The International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands just launched an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israelis against Palestinians. Most people have heard of the ICC, but very few really understand its role and how binding its rulings are. The idea of an international criminal court goes back to the beginning of the 20th century, 1919 to be exact, during the Paris Peace Conference that followed WWI. Various people went back and forth trying to get something organized and started for several decades after that.
Eventually, in 1948, after the atrocities of WWII, the United Nations General Assembly saw the need for such a legal body. At that point, the International Law Commission or ILC (a group of 34 experts helping to develop and codify international law and elected by the United Nations General Assembly), slowly started to work towards the establishment of the ICC. In 1994, the ILC came up with their final proposal and it was agreed that a conference should convene with the various countries involved in hopes of solidifying the ICC statutes. That conference took place in June 1998 in Rome, Italy. Voting followed, and 120 countries adopted the draft, while 21 abstained and seven voted against. Out of the seven votes against, we can find the United States and Israel. in 2002, the ICC was officially born and became active soon after. It currently has 123 member states. The ICC’s maximum possible sentence is life in prison.
The long list of crimes that the ICC identifies is based on the Geneva Convention that established the standards of international law for humanitarian treatment in wartime since 1949. According to their own website, the ICC claims that their purpose is, “Trying individuals for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and aggression.” This sounds very honorable, and in the world we live in, it would appear that such a body is critically needed. That is of course if that body is truly unbiased, which remains to be seen. I am not implying that the ICC is corrupt at its core, but I wonder about some of the decisions made over the years, especially one that was recently made involving Israel and possible war crimes against Palestinians.
Israel is not part of the countries that signed the Rome Statute and doesn’t agree with its rules and/or jurisdiction of the ICC. As it would appear, the ICC is currently claiming that it has the power to enforce the rules of the 1998 Rome Statute on any country or individual of its choice regardless of that country agreeing or not with the Rome statute. This is definitely a case of overreaching or overstepping boundaries. The United Nations Security Council officially has the power to rule in that arena and the Oslo Accords (1993 and 1995) which dictate the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Palestine was declared a state by Yassir Arafat in 1988 and is recognized by 138 UN members. It is a non-member observer state at the UN. UNESCO accepted Palestine as a member country in 2011, even though Palestine isn’t a country per see. Could “Palestine” influence the ICC? Possibly!
There are several problems with what the ICC is doing right now, and it could have many grave ramifications for Israel and its citizens around the globe. Basically, according to what the ICC is trying to do, any Israeli citizen could become guilty of war crimes against Palestinians and become imprisoned for up to 30 years. Several issues must be considered as we look at the validity of such claims:
• The ICC has no jurisdiction over Israel who didn’t ratify the Rome Statute: As one of several countries that do not agree with the Rome Statute, Israel doesn’t have to abide by the ICC’s ruling.
• The ICC claims that Israel can be prosecuted because they committed crimes within Palestine which has ratified the Rome Statute: This is an illegal unprecedented move.
• The ICC has no right to apply the rules of a treaty to any other countries than parties of that treaty:This would constitute a severe departure from the very nature of international law.
• The entity known as Palestine is neither a sovereign state nor has clearly defined borders: The entire case hinges on the acceptance of Palestine as a state, which it is not.
So, the question remains: Why is ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda going after Israel for war crimes, and did Israel really commit war crimes against Palestinians? This goes hand-in-hand with the same narrative being used to justify the accusations made by the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement. Israel continues to be accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes and illegal occupation. That narrative is constantly fed to the world and continues to paint Palestine and the Palestinians as victims. I have a few questions for Mrs. Fatou Bensouda:
• Why isn’t Hamas being investigated for war crimes against Israel?
• Why hasn’t the ICC investigated Syria for crimes against humanity, if not genocide in the last several years?
• Will the ICC ever investigate Turkey for killing so many Kurds over the last few decades?
• Should Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah be held responsible for crimes against Israel?
My concern is the fact that the ICC’s current decision seems to be a very biased one against Israel. We continue to witness a tremendous double standard against the Jewish state. The panel of judges who voted on the investigation comprised of three judges, one of them, Judge Péter Kovács, wrote a lengthy, detailed dissenting opinion in which he concluded: “I am convinced that without the cooperation of the directly interested States in the present and truly complicated, over-politicized situation, the Prosecutor will have no real chance of preparing a trial-ready case or cases.” I commend him for seeing through the real agenda.
I think it would be absolutely accurate to describe Mrs. Bensouda’s move as a libel against Israel and by proxy, all Israeli citizens anywhere in the world. A libel, according to the dictionary is, “a written or oral defamatory statement or representation that conveys an unjustly unfavorable impression.” That is exactly what is happening here. I am not sure that this investigation will result in a trial, let alone a conviction, but it certainly helps in continuing to paint Israel as the problem standing in the way of peace in the Middle East. We don’t need the help of the ICC to further that propaganda. If they were doing their job properly and in an unbiased way, they would come to the opposite conclusion.