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Palestine, Israel and the International Criminal Court

By Robert Fantina - Posted on 08 May 2014

            It appears that the weak, spineless Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas may finally have realized that his place in history is not going to be assured by functioning only as the puppet of the U.S. and Israel. As the latest round of so-called peace talks, sponsored by the U.S. which has no interest in any real negotiations between Israel and Palestine, has crashed and burned, Mr. Abbas has applied to join fifteen international treaties and conventions, with others expected. All this, it is said, is merely a lead-up to joining the International Criminal Court (ICC), which could then investigate and charge Israel with war crimes.

            One wonders why Mr. Abbas didn’t apply to the ICC immediately upon United Nations’ recognition of Palestine as a ‘Non-Member Observer State’ in November of 2012. Surely he didn’t think that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was going to suddenly transform into a reasonable leader, willing to stand up to the extreme right-wing in the invented nation of Israel, and sit down at the negotiation table, halt the construction of illegal settlements, respect the pre-1967 borders, remove the blockade of Gaza, and dismantle all checkpoints in the West Bank. He seemed to naively believe, instead, that constant concessions to Israel and the U.S. would somehow magically bring justice to the Palestinians. Now, even he has had to abandon that fantasy.

            In an article in the New York Times of May 5, 2014, we read this: “The (International Criminal) court is seen by the Palestinians as a powerful tool because, experts say, Israel risks prosecution there for its policy of settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem….”

            One would think that settlement construction is not the only issue that might come before the ICC.

Following the Israeli invasion of Gaza in 2009, the United Nations decided to investigate alleged war crimes committed by Israel. In that invasion, over 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed. Yet the investigation by the U.N. never happened, because Israel refused to cooperate. As a result, Israel wouldn’t even allow U.N. representatives to enter Palestine.

            It would seem that this would be a double indictment of Israel. First, one might ask why Israel is allowed to determine who can and can’t enter another country. Second, the refusal of Israel to cooperate would appear to most objective observers as indicating, at the very least, that that country has something to hide, and at most, an admission of guilt.

            It should also be noted that Israel, which initially supported the creation of the ICC, has not joined it, mainly fearing that the court would investigate its horrific violations of human rights in Palestine.

            However, with Mr. Abbas apparently moving, however slowly, towards applying for membership in the ICC, Israel is taking an offensive stance. Again, from the New York Times:

“Experts say a Palestinian state could potentially be held responsible for every rocket fired into Israeli civilian areas by militants in Gaza, which is controlled by the militant group Hamas.

‘By joining these treaties they are basically exposing themselves to criticism,’ said an Israeli official who was speaking on the condition of anonymity because he said the government had decided not to discuss the issue publicly. ‘Official rebuke, special reports, fact-finding missions and condemnations — they are not ready for that.’

            Perhaps, however, the Palestinians are, indeed, ready for that. Palestinians, one would imagine, would be willing to have the world community look at their efforts to resist a cruel, genocidal occupation, one perpetrated with the use of the most advanced and sophisticated weapons available on the planet today, all financed by the United States. Palestine’s ‘crimes’ are ‘perpetrated’ with the most rudimentary, home-made devices that can be cobbled together with the few items Israel permits to be imported into the country. One can also assume that Palestine will be willing to see the number of men, women and children killed and injured by their home-made devices compared to the number killed and injured by the U.S.-provided weaponry that Israel has used, and continues to use, against them. Palestine is ready for the ICC to see that Israel is holding thousands of men, women and children as political prisoners, without charge or access to family or legal advice, while Palestine holds no Israeli political prisoners.      

The more significant question, one might think, is this: Is Israel ready for this? In 2009, that country apparently wasn’t ready for the U.N. to investigate alleged crimes it committed against Palestine. Is it more ready today? There are several possible situations that Israel will need to answer for:

  • Use of chemical weapons (specifically, White Phosphorus) against Palestinian citizens.

  • Illegal blockade of Gaza.

  • Destruction of olive trees.

  • Destruction of reservoirs.

  • Internal checkpoints.

  • House demolitions.

  • ‘Israeli-only’ roads.

  • Arrest and incarceration of children.

  • Violations of internationally-recognized borders.

  • Forced removal of civilian populations.

  • Installation of Israelis in residence on occupied lands.

The list goes on.

            The same unidentified Israeli official quoted above, in referring to Hamas, said this: “There is nothing easier than to show that human rights are being systematically violated, day in and day out, in Gaza.” It goes beyond ridiculous for someone to attempt to apply this statement to Palestine, and not Israel.

            As mentioned, Israel refused to cooperate with the U.N., thus aborting its investigation into possible Israeli war crimes. What, one wonders, would be the international response if Palestine were to refuse to cooperate with such an investigation? Would the U.S. support such a move? Would the U.N. simply accept that decision, perhaps with a few words of criticism?

            Palestine’s best opportunity for justice lies in the ICC, coupled with the international and growing ‘Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS)’ movement. The United States is not, and never has been, a viable broker, since the U.S. Congress is bought and paid for by AIPAC (American Israel Political Affairs Committee), and only serves Israel. That Mr. Abbas finally seems to have decided to work on behalf of the people of Palestine, rather than serve his own interests, is very good news. Time will tell if he has the resolution to see it through.


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