This time the world and the International Criminal Court are watching

It looks like deja vu.

Israel launching forced evictions, raids on Al Aqsa Mosque and persecution of Palestinians. Hamas fires rockets at Israel. Israel is bombing densely populated areas of Gaza, claiming Hamas is using civilians as “human shields”. The Palestinians say they have nowhere to hide from the air raids. Populated towers bombed by Israeli forces in rubble. Mothers mourn the loss of their children.

Brazen violence is outrageous. The latest round of this deeply asymmetric conflict claimed the lives of at least 254 Palestinians (including 66 children) and 12 people in Israel (including two children). Once again, senior UN officials have declared that the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, if deemed disproportionate, would constitute war crimes.

The ICC cannot bring peace to Israel-Palestine. He cannot end apartheid. This is not the solution. But that should be part of it.

The situation is on a “doom loop” from which there seems to be no escape. This time, however, it’s different. This time the International Criminal Court (ICC) is watching.

The ICC is currently conducting a live investigation into the situation in Palestine. While some insist that the ICC cannot investigate Palestine because it is not a state, this is not a view shared by the Court or the majority of its members. It was also rendered moot when ICC judges gave the green light for a formal investigation into the alleged atrocities committed in Palestine earlier this year.

It is not yet clear which acts or actors could be targeted by the ICC. But all signs point to Hamas leaders and Israeli government officials coming under scrutiny. Hamas is accused of war crimes, including intentionally firing rockets at civilian areas in Israel. The Israeli government is accused of war crimes for its repeated and disproportionate bombardments of Gaza as well as for the establishment and expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Israel has rejected any ICC investigation, saying the court – an institution created in 2002 to investigate and prosecute mass atrocities – is illegitimate and emboldens “terrorist groups”. Israel has strongly supported and coordinated an anti-ICC disinformation campaign with the administration of US President Donald Trump, even endorsing sanctions against senior ICC officials. Right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went so far as to insist that the tribunal represented “pure anti-Semitism” to investigate war crimes in Palestine and to court right-wing governments – including those who hold openly anti-Semitic positions – criticizing them. the tribunal.

This hysterical stigma comes despite the fact that some experts believe the ICC is more likely to begin investigating charges against Hamas because Israel would willingly cooperate with such an investigation and give investigators access to the occupied Palestinian territories. The Israeli government, however, has made it clear that it will not cooperate with an ICC investigation into its own crimes, and that Israeli courts will not prosecute suspected Israeli war criminals either.

In the eyes of many, the radical, anti-ICC rhetoric of the Israeli government makes the state more responsible for the atrocities the court is investigating. Netanyahu also tells Israeli soldiers not to “be afraid” of “commissions of inquiry, inquiries, [and] inspections “on war crimes. In the midst of a military conflict, Netanyahu effectively told soldiers that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to them.


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Yet Israel – and Hamas – are not discouraged. As the recent violence has shown, neither seems interested in toning down their behaviors just because the ICC is monitoring them. It’s not surprising. A litany of UN reports, independent investigations and commissions of inquiry have claimed that Hamas has committed war crimes and Israel – war crimes and crimes against humanity, while recommending that they are under investigation by the ICC. Israel fired all of them after state officials viciously attacked their perpetrators.

Some might therefore conclude that the ICC is currently an irrelevant actor. Far from there.

As the world watches the apparent war crimes streamed live on social media, ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she was looking at the ongoing violence “very seriously”, adding that “[w]We are following very closely and I would remind you that an investigation has been opened and that the evolution of these events could also be something that we are watching “.

Bensouda will be replaced at the ICC this summer by British lawyer Karim Khan. This week’s atrocities will effectively prevent him from continuing the ICC investigation. It would be too humiliating for the institution to do well following such cruel disregard for international humanitarian law.

Likewise, the expulsion of civilians from Sheikh Jarrah to Jerusalem and Israel’s massive bombardment of civilian homes and infrastructure in response to Hamas rockets will only convince more people that the court must step in and hold the perpetrators to account. .

The situation will cause more people to consume and convince themselves that respected human rights institutions like B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch are correct in concluding that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians amounts to persecution and apartheid. . Current events reduce controversy over the term apartheid, applied to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Mainstream journalists and political figures even use the term to describe the plight of Palestine.

This will make people more convinced that the ICC must intervene. It is becoming increasingly clear that the status quo for Palestinians and Israelis is driven by impunity for the atrocities, persecution, and oppressive conditions Palestinians find themselves in the occupied West Bank, Gaza and Israel.

The ICC cannot bring peace to Israel-Palestine. He cannot end apartheid. This is not the solution. But that should be part of it. Every hour that passes offers only more evidence that the ICC should continue its investigation and, ultimately, issue arrest warrants against those responsible for international crimes in Palestine.

The court is watching. The authors ignore this fact at their peril.

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