Top U.N. Court Holds Last Day of Hearings on Israeli Occupation


The United Nations’ top court on Monday was hearing a final day of arguments on the legality of Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinian territories, hearings that have added pressure to Israel at a time when attention focuses on the war in Gaza.

The hearings, which began last Monday, are the first time that the court, the International Court of Justice, has been asked to give an advisory opinion on the issue, which has been the subject of years of debates and resolutions at the United Nations. The court is likely to take months before issuing an opinion.

Last week’s sessions, held at the Peace Palace in The Hague, focused on the legality of what representatives of the Palestinians said was Israel’s “prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation” of Palestinian territories, particularly the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The representatives, including a team of prominent lawyers, said that Israel has abused Palestinian rights with impunity. The Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, said that Israel had subjected Palestinians to decades of discrimination, leaving them with the choice of “displacement, subjugation or death.”

Israel has not appeared at the hearings, but in a written submission it rejected the questions raised by the proceedings as biased.

The hearings over six days, which have included speakers from more than 50 countries, are part of a concerted global effort to examine the legality of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians.

The proceedings have been given urgency by Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Health authorities in Gaza say that Israel’s military campaign has killed more than 29,000 people, the majority women and children, and provoked what the United Nations says is a humanitarian disaster.

Since the war began, Israeli forces have also detained hundreds of Palestinians in West Bank raids. Deadly violence against Palestinians by Israeli settlers has increased and Palestinian attacks on Israelis have also risen.

The United States has been a staunch defender of Israel internationally, and last Wednesday, it told the court that Israel faced “very real security needs.” It also vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire, arguing that the motion could have disrupted negotiations to free hostages held by Hamas and secure a temporary halt in fighting.

But Israel’s military campaign in Gaza has presented a dilemma to President Biden’s administration, which has continued to supply Israel with military aid while expressing growing concern over its treatment of Palestinians.

Mr. Biden has said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has been “over the top” in its conduct of the war in Gaza. And on Friday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that the American government was reversing a Trump administration policy and would now consider new Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories to be “inconsistent with international law.”

Monday’s final day of hearings at the U.N. court is scheduled to include arguments by representatives from Turkey, Spain, the African Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which represents 57 member states, most being Muslim-majority countries.

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