The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is currently engaged in oral proceedings regarding the legal consequences of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Key participants in the early stages of the proceedings include South Africa, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Bangladesh, and Belgium. Over 50 states and at least three international organisations will address the judges until 26 February.

The crux of the matter was underscored on Monday when Palestinian representatives advocated for the immediate cessation of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. They argue that the occupation is unequivocally illegal and must be brought to an end without conditions or delay.

Notably absent from the proceedings is Israel itself, which opted not to attend the hearings. Instead, Israel submitted a five-page written statement expressing concerns that an advisory opinion from the ICJ could potentially undermine efforts to resolve the longstanding conflict. Israel claimed that the questions posed by the UN General Assembly, which prompted these proceedings, are “biased and prejudiced.”

In an address to the ICJ, Algeria’s legal counsellor, Ahmed Laraba, explained his country’s stance on the contentious issue of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. Laraba delved into the nuances surrounding the concept of occupation, describing it as an inherently ambiguous concept. He emphasised that the foundation of this concept can be traced back to Article 42 of The Hague ruling of 1907, a legal precedent that has been referenced by the court in previous opinions regarding Israel’s construction of a wall in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Drawing upon historical context, Laraba pointed out that the concept of occupation was initially conceived as a temporary measure aimed at managing the aftermath of hostilities and facilitating the eventual conclusion of a peace treaty. However, he argued, the prolonged nature of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories has deviated from its original intent, leading to detrimental consequences for the Palestinian people.

Laraba also pointed out the inconceivability of a peaceful coexistence between the occupier and the occupied under a prolonged occupation situation.

Gideon Levy, a political analyst from Israel, criticised local news outlets for their silence regarding the ongoing case at the United Nations’ top court concerning the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Levy’s criticism pointed to a broader pattern within Israeli media, wherein coverage of inconvenient or unpleasant news related to Israel is often suppressed or marginalised. He claimed that this tendency to shield audiences from uncomfortable truths undermines the principles of transparency and accountability in journalism.

Drawing attention to the glaring disparity in coverage between international news channels and Israeli media, Levy highlights how the former have extensively broadcast the hearings live and in their entirety. In contrast, Israeli media has largely neglected to provide adequate coverage of the case, thereby failing to inform the public about a matter of significance and global interest.

Pieter Andreas Stemmet, the Acting Chief State Law Adviser at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in South Africa, has announced a strategic shift in the country’s approach towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Stemmet declared that South Africa will now prioritise advocating for the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, amplifying their longstanding struggle for autonomy and sovereignty.

Stemmet highlighted that the inalienable right of Palestinians to self-determination has been repeatedly recognised by the United Nations on numerous occasions, reaffirming the international community’s commitment to upholding this fundamental principle of human rights.

Stemmet condemned Israel’s expansion of settlement activity in Palestinian territories as a violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory. He emphasised the legal obligation of all states, including Israel, to abide by the provisions of international humanitarian law.

Addressing the question of whether apartheid is being perpetrated by Israel, Stemmet invoked a ruling by the International Court of Justice in the case of Namibia vs. South Africa. He pointed out that the court had determined that enforcing exceptions and limitations based solely on racial grounds constitutes a denial of fundamental rights and is in clear violation of the principles enshrined in the UN Charter.

Stemmet further highlighted the extensive documentation of gross violations committed by Israel, stressing that the prohibition of apartheid is binding on all states, without exception. Drawing a parallel with South Africa’s own history of unlawful occupation in Namibia, Stemmet stressed the importance of holding Israel accountable for its continued occupation of Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.