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Israel and the US Step Up Efforts to Intimidate the Hague War Crimes Court
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In the near-two decades since the International Criminal Court was set up to try the worst violations of international human rights law, it has faced harsh criticism for its highly selective approach to the question of who should be put on trial.

Created in 2002, the court, it was imagined, would act as a deterrent against the erosion of an international order designed to prevent a repetition of the atrocities of the Second World War.

Such hopes did not survive long.

The court, which sits in The Hague in the Netherlands, almost immediately faced a difficult test: whether it dared to confront the world’s leading superpower, the United States, as it launched a “war on terror”.

The ICC’s prosecutors refused to grasp the nettle posed by the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead, they chose the easiest targets: for too long, it looked as though war crimes were only ever committed by Africans.

Now, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, looks poised finally to give the court some teeth. She is threatening to investigate two states – the US and Israel – whose actions have been particularly damaging to international law in the modern era.

The court is considering examining widespread human rights abuses perpetrated by US soldiers in Afghanistan, and crimes committed by Israeli soldiers in the occupied Palestinian territories, especially Gaza, as well as the officials responsible for Israel’s illegal settlement programme.

An investigation of both is critically important: the US has crafted for itself a role as global policeman, while Israel’s flagrant violations of international law have been ongoing for more than half a century.

The US is the most powerful offender, and Israel the most persistent.

Both states have long dreaded this moment – the reason they refused to ratify the Rome Statute that established the ICC.

Last week Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, stepped up US attacks on the court, saying its administration was “determined to prevent having Americans and our friends and allies in Israel and elsewhere hauled in by this corrupt ICC”.

A large, bipartisan majority of US Senators sent a letter to Pompeo last month urging him to ensure “vigorous support” for Israel against the Hague court.

Israel and the US have each tried to claim an exemption from international law on the grounds that they did not sign up to the court.

But this only underscores the problem. International law is there to protect the weak from abuses committed by the strong. The victim from the bully.

A criminal suspect does not get to decide whether their victim can make a complaint, or whether the legal system should investigate. The same must apply in international law if it is to have any meaningful application.

Even under Bensouda, the process has dragged out interminably. It has taken years for her office to conduct a preliminary investigation and to determine, as she did in late April, that Palestine falls under the ICC’s jurisdiction because it qualifies as a state.

The delay made little sense, given that the State of Palestine is recognised by the United Nations, and it was able to ratify the Rome Statute five years ago.

The Israeli argument is that Palestine lacks the normal features of a sovereign state. However, as the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem recently noted, this is precisely because Israel has occupied the Palestinians’ territory and illegally transferred settlers onto their land.

Israel is claiming an exemption by citing the very crimes that need investigating.

Bensouda has asked the court’s judges to rule on her view that the ICC’s jurisdiction extends to Palestine. It is not clear how soon they will issue a verdict.

Pompeo’s threats last week – he said the US will soon make clear how it will retaliate – are intended to intimidate the court.

Bensouda has warned that her office is being subjected to “misinformation and smear campaigns”. In January, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the court of being “antisemitic”.

In the past, Washington has denied Bensouda a travel visa, and threatened to confiscate her and the ICC judges’ assets and put them on trial. The US has also vowed to use force to liberate any Americans put in the dock.

There are indications the judges may now be searching for a bolt hole. They have asked Israel and the Palestinian Authority to respond urgently to questions about whether the temporary Oslo accords, signed more than 25 years ago, are still legally binding.

Israel has argued that the lack of resolution to the Oslo process precludes the Palestinians from claiming statehood. That would leave Israel, not the ICC, with jurisdiction over the territories.

On Monday Bensouda was reported to have given her view that the Oslo accords should have no bearing on whether an investigation proceeds.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, told the ICC last week that the PA considers itself exempt from its Oslo obligations, given that Israel has announced imminent plans to annex swaths of Palestinian territory in the West Bank.

Annexation was given a green light under President Trump’s “peace plan” unveiled earlier in the year.

Bensouda’s term as prosecutor finishes next year. Israel may hope to continue stonewalling until she is gone. Elyakim Rubinstein, a former Israeli Supreme Court judge, called last month for a campaign to ensure that her successor is more sympathetic to Israel.

