[News] Israel lashes out as ICC okays war crimes probe

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Feb 9 11:18:53 EST 2021


https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/maureen-clare-murphy/israel-lashes-out-icc-okays-war-crimes-probe
Israel
lashes out as ICC okays war crimes probe

Maureen Clare Murphy
<https://electronicintifada.net/people/maureen-clare-murphy>  9 February
2021
------------------------------

Palestinian human rights groups welcomed the ICC’s determination of
territorial jurisdiction as a “critically important step” towards ending
Israeli impunity.
ActiveStills

The International Criminal Court has territorial jurisdiction to
investigate suspected war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a panel
of judges affirmed <https://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/item.aspx?name=pr1566>
last week.

The ruling, which took months to hand down after being requested by the
court’s chief prosecutor, was welcomed
<https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/02/israel-opt-historic-icc-ruling-brings-hope-for-victims-of-crimes-under-international-law/>
by human rights groups
<https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/02/06/israel/palestine-icc-judges-open-door-formal-probe>
who called <https://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/17878.html> for expeditious
proceedings.

Israeli government figures condemned the ICC judges’ decision, with Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling
<https://twitter.com/Ostrov_A/status/1357827816625229828> it “pure
anti-Semitism.”

Fatou Bensouda <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/fatou-bensouda>, the
ICC chief prosecutor, concluded a five-year preliminary examination of the
situation in Palestine at the end of 2019, stating
<https://electronicintifada.net/content/will-icc-pierce-israels-bubble-impunity/29206>
that criteria for war crimes investigations in the occupied West Bank and
Gaza Strip had been met.

Bensouda gave three examples of crimes meeting the threshold requirement of
court jurisdiction in relation to the situation in Palestine.

She stated that there is a basis to believe that both the Israeli military
and members of Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups committed war
crimes during hostilities in Gaza during 2014.

The second example given by Bensouda is the transfer of Israel’s civilian
population into West Bank settlements.

The chief prosecutor also pointed to the Israeli military’s use of force
against Palestinians during Great March of Return
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/great-march-return> protests in Gaza
beginning in March 2018.

Bensouda, who will be retiring in June, had asked a pre-trial chamber – a
panel of judges – for guidance on whether the court has jurisdiction in
those territories.

Her office stated
<https://twitter.com/IntlCrimCourt/status/1357805348866973696> on Friday
that it “welcomes this judicial clarity,” adding
<https://twitter.com/IntlCrimCourt/status/1357807030535413763> that it is
“carefully analyzing the decision.”
“Immediate action”

A coalition of Palestinian human rights groups praised
<https://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/17878.html> the “landmark” ruling as “a
critically important step towards ensuring the rule of law” and “towards
ending impunity.”

The groups called for “immediate action” by the prosecutor “to ensure
justice and accountability for Palestinian victims.”

Those four organizations – Al-Haq, Al Mezan, Al Dameer and the Palestinian
Center for Human Rights – have submitted “six substantial communications
and thousands of eyewitness files” to the prosecutor’s office.

The rights groups are “routinely faced with hostile measures of collective
punishment from Israel,” including “a protracted campaign of smears and
death threats.”

Israeli officials lashed out after the ruling on territorial jurisdiction
was announced, relying on well-worn and baseless accusations of
anti-Semitism while ignoring the substance of the court decision.
In a video address on Friday, Netanyahu stated
<https://twitter.com/Ostrov_A/status/1357827816625229828> that “we will
fight this perversion of justice with all our might.”

Naftali Bennett <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/naftali-bennett>, an
Israeli lawmaker and head of Yamina, a right-wing party, said
<https://www.jpost.com/arab-israeli-conflict/eight-things-to-know-about-the-icc-war-crimes-suits-against-israel-658164>
on Sunday: “If the International Criminal Court is making a list of
so-called Israeli [war crimes] suspects, I ask that my name be put at the
top of that list.”

Bennett has previously bragged
<https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/naftali-bennett-and-qana-massacre>
that he has “killed lots of Arabs.”

Bezalel Smotrich <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/bezalel-smotrich>, a
lawmaker in Israel’s parliament, called on Netanyahu to forcibly
depopulate Khan
al-Ahmar <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/khan-al-ahmar>, a Palestinian
village in the West Bank, in response to the ICC.

