South Africa claims Israeli ‘apartheid’ goes beyond its own sordid past at World Court

South Africa’s ambassador to the Netherlands highlighted Israeli apartheid at ICJ. Israel faced an ICJ ruling urging actions to prevent genocidal acts in Gaza.

South Africa’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Vusimuzi Madonsela, conveyed to the International Court of Justice that Israel is implementing a more severe version of apartheid against Palestinians in the West Bank compared to the apartheid regime that existed in South Africa before 1994.
He stated that South Africans deeply perceive the inhumane and discriminatory policies of the Israeli regime as an intensified form of apartheid. Madonsela noted that 52 countries are participating in the ICJ proceedings, seeking a non-binding “advisory opinion” on the legal ramifications of Israel’s administration of Palestinian territories.


In a different legal matter from the prominent case brought by Pretoria against Israel for purported genocide during its current offensive in Gaza, the International Court of Justice issued an initial ruling. This ruling required Israel to undertake all possible actions to prevent genocidal acts in Gaza and to permit the provision of humanitarian aid. The hearings began on Monday with three hours of testimony from Palestinian officials, who asserted that Israel is operating a system of “colonialism and apartheid.” Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki urged the judges to demand an immediate, complete, and unconditional cessation of the occupation.

The Palestinian representatives’ oral arguments largely overlooked the political dimension of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict concerning the territories, previous attempts to resolve the dispute, and the ongoing relevance of the Oslo Accords for addressing it within a political framework rather than a legal one. The Oslo Accords established the Palestinian Authority.

While the ICJ typically adjudicates disputes between states, it can also be called upon to provide a legal opinion on matters of international law, although its advisories are not binding. In December 2022, the United Nations requested the ICJ to offer guidance on the “legal consequences arising from the policies and practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.”

Israel refutes any accusation of apartheid, asserting that its Arab citizens enjoy equal rights. Israel also highlights that it granted limited autonomy to the Palestinian Authority during the peak of the peace process in the 1990s and withdrew its military forces and settlers from Gaza in 2005. The hearings on Monday marked the commencement of six days of proceedings in The Hague concerning the UN’s request.

While the ICJ’s judgments in contentious state-to-state cases are binding, enforcement mechanisms are limited. Conversely, an advisory opinion is entirely non-binding but could increase international pressure on Israel regarding its actions in Gaza. The court intends to issue a ruling on the matter “urgently,” likely by the year’s end.
Israel opted not to participate in the oral hearings but submitted a written contribution, characterizing the questions posed to the court as biased and tendentious. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office stated that the conflict should be resolved through negotiations. It asserted that the case initiated on Monday aimed to undermine Israel’s right to defend itself from existential threats.

In a brief statement issued to the ICJ last year in response to the proceedings, Israel underscored that past attempts to politically resolve the conflict had faltered. Israel cited remarks by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and former Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Bandar bin Sultan, accusing the Palestinians of failing to reach an agreement with Israel to terminate Israeli control in the territories.

The Palestinian Authority advocated for the UN General Assembly to request the advisory opinion. It aims for a court ruling declaring Israeli governance in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal, mandating Israel to cease this rule, dismantle Israeli settlements, and provide compensation to affected Palestinians.