Israel, the ICC, and the disintegration of our species

Israel, the ICC, and the disintegration of our species May 23, 2024

The rule of law, appropriately applied (that is, equally across the board) keeps us from chaos. But when some think they are above the law, the rest pay dearly. Gaza is a case in point.

So you probably heard that on Monday, the International Criminal Court announced that it would be seeking arrest warrants for the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his Minister of Defense, Yoav Gallant. Prosecutor Karim Khan has reasonable grounds to believe that these two Israeli leaders “bear criminal responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on the territory of the State of Palestine.”

These crimes include starvation of civilians, cruel treatment, willful killing or murder, intentional attacks on civilians, extermination or murder, and persecution.

(Don’t worry: the ICC is also seeking arrest warrants for several members of Hamas.)

The level-headed prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, had a few choice words following the announcement. Here are a few excerpts:

Israel is waging a just war against Hamas, a genocidal terrorist organization that perpetrated the worst attack on the Jewish people since the Holocaust. Hamas massacred 1200 Jews, raped Jewish women, burned Jewish babies, took hundreds hostage.

The prosecutor’s absurd charges against me and Israel’s defense minister are merely an attempt to deny Israel the basic right of self-defense.

He’s doing something else. He is callously pouring gasoline on the fires of antisemitism that are raging across the world.

Israeli soldier, member of the "most moral army in the world," gets patted down by a little girl
Israeli soldier, member of the “most moral army in the world,” gets patted down by a little girl

Of course, just because the PM of Israel says these things doesn’t make them true. Hamas is not “genocidal” – they do not have a vendetta against Jews. They do have a vendetta against the group that stole Palestinian land and oppress the Palestinian people. That group happens to be made up of people who identify as “Jewish,” but that label is irrelevant to the Palestinian resistance group.

Many of the people killed on October 7th were Jewish – but many of them were killed by fellow Jews, not by Hamas. (This is not some conspiracy theory – this is a fact that everyone in Israel knows, but US mainstream media has kept from us. Read this, this, and this, for example.)

Netanyahu’s allegation that Hamas “raped Jewish women” and “burned Jewish babies” are myths that have long ago been debunked (see this, this, and this, for example) – and again, what happened that day didn’t happen because those people were Jewish.

Netanyahu claims that the charges against him are “merely an attempt to deny Israel the basic right of self-defense.” This is one of his go-to accusations. But again, he is wrong. The ICC has no problem with Israel defending itself – it has a problem with how Israel is defending itself, that is, by starving and killing civilians.

And then he levels his other go-to accusation: “antisemitism.” That is, he claims that charging the Prime Minister with a war crime because he is bombing and starving Palestinians is antisemitic.

These arguments are laughable.

Netanyahu also claims to be waging this war in full compliance with international law, although globally respected human rights organizations working on the ground in Gaza have documented otherwise, making their reports public again and again since the beginning of this war (and for decades before that).

At the very same moment that Israel’s Prime Minister and Defense Minister stand accused before the International Criminal Court, the state of Israel itself also stands before the International Court of Justice, accused of no less than genocide.

When that ruling was handed down in January, Netanyahu used the same arguments: Israel is following international law, just trying to defend itself, and that the charge is “blatant discrimination against the Jewish state” (i.e. antisemitic).

But of course he is going to say these things. He will fight till his last breath, claiming he is innocent.

Karim Khan and his court managed to turn out these arrest warrant applications in spite of a great deal of pressure. For days before he released his decision, US Congress members on both sides of the aisle threatened to retaliate if the ICC dared to make a move against the saintly Israel (these were pretty much the same folks that tried to overrule Biden’s weapons embargo – his one attempt at Tough Love).

As soon as the ruling was announced, Congress began plotting revenge. The Biden administration dismissed the ICC ruling, just as it had dismissed the ICJ ruling about genocide, just as it had dismissed the Amnesty International report about apartheid and ignored Gaza on the one hundredth day of the war.

Racism and brute force

In an interview with Christiane Amanpour following the announcement, ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan described some very troubling comments that he has heard regarding this case: “I’ve had some elected leaders speak to me and they were very blunt. ‘This court is built for Africa and for thugs like Putin,’ was what one senior leader told me.”

I don’t have to tell you that this is shockingly racist. The suggestion that the Western World (except for Russia) couldn’t possibly do anything bad enough to warrant a stint in the ICC, that only black people and communists deserve to be accused of war crimes, is preposterous (recall that Hitler was a white European).

Mr. Khan told Christiane Amanpour, “This court is the legacy of Nuremberg. This court is a certain indictment of humanity. This court should be the triumph of law over power and brute force” (emphasis added).

“Power and brute force” are perfect descriptors of Israel – you know, the country that threw a tantrum when President Biden withheld a single shipment of one-ton bombs, and only sent $700 million worth of tank ammo, $500 million in tactical vehicles and $60 million in mortar rounds – you know, the harmless weaponry.

“Power and brute force”: one of the most powerful military forces in the world, ready to bomb the hell out of population centers, willing and able to enact a “complete siege” on an entrapped, impoverished people group.

Can law triumph over power and brute force?

When Netanyahu wants to commit genocide, and the most powerful country in the world doesn’t stand in the way, doesn’t support the rule of international law, and doesn’t see Palestinians as human beings – the answer is No.

Well, technically, both Israel and the US have some respect for international law.

That’s why he warned, “if we don’t apply the law equally, we’re going to disintegrate as a species.”

It’s already happening.

As I recently wrote, I have for the time being washed my hands of Christians who refuse to engage with the issue of Palestine, and for now (at least until the end of this horrific war) I will be writing about the significance of what is going on “over there” from a global and historic perspective.

I’m here for anyone who cares to have an intelligent conversation about reality, instead of living in a silo of confirmation bias.

I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter. I write about the Palestine-Israel issue regularly, and other issues relevant to progressives or those considering becoming progressive. If you would like to comment on this post, please pop over to my Facebook page. All of my posts are there and open to constructive comment. I welcome your thoughts.

If you are interested, here are some of my earlier posts on the Palestine issue:

Posts about my Gazan family (in chronological order):

Further reading on the Palestine-Israel issue:

FEATURED IMAGE: by Kyle Glenn via Unsplash

About Kathryn Shihadah
I was raised as a conservative Christian, and was perfectly content to stay that way – until the day my stable, predictable world was rocked. A curtain was pulled back on conservative Christianity, and instead of ignoring the ugliness I saw, I confronted it. I began to ask questions I never thought I’d ask, and found answers I’d never expected. Old things began to fall away, and – behold! – the new me has come. What a gift to be a new, still-evolving creation. I found out that it’s better to look at the world through Progressive Lenses, with Grace-Colored Glasses. You can read more about the author here.

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