UN pushes to declare 'Israeli occupation' illegal, may seek ICJ opinion

A request for such an opinion has already been submitted to the UN's Third Committee by the Commission of Inquiry.

Members of the International Court of Justice attend a hearing for alleged violations of the 1955 Treaty of Amity between Iran and the U.S., at the International Court in The Hague, Netherlands August 27, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUW)
Members of the International Court of Justice attend a hearing for alleged violations of the 1955 Treaty of Amity between Iran and the U.S., at the International Court in The Hague, Netherlands August 27, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUW)

UN experts are pushing for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague to issue an advisory opinion declaring that the "Israeli occupation" of territory over the pre-1967 lines is illegal.

The UN General Assembly could issue a resolution to seek such an opinion already this year.

“The actions of Israeli Governments reviewed in our report constitute an illegal occupation and annexation regime that must be addressed.”

COI Commissioner Chris Sidoti

A request for such an opinion has already been submitted to the UN's Third Committee by the Commission of Inquiry on "the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel," headed by South African legal expert Navi Pillay.

Created last year, the three-member permanent COI published on Thursday its second report, which will be debated by the UNGA Third Committee on October 27.

 PALESTINIANS CARRY a chair representing their seat at the United Nations during a rally in Ramallah on Mahmoud Abbas’s return from the UN General Assembly after a bid for statehood in September 2011.  (credit: Darren Whiteside/Reuters) PALESTINIANS CARRY a chair representing their seat at the United Nations during a rally in Ramallah on Mahmoud Abbas’s return from the UN General Assembly after a bid for statehood in September 2011. (credit: Darren Whiteside/Reuters)

The request for an ICJ advisory opinion was listed at the end of the 28-page document.

“The actions of Israeli Governments reviewed in our report constitute an illegal occupation and annexation regime that must be addressed,” COI Commissioner Chris Sidoti said. 

“The international system and individual states must act and uphold their obligations under international law. That must begin at this session of the General Assembly with a referral to the International Court of Justice,” he said.

The commission also called on the International Criminal Court to prioritize its investigation into whether it would accept war crimes suits against Israelis for their treatment of the Palestinians.

The COI and the ICJ's recent activity 

The COI made headlines earlier this year when one of its members, investigator Miloon Kothari said that social media was largely controlled by the Jewish lobby, a statement he later apologized for.

The ICJ, which is located at The Hague, has so far issued only one advisory opinion on Israel. In 2004 it declared that the sections of Israel's security barrier that were constructed over the pre-1967 lines were illegal. Such opinions are not binding but can be used to shore up the legal status of actions taken against the Jewish state.

There has been concern that the COI would tackle charges that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid. Its members have acknowledged that possibility, but to date, no action has been taken in that direction.

Israel's Mission to the UN in Geneva said that the COI "was formed when Israel was under attack from thousands of rockets fired from the terrorist organization Hamas. Yet in their first report to the United Nations General Assembly, the Commission chose to make no reference to the conflict in May 2021, no reference to the Hamas, and no reference to acts of terrorism.

"Just two months ago, a member of this Commission of Inquiry made blatant antisemitic comments, comments that were defended by the Chairperson of this Commission.

Commissioners who made antisemitic comments and who proactively engaged in anti-Israel activism, both before and after their appointment, have no legitimacy nor credibility in addressing the issue at hand.

"They are part of the anti-Israel agenda that sadly still exists at the United Nations. The only thing their words and actions do is to continue to damage the credibility of the United Nations and its human rights mechanisms," it stated.

Israel's Ambassador to the UN in New York Gilad Erdan said he plans to issue a sharp response during the October 27 debate.