“What matters is not what the Gentiles will say but what the Jews will do,”
he stated <https://twitter.com/bezalelsm/status/1358111036356911106> –
echoing a notorious phrase attributed to Israel’s founding prime minister
David Ben-Gurion.

ICC scrutiny has likely prevented Israel from destroying Khan al-Ahmar
previously.

In 2018, Bensouda expressed concern
<https://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/item.aspx?name=181017-otp-stat-palestine>
over the “planned eviction” of Khan al-Ahmar, adding that extensive
destruction of property and population transfers in occupied territory are
crimes.

Israeli leaders have attacked Bensouda, who was subjected to economic
sanctions
<https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/maureen-clare-murphy/trump-goes-nuclear-against-icc>
last year under an executive order made by then US President Donald Trump
that is currently under review
<https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-biden-icct/biden-administration-to-review-sanctions-on-international-criminal-court-officials-idUSKBN29V2NV>
by the Biden administration.

Danny Danon, Israel’s former UN envoy, said
<https://twitter.com/dannydanon/status/1358128282663813128> on Friday that
“if anyone should be on the stand,” it should be Bensouda.
Israel rallies its allies

Meanwhile, Israel is again seeking to enlist its allies
<https://electronicintifada.net/content/us-and-israel-team-thwart-war-crimes-probes/29906>
in its fight against international justice.

On Sunday, the Israeli foreign ministry instructed
<https://www.axios.com/israel-icc-political-pressure-prosecutor-18b8af1d-96e8-424d-a6e8-aea601852d88.html>
its ambassadors to lobby the governments in which they are posted to issue
statements opposing the judges’ ruling.

So far, only the US
<https://www.state.gov/opposing-international-criminal-court-attempts-to-affirm-territorial-jurisdiction-over-the-palestinian-situation/>,
Canada <https://twitter.com/MarcGarneau/status/1358431444956295171> and
Australia
<https://www.foreignminister.gov.au/minister/marise-payne/media-release/icc-pre-trial-chamber-decision-jurisdiction-relation-situation-palestine>
– all settler-colonial states like Israel – have protested the decision.

As of Monday evening, the European Union had issued no statement about the
ICC decision via its social media channels.

But in response to a query from The Electronic Intifada, an EU foreign
affairs spokesperson wrote that the bloc “has taken careful note” of the
ruling and that it is “a strong supporter of the ICC and of its
independence.”

“Both the ICC and its prosecutor are independent and impartial judicial
institutions with no political objectives to pursue,” the statement added,
contradicting claims of bias made by Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders.
The lack of criticism of the decision by the reliably pro-Israel EU will
likely set off alarm bells among Israeli leaders.

Notably, however, some EU member states – including
<https://electronicintifada.net/content/us-and-israel-team-thwart-war-crimes-probes/29906>
Hungary, Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic – had intervened at the
court on Israel’s behalf, urging the judges to rule against territorial
jurisdiction.

Israeli officials claim that some ICC member states “have agreed to give
advance warning to Israel of any intent to arrest” its citizens upon
arrival to their countries, the Tel Aviv daily *Haaretz* reported
<https://www.haaretz.com/amp/israel-news/.premium-israel-to-brief-defense-officials-fearing-they-may-be-arrested-after-icc-ruling-1.9519039>
on Sunday.

Providing tip-offs that could allow suspects to escape investigation or
arrest would likely violate the obligations that member states have under
the ICC’s founding Rome Statute to cooperate with the court’s work.

*Haaretz* added that Israel has a list of hundreds of officials who might
be investigated and prosecuted by the court, which tries individuals, not
states.

Any war crimes trials, however, are likely a long way off, but an
investigation may begin imminently.

The ICC moved into an investigation phase as soon as the chief prosecutor
closed the preliminary examination in 2019, Susan Power, a legal researcher
at Al-Haq, told Al Jazeera English on Friday.
But in their ruling on territorial jurisdiction, the ICC judges warned that
there might be “a protracted process,” suggesting that there could be
further delays, as Power explained.

“We would say we can no longer wait any further,” Power said. “We must see
an immediate investigation,” noting that the “files are already there.”
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