Palestinians endure ‘more extreme form of apartheid’ - South Africa

ICJ South africa
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PARIS — At a hearing before the United Nations’ highest court, South Africa on Tuesday called Israel’s policies toward Palestinians an “extreme form of apartheid” and argued that its occupation of the territory sought for an eventual Palestinian state was “fundamentally illegal.”اضافة اعلان

The hearing at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, is one of two matters being heard about Israel, part of a concerted effort to leverage the authority of the court and the global reach of the U.N. to stop the war in the Gaza Strip and examine the legality of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians.

Starting this week and lasting six days, the court is hearing arguments on Israel’s conduct, following a request by the UN General Assembly more than a year ago. In the other matter, a case that began in January, South Africa accuses Israel of committing genocide in its war against Hamas in Gaza.

Israel has strongly rejected those accusations.

The latest proceedings, which began Monday, focus on the legality of Israel’s “occupation, settlement, and annexation” of Palestinian-majority territories, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem. South Africa and many other countries that have asked to address the court argue that Israel’s decadeslong occupation violates the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and that its security apparatus, including a wall, amounts to racial segregation.

More than 50 countries and three regional blocs are scheduled to argue before the 15-judge bench over the next week, a level of participation never before seen at the court.

The hearings on Israel’s policies have gained urgency amid the bloodshed of the war in Gaza. They come less than a month after the court ordered Israel to restrain its attacks in the Hamas-controlled territory in the genocide case.

The court is expected to answer the questions on the legality of Israel’s conduct with an advisory opinion that will be nonbinding.

Palestinians “continue to be subjected to discriminating land-zoning and planning policies, to punitive house demolitions and violent incursions into their villages, towns, and cities,” South Africa’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Vusi Madonsela, said in an address to the court Tuesday.

Israel has long rejected accusations that it operates an apartheid system, calling such allegations a slur and pointing to a history of being singled out for condemnation by UN bodies and tribunals.

Also on Tuesday, the 22-nation Arab Group of the UN submitted a resolution to the Security Council calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza. The United States vetoed the resolution for the third time.

Israel said it would not participate in this week’s hearings in The Hague, saying the premise before the court was unwarranted and biased. Last year, Israel delivered a letter to the court in which it argued that the focus of the proceedings failed to “recognize Israel’s right and duty to protect its citizens,” to recognize Israel’s security, or to take into account years of agreements with the Palestinians to negotiate “the permanent status of the territory, security arrangements, settlements, and borders.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said in a statement Monday that the case is “part of the Palestinian attempt to dictate the results of the political agreement without negotiations.”

The war in Gaza, which the Gaza Health Ministry said has killed more than 26,000 people since October 7.

Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt in a 1967 war with its Arab neighbors. Israel ended its occupation of Gaza in 2005. It considers parts of the occupied West Bank to be disputed territory and has built settlements there, which much of the world considers illegal. After the 1967 war, Israel formally annexed East Jerusalem and considered the unified city its capital.

South Africa and other speakers have argued that the proliferation of Jewish settlements, many of which are full-fledged towns, suggests that the occupation is not temporary, but permanent.

Support for the Palestinian people has long been a popular rallying cry in South Africa, and its governing party, the African National Congress, has often compared Israel’s policies to those of apartheid-era South Africa.

In his arguments Tuesday, Madonsela, the South African diplomat, recalled his country’s history of racial segregation and invoked one of apartheid’s most famous critics, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Citing the separate court systems, land-zoning rules, roads, and housing rights for Palestinians, he said Israel had put in place a “two-tier system of laws, rules, and services” that benefit Jewish settlers while “denying Palestinians rights.”

Madonsela quoted a 2010 statement from Tutu in which the Nobel laureate said Israel maintains a system for the “two populations in the West Bank, which provides preferential services, development and benefits for Jewish settlers while imposing harsh conditions on Palestinians. This, in my book, is apartheid. It is untenable.”

South Africans see “an even more extreme form of the apartheid that was institutionalized against Black people in my country,” Madonsela said. He said that South Africa had a special obligation to call out apartheid practices wherever they occur. He also called on Israel to dismantle the separation wall between Israel and the West Bank, which the court had ordered be removed in 2004 and still stands.

The US is scheduled to make arguments on Wednesday.

The judges are expected to take five months to issue their advisory opinion.

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