Palestinians accuse Israel of ‘apartheid’ at UN top court

Palestinians accuse Israel of ‘apartheid’ at UN top court
Palestinians accuse Israel of ‘apartheid’ at UN top court

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al-Maliki told the UN’s top court Monday his people were suffering ‘colonialism and apartheid’ under the Israelis, urging judges to order an immediate and unconditional end to the occupation. — AFP pic

THE HAGUE, Feb 19 — Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al-Maliki told the UN’s top court Monday his people were suffering “colonialism and apartheid” under the Israelis, urging judges to order an immediate and unconditional end to the occupation.

“The Palestinians have endured colonialism and apartheid... There are those who are enraged by these words. They should be enraged by the reality we are suffering,” Al-Maliki told the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The ICJ is holding hearings all week on the legal implications of Israel’s occupation since 1967, with an unprecedented 52 countries, including the United States and Russia, expected to give evidence.

Speaking in the Peace Palace in The Hague, where the ICJ sits, the minister urged judges to declare the occupation illegal and order it to stop “immediately, totally and unconditionally.”

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“Justice delayed is justice denied and the Palestinian people have been denied justice for far too long,” he said.

“It is time to put an end to the double standards that have kept our people captive for far too long.”

‘Impunity and inaction’

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In December 2022, the UN General Assembly asked the ICJ for a non-binding “advisory opinion” on the “legal consequences arising from the policies and practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.”

While any ICJ opinion would be non-binding, it comes amid mounting international legal pressure on Israel over the war in Gaza sparked by the brutal October 7 Hamas attacks.

The hearings are separate from a high-profile case brought by South Africa alleging that Israel is committing genocidal acts during the current Gaza offensive.

Al-Maliki charged however that “the Genocide underway in Gaza is a result of decades of impunity and inaction.”

“Ending Israel’s impunity is a moral, political and legal imperative,” he said.

In January, the ICJ ruled in that case that Israel must do everything in its power to prevent genocide and allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, stopping short of ordering a ceasefire.

On Friday, it rejected South Africa’s bid to impose additional measures on Israel, but reiterated the need to carry out the ruling in full.

‘Prolonged occupation’

The UN General Assembly asked the ICJ to consider two questions.

Firstly, the court should examine the legal consequences of what the UN called “the ongoing violation by Israel of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination”.

This relates to the “prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967” and “measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem”.

In June 1967, Israel crushed some of its Arab neighbours in a six-day war, seizing the West Bank including east Jerusalem from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt.

Israel then began to settle the 70,000 square kilometres of seized Arab territory. The UN later declared the occupation of Palestinian territory illegal. Cairo regained Sinai under its 1979 peace deal with Israel.

The ICJ has also been asked to look into the consequences of what it described as Israel’s “adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures.”

Secondly, the ICJ should advise on how Israel’s actions “affect the legal status of the occupation” and what are the consequences for the UN and other countries.

The court will rule “urgently” on the affair, probably by the end of the year.

Dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrated outside the court, waving flags and brandishing banners.

“I really hope justice will prevail,” organiser Nadia Slimi told AFP.

“I really hope all the combined efforts to pressure Israel, to demand a more humane policy, will finally lead to some steps to liberate the Palestinian people,” said the 27-year-old.

‘Despicable’

The ICJ rules in disputes between states and its judgements are binding although it has little means to enforce them.

However, in this case, the opinion it issues will be non-binding although most advisory opinions are in fact acted upon.

Israel is not participating in the hearings and reacted angrily to the 2022 UN request, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it “despicable” and “disgraceful”.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that while advisory opinions are non-binding, “they can carry great moral and legal authority” and can eventually be inscribed in international law. — AFP

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