Israel Fights Back against ICC Gaza War Crimes Inquiry
Israel is attempting to delegitimize the International Criminal Court in the wake of its decision to launch an inquiry into possible Israeli war crimes committed during last year’s Gaza offensive.
The Jerusalem Post reports Israeli security, legal and diplomatic leaders met on Sunday and decided to launch an ‘informational campaign’ claiming the world court lacks the authority to investigate Israel. The Israeli campaign will also argue that the ICC lacks the power to take up a petition by the Palestinian Authority because Palestine is not a state.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said it is prepared to do everything in its power to prevent the ICC from investigating Israel’s conduct during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge offensive against Hamas and other Islamist militants who fired thousands of rockets into Israel, killing six civilians. Israel’s ferocious air, land and sea bombardment of Gaza killed 2,192 people, according to the United Nations. Of these, 1,523 were civilians, including hundreds of children. More than 10,000 Gazans were wounded. Hundreds of thousands more were left homeless or displaced.
Reports from the Red Cross and international human rights groups accuse Israeli troops of deliberately shooting and killing unarmed civilians attempting to flee for their lives in Gaza, as well as medical personnel attempting to rescue the injured. Israel also attacked hospitals and other medical facilities in Gaza.
Entire families were wiped out as Israeli troops targeted Hamas and its ability to launch rockets and mortars into the densely-populated Jewish homeland. Some Israeli leaders felt more needed to be done to combat Islamist resistance; a handful, like Deputy Knesset Speaker Moshe Feiglin and Knesset members Ayelet Shaked and Michael Ben-Ari, urged ethnic cleansing and even outright genocide against the people of Gaza.
“There are no innocents in Gaza… Mow them down,” Ben-Ari said. “Turn it into rubble. Paint it red.”
After Israel Defense Forces (IDF) bombed a playground full of children celebrating Eid and multiple United Nations schools sheltering refugee families desperately fleeing the Israeli onslaught, the United States took the rare step of issuing an official condemnation of the slaughter.
“The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, adding that Israel must “do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties.”
Netanyahu’s office called the ICC probe “absurd” and a “perversion of justice.”
“At a time when terrorism is attacking the free world, this step will hurt international efforts to fight terrorism,” a source inside the prime minister’s office told the Jerusalem Post.
Despite strenuous objections, threats and damaging reprisals from Israel and the United States, Palestine successfully joined the ICC, with full membership beginning in April, much to Israel’s chagrin.
“The Palestinian Authority is not a country and therefore it is not the court’s place, also according to its own rules, to carry out an examination like this,” Netanyahu told the Post. The United States agreed.
“As we have said repeatedly, we do not believe that Palestine is a state and therefore we do not believe that it is eligible to join the ICC,” the State Department said in a statement.
Palestine’s successful bid for ICC membership is the latest chapter in the besieged territory’s struggle for international recognition. Despite further objections and threats from Tel Aviv and Washington, the United Nations voted 138-9 in November 2012 to recognize Palestinian statehood. Some 135 nations, including nearly all of Asia, Africa and Latin America, have formally recognized Palestine statehood.
It has been a bad year thus far for Israel’s relations with the international community. On the heels of the ICC probe announcement came news earlier this week that a 237-page report partly commissioned by Physicians for Human Rights has concluded that Israel failed to adequately protect Gazan civilians during the war.
“Attacks were characterized by heavy and unpredictable bombardments of civilian neighborhoods in a manner that failed to discriminate between legitimate targets and protected populations,” the report, which was published on Tuesday, stated.
“In numerous cases, double or multiple consecutive strikes on a single location led to multiple civilian casualties and to injuries and deaths among rescuers,” it added.
Israel’s overall conduct, which some critics, including former US President Jimmy Carter, have called ‘ethnic cleansing’ or ‘apartheid’ due to policies and actions including the continued illegal Jewish settler colonization of Palestinian territory in the occupied West Bank, has alienated it from much of the world.
Republicans remain much more steadfast in their support for Zionism, with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on Wednesday inviting Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress in a show of solidarity.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu is a great friend of our country, and this invitation carries with it our unwavering commitment to the security and well-being of his people,” Boehner said in a statement. “In this time of challenge, I am asking the prime minister to address Congress on the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life.”
Despite its differences with Israel, the Obama administration has taken no steps to cancel, or even suspend, the $3 billion in average annual military aid provided for its defense.