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ICJ: Global South calls for a free Palestine; US, allies back Israel

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Picture: Frank van Beek / ICJ-CIJ Proceedings at the ICJ. The ICJ is conducting hearings before giving an opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The US and its allies have asked the court to not demand an end to the occupation.

By Peoples Dispatch

The ongoing hearing at the International Court of Justice on the Israeli occupation of Palestine has revealed clear divisions on the issue that also extend to countries’ positions on the genocidal Israeli war on Gaza. While countries from the Global South have called for an end to the Israeli occupation as soon as possible, the US and many of its allies seek the continuation of status quo.

On the fifth day of hearing on Friday, February 23 the UK, adhering to the line taken by the US earlier, tried to defend the Israeli occupation and asked the court to avoid giving its opinion of its legality. The UK representative claimed that the court has no jurisdiction to opine on the questions formulated by the UN General Assembly as Israel had not consented to it.

The ICJ was asked by the UN General Assembly in a resolution adopted in December 2022 to opine on the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation and denial of Palestinians’ right to self-determination and its policies of settlement and annexation of Palestinian territories. The court will also opine on the policies of racial discrimination that Israel has been accused of perpetrating in the occupied territories.

Over 50 countries and three world organisations were slated to present their positions between February 19 and February 26. So far, over 40 countries and organisations have submitted their opinions before the court with a majority of them underlining the illegality of the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and demanding an end of the occupation.

The US and its western allies, on the contrary, tried to defend the occupation and asked the court to desist from expressing its opinion on its legal consequences.

On Thursday, China called for an immediate end to the occupation, saying that Palestinians should not be denied justice which is already delayed as the occupation has continued for over five decades now. Legal Advisor of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Ma Xinmin rejected the attempts to compare Palestinian resistance with terrorism, claiming that as an occupied people, Palestinians have every right to fight for their independence.

Russia asserted that the court should see that Israel has been violating all its commitments to international law in the occupied territories and demanded the end of its illegal occupation and the oppressive policies inside the occupied Palestinian territories.

Most countries from Africa and West Asia also reiterated that Israel had been violating international laws with impunity and some of them asked the court to recognise its policies of racial discrimination against Palestinians as apartheid. They argued that its continued occupation of Palestinian territories make it difficult to achieve any peace and stability in the region.

US defends the occupation

Meanwhile, representing the US, Acting Legal Advisor for the country’s State Department Richard Visek underlined that “the court should not find that Israel is legally obligated to immediately and unconditionally withdraw from occupied territories”. Visek urged the court to take into consideration Israel’s “legitimate security needs” and desist from calls to end the occupation immediately.

Visek argued that the UN has established a process for a peaceful resolution through negotiation in the Israel-Palestine conflict and the court should stick to it while addressing the questions put to it in the case.

The US defence of Israeli occupation came a day after it vetoed yet another UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, which has killed close to 30,000 Palestinians and wounded nearly 70,000.

The US has vetoed at least three such resolutions demanding a ceasefire despite worsening the humanitarian situation in Gaza with over 80 percent of its pre-war population of 2.3 million displaced and living without basic services such as water, medicine, sanitation and even adequate food.

The US had also voted against the resolution seeking the ICJ’s opinion on the legality of Israeli occupation when it was put for voting in December 2022 despite officially maintaining that it wants to see the end of the occupation and creation of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories.

The US was a key mediator in various rounds of peace talks in the 1990s and 2000s between Israel and Palestinian representatives. However, none of those talks were successful as Israel rejected calls to end its occupation.

Over the years, Israel has also illegally annexed large parts of occupied land and built close to 200 illegal settlements in the occupied territories where nearly 700,000 illegal settlers live.

Reacting to the US position on Israeli occupation Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Maliki told the press that Palestinians have come to the court after exploring all the international forums in the last 75 years and witnessing how the US has hampered the chances of peace through its hegemony and vetoes within the UN system, The New Arab reported.

During his submission to the court on the first day of hearing, Maliki had asked for an immediate end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and called for ending its impunity.

This article was first published on Peoples Dispatch