraceful”.

Source: Al Jazeera