Silence not an option, ICJ’s opinion is vital - Palestinian legal team

(File photo: Jordan News)
GAZA – On Monday, a Palestinian legal team stated that Palestinians suffer collective punishment while Israeli settlers live without consequences, Al-Mamlaka TV reported.اضافة اعلان

During their arguments before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the first public session regarding the legal implications arising from Israel’s policies and practices in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, the legal team emphasized that Palestinians face systemic discrimination, depriving them of basic rights.

The team highlighted the power of the court’s words and emphasized that silence is not an option. The court’s opinion could contribute to enforcing international law and potentially lead to a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian issue. Israel seeks to maintain its permanent occupation of Palestine.

Furthermore, the legal team pointed out that Israel disregarded the ICJ’s opinion regarding the separation barrier. Instead of dismantling it, Israel extended the barrier. Additionally, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented a map of Israel at the UN, he erased the Green Line, effectively erasing any trace of Palestine.

The fight for Palestinians’ right to self-determination
Regarding events in Gaza, Professor André Zimmermann, a member of the Palestinian legal team, asserted that there are no valid reasons for the ICJ to reject the requests made by the UN General Assembly concerning Israel’s violations of international law. These violations continue to escalate, making it crucial for international legal institutions to examine Israel’s conduct. This consultation reaffirms the legal framework of UN resolutions, aiming for a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian issue.

Zimmermann emphasized that the ICJ has the authority to address the issue’s legitimacy based on the UN Charter and General Assembly Resolution 77, adopted by a majority of states. Therefore, Palestine requests compliance with the court’s duty to respond to the submitted requests, affirm respect for international law, and ensure the Palestinian people’s rights to achieve a fair settlement.

He further highlighted several reasons why answering these questions is essential for the international community and the General Assembly. These include addressing Israel’s legal violations, such as forcibly annexing Palestinian territories and denying the right to self-determination. Additionally, as stated in the UN Charter and pertinent resolutions regarding the occupation of Palestine, violations of international humanitarian law and the duty to resolve the Palestinian issue are crucial obligations.

The ICJ has commenced a week of hearings on the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. Over 50 states are scheduled to address the judges during these proceedings in The Hague. The Palestinian Foreign Minister, Riyad Al-Maliki, will be the first to speak at the ICJ. In 2022, the UN General Assembly requested an advisory opinion from the court regarding the occupation. The hearings will continue until February 26, after which the judges will deliberate for several months before issuing their judgment.

While Israel has previously disregarded such opinions, these proceedings could exert political pressure, especially in light of the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Since October 7, 2023, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have killed about 29,000 Palestinians. Notably, Israel will not participate in the hearings, although it has submitted written observations.

The hearings are part of the Palestinian effort to prompt international legal institutions to scrutinize Israel’s conduct. These proceedings have become more urgent following the October 7 attacks by Hamas in Israel, which resulted in the loss of 1,200 lives, and Israel’s subsequent military response. Additionally, there are growing concerns about an Israeli ground offensive in Rafah, where over one million Palestinians have sought refuge to avoid Israeli assaults.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War. Although it withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it still controls the enclave’s borders alongside neighboring Egypt. This marks the second time the General Assembly has sought an advisory opinion from the ICJ regarding the occupied Palestinian territory. In July 2004, the court declared that Israel’s separation wall in the West Bank violated international law and should be dismantled, although the wall remains in place to this day. The judges are now tasked with reviewing Israel’s “occupation, settlement, and annexation,” including measures affecting the demographic composition and status of Jerusalem.

Regarding the war in Gaza, André Zimmermann, a member of the Palestinian legal team, emphasized the impact on security, stability, and peace. The urgency of addressing Israel’s conduct is evident, especially considering the escalating violations of international law. Palestine seeks commitment from the international community to respond to the submitted requests, respect international law, and work toward a fair resolution for the Palestinian people.

Israel’s vehement rejection of Palestinian statehood
Furthermore, Paul Reichler, another member of the Palestinian legal team, highlighted that successive Israeli governments have continuously rejected the existence of a Palestinian state. They persistently impose military control, denying the aspirations of a viable Palestinian state. Israel’s leaders consistently deny the Palestinian presence and advocate for expanding their state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Their vision includes annexing East Jerusalem, a move unrecognized by most countries, and a significant portion of the West Bank, which compromises the creation of a sustainable Palestinian state.

Israel’s expansion and colonization efforts in Palestinian territories, including the establishment of settlements, have raised significant concerns. Approximately 61 percent of the West Bank is either threatened by or already under settlement control. These actions violate international law and undermine the prospects for a viable Palestinian state.

Quoting statements from Israeli government officials, Reichler highlighted their intention to assert sovereignty over all lands from the Golan Heights to the Al-Naqab desert. Such ambitions blatantly disregard international legal norms.

Despite past opinions, Israel continues to expand its presence in the West Bank, constructing settlements and imposing a de facto reality. Over the last 20 years, Israel has established 22 settlements, comprising more than 20,000 housing units. These actions aim to isolate and displace Palestinians from their land.

In the West Bank, settler-related violence has increased. Since October 7, at least 1,000 Palestinians have faced forced displacement from their homes. Israel’s unprecedented colonization efforts exacerbate tensions and hinder prospects for peace.

Reichler emphasized that a two-state solution remains the optimal path for both Palestinians and Israelis, adding that the ICJ must empower Palestinians to determine their destiny, establish their state, and live in peace and security.

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