But if Bensouda does get the go-ahead, Netanyahu and an array of former generals, including his Defence Minister Benny Gantz, would likely be summoned for questioning. If they refuse, an international arrest warrant could be issued, theoretically enforceable in the 123 countries that ratified the court.

Neither Israel nor the US is willing to let things reach that point.

They have recruited major allies to the fight, including Australia, Canada, Brazil and several European states. Germany, the court’s second largest donor, has threatened to revoke its contributions if the ICC proceeds.

Maurice Hirsch, a former legal adviser to the Israeli army, wrote a column last month in Israel Hayom, a newspaper widely seen as Netanyahu’s mouthpiece, accusing Bensouda of being a “hapless pawn of Palestinian terrorists”.

He suggested that other states threaten to pull their contributions, deny ICC staff the travel visas necessary for their investigations and even quit the court.

That would destroy any possibility of enforcing international law – an outcome that would delight both Israel and the US.

It would render ICC little more than a dead letter, just as Israel, backed by the US, prepares to press ahead with the West Bank’s annexation.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.


Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His books include “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: ICC, Israel Lobby, Israel/Palestine 
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  1. Why are they still talking about the Oslo Accords when Israel never kept its obligations, simply taught Trump that the art of the deal is to breach the deal? Hasn’t Oslo been null and void for decades?

  2. Biff says:

    Show me who prints the money, and has all the big guns, and I’ll show you who’s in charge.

    It ain’t the do-gooders of this world.

    • Agree: showmethereal
  3. Israeli ruthlessness is without equal. Right or wrong, they answer to no one. Dreadful. Insidious.

    • Agree: Antiwar7
  4. A123 says:

    The ICC only has jurisdiction over “signatory nations” :

    — Non-Signatories include — China, India, Israel, Russia, and the U.S.
    — Non-Nations include — The Muslim Authority (often mis-labelled Palestinian Authority).

    The ICC is in violation of international law trying to intervene in the dispute between non-signatory Israel and non-nation Muslim Authority.

    PEACE 😷

    • Replies: @Begemot
  5. A123 says:

    White House authorizes sanctions against the International Criminal Court

    President Donald Trump on Thursday moved to further punish officials of the International Criminal Court, authorizing economic sanctions against them as well as the expansion of visa restrictions on the officials …

    The United States is not a party to the international court and does not recognize its authority.

    In a statement, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany alleged that the court is corrupt and said the U.S. suspects the international body is being manipulated by U.S. adversaries.

    “The International Criminal Court’s actions are an attack on the rights of the American people and threaten to infringe upon our national sovereignty,” the statement said.

    PEACE 😷

  6. A123’s Jew State hysteria at the ICC shows he’s trying to divert your attention from the underlying mechanism for ending pariah states like his ugga-bugga caveman shithole on the Jordan.

    Apartheid South Africa is the template for the more virulent Apartheid of Israel. The UNGA leads, the Security Council Follows, and the US resists – until its client state starts stinking up the place too bad. In the case of Sounth Africa the UNSC followed the UNGA’s lead after three years, and bilateral US and UK sanctions followed the UNSC ten years later.

    The UNGA has been increasing pressure against solitary US resistance for a longer period. In that time the US pissed away its international standing, got kicked off the HRC, and left the successor body in a huff, giving up all influence while still subject to Universal Periodic Review. The US has become an observer, like little Palestine, helplessly watching while the UN ties human rights to international criminal law and state responsibility.

    The last nail in the Jew State’s coffin just got pounded in. Israeli torture techniques used by US cops are evident to the Muslim Brotherhood and almost all politically sophisticated blacks. Now even white goobers know about Jew State torture used at home.

    This is why you see Giraldi pounding on the Jew State Jews. They are jeopardizing CIA’s regime. That is more than enough to make CIA sacrifice their Izzie henchmen. Black movements based on international solidarity make the connection very directly: Israeli cowards hiding in their towers blowing legs off and putting eyes out. US cowards torturing blacks to death with trademark Jew tortures. CIA can always get another bunch of goons. The Jew State is clinging to its last protector.

  7. Begemot says:

    Uncomfortable with an international body investigating Israeli conduct? Is there something you don’t want revealed to the world?

  8. A123 says:

    Q: Why does no one take the Swastika wearing, shiny black jackboot strutting, ICC seriously?

