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Feb. 20—The International Court of Justice took up Feb. 19 the request of the UN General Assembly for an Advisory Opinion on “Israeli practices affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People in the Occupied Territory, including East Jerusalem.” President of the ICJ Nawaf Salam opened the live presentations portion of the hearing today by first recognizing the Foreign Minister of the State of Palestine Riyad al-Maliki, who spoke.

The following contains some quotes and paraphrases of Mr. al-Maliki’s presentation.

“I stand before you as 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza, half of them children, are besieged and bombed, killed and maimed, starved and displaced.” 3.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank “are subjected to colonization of their territory and the racist violence that enables it. As 1.7 million Palestinians in Israel are treated as second-class citizens.” He noted that 7 million Palestinian refugees living outside of Israel (e.g., Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, etc.) “continued to be denied their right to return to their land and homes.”

“For over a century, self-determination for the Palestinian people [has been] denied and violated.”

Al-Maliki reviewed that, prior to 1947-48, “there was life in Palestine, cultural, political. There were schools and universities … villages and communities.” As Al-Maliki spoke these words, pictures of life in Palestine were displayed in the courtroom.

Al-Maliki showed a page from the 1917 British Balfour Declaration, which said that “His Majesty’s government views with favor the establishment of a national home of the Jewish people…” and in the same sentence refers to Palestinians as “the existing non-Jewish communities.” To this he replied that only civil and religious life, but not political life was extended to Palestinians.

Al-Maliki stated that Palestinians live a life of “colonialism and apartheid.” This “is a reality known by every Palestinian,” he said, adding, “you can spend your entire life as a refugee.”

He asserted, “Successive Israeli governments have given the Palestinian people only three options: displacement, subjugation or death.”

He implored the ICJ judges that “as you hear the legal arguments,” to keep in mind the ICJ-ordered measures in the South Africa’s current lawsuit against Israel under the Genocide Convention. He noted with respect to Israel, “no occupying power can be granted perpetual veto power over the rights of a people.”

Al-Maliki displayed a series of five maps of Palestine, demarcating the area that was designated Palestinian and that designated Israeli, with the portion for Palestine shrinking. The fifth map was displayed in a photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the 78th UN General Assembly on Sept. 22, 2023, in which Netanyahu is holding up a generated map showing Israel as appearing with only an Israeli population. Al-Maliki commented that the map showed no Palestinian people, meaning “the complete disappearance of Palestine.” When Palestine participated in the Oslo peace process three decades ago, he said, “we did so in the belief that international law would be upheld.” He called on the court to have wisdom and meet the needs of justice.

Later in the hearing, Ambassador of State of Palestine to the United Nations Riyad Mansour, during his presentation, fought back tears as he spoke about a 12-year-old Palestinian girl whose father, mother, sister and brother were killed in an Israeli shelling, and she herself lost her leg. She told those near her that “while she would never forget, she has to continue living,” and that she wanted to become a doctor to help people. A few days later she was killed by an Israeli strike on a hospital ward.

This is the first of five days of hearings.