Palestine calls for end to Israeli occupation as ICJ begins hearings on UN advisory opinion request News
Lybil BER, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Palestine calls for end to Israeli occupation as ICJ begins hearings on UN advisory opinion request

Representatives for Palestine called for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to order a halt to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory and declare that states have obligations to refrain from supporting the occupation as hearings commenced Monday in a case brought by the UN General Assembly.

The General Assembly requested an advisory opinion from the court in January 2023 on the legal consequences for Israel and other states regarding the occupation itself and Israel’s administration of the occupied territory. While more than 50 states and organizations are slated to speak at the hearings, which are set to last for a week, Monday morning’s inaugural hearing featured seven speakers arguing for three hours on Palestine’s behalf.

The speakers sought to establish that Israel’s ongoing occupation violates Palestine’s right to self-determination and is therefore illegal under the UN Charter. Palestine’s representatives also argued that the court has jurisdiction over the advisory opinion request, that the segregation of Israelis and Palestinians and Israel’s dual legal regimes in the occupied territories are “tantamount to apartheid.” They also asserted that the settlement of Israelis in the West Bank undermines Palestine’s right to self-determination.

Professor Philippe Sands, speaking on behalf of Palestine, called for a number of consequences for the court to consider. Among them were an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory and its annexation of East Jerusalem, an end to racial discrimination in the occupied territories, an end to Israeli settlements in the territories, a right of return for Palestinian refugees, and the prosecution of war crimes suspects. He also claimed that states have obligations to refrain from recognizing or abetting the occupation.

Israel is notably absent from the slate of states that are to speak at this week’s hearings, but the ICJ released the country’s July 2023 written statement on Monday. In it, Israel asserted that the language of the General Assembly’s advisory opinion request erroneously assumes violations of international law, adding that the request contains “biased and flawed assertions.” The statement’s author, Israeli ambassador to the Netherlands Modi Ephraim, said the request discounted Israel’s right to self-defense. Ephraim also pointed to Israel’s 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip and Hamas’s subsequent takeover of the territory. Further, Ephraim stated that Israel did not “consent to judicial settlement” of the dispute surrounding the occupation and instead favors ongoing negotiations for a final resolution.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office also released a statement Monday saying:

Israel does not recognize the legitimacy of the proceedings of the international court in The Hague regarding ‘the legality of the occupation’ – which are an effort designed to infringe on Israel’s right to defend itself against existential threats.

The proceedings in The Hague are part of the Palestinian attempt to dictate the results of the diplomatic settlement without negotiations. We will continue to reject this; the Government and the Knesset are united in rejecting this unacceptable course of action.

Monday’s proceedings are separate from those instituted by South Africa in December over Israel’s alleged violations of the Genocide Convention in the ongoing Israel-Hamas War. On Friday, the ICJ directed Israel to comply with a set of anti-genocide provisional measures laid down by the court in January.

Tuesday’s hearing will commence at 10:00 CET and will feature eleven countries speaking for 30 minutes each.