Israel-Hamas war: ICJ to begin hearing on Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The United Nations’ highest court on Monday opens historic hearings on the legality of Israel’s 57-year occupation of land sought for a Palestinian state, putting the 15 international judges back at the heart of the decades-long Israeli conflict is dumped. -Palestinian conflict.

Six days of hearings are planned at the International Court of Justice, involving an unprecedented number of countries, as Israel continues its destructive actions. attack on Gaza.

Although the case is set against the backdrop of the war between Israel and Hamas, it focuses instead on Israel’s open occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

Palestinian representatives, who will be the first to speak on Monday, will argue that the Israeli occupation is illegal because it violates three key principles of international law, the Palestinian legal team told reporters on Wednesday.

They say Israel has violated the ban on territorial conquest by annexing large swaths of occupied land, violated Palestinians’ right to self-determination and imposed a system of racial discrimination and apartheid.

“We want to hear new words from the court,” said Omar Awadallah, head of the Palestinian Foreign Ministry’s UN agencies department.

“They had to take into account the word genocide in the South African case,” he said, referring to a special case before the court. “Now we want them to consider apartheid.”

Awadallah said an opinion from the court “will give us many tools, using peaceful methods and instruments of international law, to confront the illegalities of the occupation.”

It will likely take months before the court issues a ruling. But experts say the decision, while not legally binding, could have a profound impact on international jurisprudence, international aid to Israel and public opinion.

“The case will present the court with a litany of accusations, allegations and grievances that are likely to be uncomfortable and embarrassing for Israel, given the war and the already highly polarized international environment,” said Yuval Shany, a law professor at Hebrew University. and senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute.

Israel will not speak at the hearings, but could submit a written statement. Shany said Israel will likely justify the continued occupation on security grounds, especially in the absence of a peace deal.

It likely points to the October 7 attack, in which Hamas-led Gaza militants killed 1,200 people in southern Israel and dragged 250 hostages back to the area.

“There is a narrative that areas from which Israel is withdrawing, such as Gaza, have the potential to pose very serious security risks,” Shany said. “If anything, October 7 underlined the traditional Israeli security rationale for justifying the endless occupation.”

But Palestinians and leading rights groups say the occupation goes far beyond defensive measures. They say it has turned into an apartheid system, reinforced by building settlements on occupied territories, that gives Palestinians second-class status and is designed to maintain Jewish hegemony from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. Israel rejects any accusation of apartheid.

The case ends up in court after the UN General Assembly voted by a wide margin in December 2022 to ask the world court for a non-binding opinion on one of the longest-running and thorniest disputes in the world. The request was promoted by the Palestinians and fiercely opposed by Israel. Fifty countries abstained from voting.

In a written statement before the vote, Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan called the measure “outrageous,” the UN “morally bankrupt and politicized” and any potential court decision “completely illegal.”

After the Palestinians present their arguments, 51 countries and three organizations – the League of Arab States, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the African Union – will address the panel of judges in the wood-paneled Great Hall of Justice.

Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip during the 1967 Middle East war. The Palestinians strive for an independent state in all three areas. Israel views the West Bank as a disputed territory, the future of which must be decided in negotiations.

According to the watchdog group Peace Now, 146 settlements have been built, housing more than 500,000 Jewish settlers. The West Bank’s settler population has grown by more than 15% in the past five years, according to a pro-settler group.

Israel has also annexed East Jerusalem and considers the entire city its capital. Another 200,000 Israelis live in settlements built in East Jerusalem, which Israel considers neighborhoods of its capital. Palestinian residents of the city face systematic discrimination, making it difficult for them to build new homes or extend existing ones.

The international community overwhelmingly views the settlements as illegal. Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, home to the city’s most sensitive holy sites, is not internationally recognized.

It is not the first time that the court has been asked to advise on Israeli policy or to declare an occupation illegal.

In 2004, the court said that a separation wall Israel had built through east Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank was “contrary to international law.” It also called on Israel to immediately halt construction. Israel ignored the ruling.

In a 1971 case that the Palestinian legal team will likely draw on, the court issued an opinion finding that South Africa’s occupation of Namibia was illegal and saying South Africa must immediately withdraw from the country.

At the end of last month, the court also ordered Israel to do everything possible to prevent death, destruction and the like acts of genocide during his campaign in Gaza. South Africa filed a case accusing Israel of genocide, a charge that Israel denied.

South African representatives will speak on Tuesday. The country’s ruling party, the African National Congress, has long compared Israel’s policies in Gaza and the West Bank to South Africa’s white-minority apartheid regime, which confined most black people to “homelands” before it was abolished in 1994. ended up.

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Frankel reported from Jerusalem.

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Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

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