Crew Abandons Cargo Ship After Houthi Missile Attack: Middle East Crisis Live Updates

Crew Abandons Cargo Ship After Houthi Missile Attack: Middle East Crisis Live Updates

Representatives of the Palestinians argued at the United Nations’ top court on Monday that Israel’s decades-long occupation had violated international law and subjected Palestinians to what one said was a choice among “displacement, subjugation or death.”

The arguments began six days of hearings at the International Court of Justice in The Hague over the legality of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories beginning in 1967, including East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The proceedings, which were scheduled months before the war in Gaza began on Oct. 7, have gained added urgency amid that conflict, the deadliest Israeli-Palestinian war.

The court is scheduled to hear from representatives of more than 50 nations, including some of Israel’s allies, such as the United States and Britain, as well as critics, including China and Russia.

Israel is not participating in the oral arguments. It has said it does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction over its activities in the West Bank.

The Israeli prime minister’s office put out a statement on Monday calling the proceedings “an effort designed to infringe on Israel’s right to defend itself against existential threats.” The statement also said the hearing is “part of the Palestinian attempt to dictate the results of the diplomatic settlement without negotiations.”

The Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, opened the proceedings by telling the court that Israel had subjected Palestinians to decades of “colonialism and apartheid.”

“There are those who are enraged by these words,” he said. “They should be enraged by the reality we are suffering.”

Members of the large Palestinian team, which included prominent American, British and French lawyers, laid out a panoply of what they said were violations of international law over the past six decades. They said that 139 countries had recognized the state of Palestine, yet the continuing occupation and annexation of those territories was met with silence and impunity.

“Silence is not an option,” Paul Reichler, an American lawyer on the team, told the 15-judge bench. The court had the power to bring change “by upholding the law, which is all the state of Palestine asks you to do,” he said.

Riyad Mansour, a Palestinian-American diplomat, addressed the judges through tears, his voice breaking several times. He said that with the war in Gaza, Israeli breaches of international law had reached their most inhuman level, “in which no town, no village, no sanctity had been spared” from destruction.

“It is so painful to be a Palestinian today,” he said.

The court, the United Nations’ highest judicial body, is expected to issue an advisory opinion after the hearings, although it could take weeks to reach one. It will not be legally binding, and Israel has ignored opinions from the court before. But the proceeding this time comes amid growing international pressure on Israel to halt fighting in Gaza, which began after Hamas-led attacks on Israel last October.

The proceedings this week are separate from a case brought by South Africa that accuses Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, a charge Israel denies. Last month, the court ordered Israel to prevent acts of genocide in the territory, without ruling on whether genocide was occurring.

Still, the timing of this week’s hearings could contribute to an uncomfortable spotlight on Israel’s policies when questions about Palestinian statehood are top of mind for diplomats internationally as negotiations for a cease-fire in Gaza continue.

The U.N. General Assembly first asked the court to consider Israel’s activities in Palestinian territories more than two decades ago. In 2004, the court concluded in an advisory opinion that a wall that Israel was building around the territories violated international law, although Israel ignored the finding.

Human rights groups view the proceedings this week as a long-delayed opportunity to address questions about the Israeli occupation, what they consider discriminatory practices that violate international law and Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

“Governments that are presenting their arguments to the court should seize these landmark hearings to highlight the grave abuses Israeli authorities are committing against Palestinians,” said Clive Baldwin, the senior legal adviser at Human Rights Watch, which says it has documented abuses amounting to illegal persecution and apartheid.

Kyle C. Garrison

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