South Africa accuses Israel of apartheid against Palestinians in ongoing case before ICJ News
Lybil BER, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
South Africa accuses Israel of apartheid against Palestinians in ongoing case before ICJ

South Africa accused Israel of implementing apartheid against Palestinians during a hearing before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Tuesday, alleging that Israel subjects Palestinians to “discriminatory land zoning and planning policies, punitive and administrative house demolitions and violent army incursions into their villages towns, cities and refugee camps.”

Making submissions before the ICJ, the representative of the government of the Republic of South Africa, Ambassador Vusimuzi Madonsela, compared the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to his country under apartheid, where people of color were legally subjugated and discriminated against. Madonsela said:

The Palestinian cause is one which resonates strongly with the people of South Africa. That is because the Palestinian struggle evokes mournful memories of our struggle against apartheid, segregation and oppression. Ours is an experience aptly referred to, by the United Nations Security Council in 1980 as ‘a crime against the conscience and dignity of mankind’ and as being ‘incompatible with the rights and dignity of man.’ 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, coincidentally from the year 1946 and which ended in 1994.

Madonsela also contended that a lack of a right to return for Palestinian refugees to Israel and the separation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank serves to ensure the dominance of the Israeli Jewish community over Palestinians.

The government representative of the Netherlands, René J. M. Lefeber, discussed the applicability of international law to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory. While not addressing the situation as directly as South Africa, Lefeber emphasized that the right to self-determination is universal. The representative also asserted that occupations carried out in self-defense must comply with international humanitarian law and that states have an obligation not to recognize or support a situation that violates international peremptory norms.

Bangladesh’s representative, Ambassador M. Riaz Hamidullah, decried the humanitarian conditions in Gaza amidst Israel’s invasion of the area before arguing that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory is illegal. Like South Africa, Bangladesh accused Israel of  “persecution, racial discrimination and apartheid” in its occupation. Hamidullah also disputed the claim that the occupation is being carried out in the defense of Israel, instead alleging that it is intended to annex Palestinian territory.

Israel has not responded directly to these claims since it does not recognize the current ICJ proceedings. In a statement, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, ” 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.” Israel’s written submission to the ICJ, sent in July, disputed the premises on which the case is based. It contended that the language the UN General Assembly used to institute these ICJ proceedings wrongfully assumed that Israel violated international law.