    A: The ICC:
    — Collaborates with war criminals
    — Persecutes innocent Christians and Jews for refusing to submit to Islam.

    Why doesn’t the ICC investigate terrorist war criminals?
    — Muslim Terrorist Brotherhood?
    — Iranian al’Hamas?
    — Iranian al’Hezbollah?
    — Palestinian Iranian Jihad?

    Could it be gasp, because Muslims get a free pass?

    PEACE 😇

    • Replies: @Bradly
  9. Troll Advisory:

    A123 is a self-professed zionist hawking hackneyed Israeli propaganda. He routinely perceives posters — even atheist ones — as Muslims, regularly accusing them of dissimulation. Argument ad hominem and unoriginal repetition of his opponent’s statements — abridged with a zionist spin — characterizes the bulk of his contributions. (I fully anticipate he’ll pen a copycat “troll advisory” for me following this post.)

    Responding to him is not advised, as it merely encourages him to congest discussion threads with the vapid contention that has become the hallmark of his presence at Unz Review. For the most recent example of this, see

    • Replies: @A123
  10. Neither Israel nor the US is willing to let things reach that point.

    Of course they aren’t.

    For the same reason a fugitive murderer doesn’t turn himself in.

    Because he knows he’d hang.

  11. A123 says:

    Troll Advisory:

    NonStarter is a known troll and proven Muslim liar for his false Prophet George IslamoSoros. He is incapable of rational discourse and exists only to advocate the extermination Infidels (Jews first then Christians).

    You should only leave him unblocked as he is very funny to laugh at.

    PEACE 😇

  12. A123 says:

    (I fully anticipate he’ll pen a copycat “troll advisory” for me following this post.)

    I would not want to disappoint my fans (like you) You love my work and you know it. I appreciate your endorsement of my value.

    PEACE 😇

  13. Bradly says:

    Hey A123

    I suppose at the Whoring For Israel Seminar that you attended they told you that you would not be able to make Israel look good using know facts, and to compensate you should pluck your own reality from your own ass and proceed from there.

    • LOL: Antiwar7
  14. ΑΖ says:

    ISRAEL does not commit war crimes!!! It defendes itself from its enemies……

    • Agree: A123
    • LOL: AnonStarter
  15. ECtHR explodes Jew State talmud shitlaw. Bribed and blackmailed Rothschild frogs can’t gag BDS advocates. The Jew State’s problem is not just the ICC. It’s not just the UN treaty bodies, charter bodies, and special procedures. It’s an international institutional structure based on bedrock international legal principles that binds every UN member nation as universal jurisdiction law.

    Anyway BDS is nerf protest. The endgame is decapitation of the Israeli theocracy with prosecutions for the crime against humanity of extermination, and human rights for all in the successor state of Palestine.

  16. vot tak says:

    Speaking of war crimes, israel’s pindo coloney even being in Syria is a war crime, let alone their pursuit of aggressive war and operating terrorist proxies there.

    This short video clip is rather symbolic of american foreign policy since israel installed their trump quisling tegime.


    US military vehicle breaks down while attempting to block Russian patrol in Syria: video

  17. Muncher says:

    No one has witnessed Israel defending itself. What we have witnessed is Israel going on genocidal rampages under the cover of self defence. No one thumbs their nose at international law the way the genocidal Israelis do.

  18. TGD says:

    There is no statute of limitations on war crimes. The US is guilty of unspeakable war crimes in Vietnam: Examples- “Operation Rolling Thunder,” the continuous bombing of North Vietnam over a 10 year period; The Phoenix Program and Operation Cords, which were CIA operations ostensibly to pacify the countryside, but which claimed up to 30,000 innocent victims and the My Lai Massacre, where US troops raped and murdered over 600 innocent civilians including pregnant women, children and even infants. The latter atrocity was kept under wraps for 14 months by that evil bastard LBJ and his successor, “Tricky Dick” Nixon. The US also used napalm and “agent orange,” the latter affecting several generations of US GIs not to mention Vietnamese and Cambodian civilians.

    That is why the USA did not ratify the Rome Statute.

  19. The ICC should cease operations and take its place in history next to the League of Nations.

    In a final act of defiance, it should issue arrest warrants for Bush and Blair, so that future historians will have no doubt why the ICC could not go on.

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