By Ray Hanania
For years, Israel has managed to block condemnation of its actions in the UN by hiding behind the threat of America’s power of veto in the Security Council.
No criticism of Israel has been allowed to penetrate that Teflon coating of hypocrisy — allowing Israel to spin its atrocities, war crimes and apartheid toward Christians and Muslims as acts of “defense” and to perpetuate false claims of anti-Semitism.
The once-powerful UN is, today, a bureaucratic, toothless lion, a champion of empty rhetoric and failed morality. At the UN, the rule of law has become a joke — a cliche of thwarted justice.
But the UN is not the International Criminal Court (ICC), and that is why Israelis are reeling in shock at the ICC’s announcement last month that it will investigate Israel for war crimes. The probe could lead to convictions of Israeli leaders, and no amount of American money, political rhetoric or threats of UN vetoes can prevent the consequences of an ICC indictment.
The ICC is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal that sits in The Hague, Netherlands. It has the independent jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for “genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression,” all the things Israel has been accused of but has dodged with the support of America and the mainstream news media.
While America can veto a UN resolution seeking to censure Israel for human rights violations, racist discrimination and violent atrocities, it is powerless to protect Israel from the ICC, where the rule of law actually rules.
The ICC does not replace the rule of law in any country, but it does hold power over nations that refuse to prosecute criminal misconduct and atrocities.
The ICC has the power to investigate crimes and reveal the truth about them. It has the power to prosecute individuals accused of perpetrating those crimes, and to conduct trials of those accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.
And it doesn’t matter that Israel has refused to ratify the ICC mandate and is not a signatory to the ICC’s governance — a strategy Israel has used to avoid other important jurisdictions, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which monitors nuclear weapons. Israel has one of the largest nuclear arsenals in the world, but no one can inspect them because Israel is not a member of the IAEA.
The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, announced last month that she will launch an investigation into charges that Israel is violating international law and engaging in crimes, all of which stem from its occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Under international law, nations that occupy territories taken during conflict may not transfer or brutalize indigenous populations. They may not confiscate personal property, nor may they annex lands that are then used to benefit the occupiers. Israel has taken property and lands and rights from people based on their religion and illegally transferred those property and lands and rights to others, based on religion.
Israel responded to the ICC announcement in the same way that it has responded to any other accusations — by libeling and slandering the accusers. Israel’s leaders and news media accused the ICC of anti-Semitism and denounced its charges as “outrageous, absurd and illegal.”
The Israelis have used a second familiar argument — that they are being picked on unfairly, singled out while atrocities by others — in this case the Palestinians — are ignored. Israel uses this claim that others are not being held to the same standards to avoid discussion of its crimes and to shift the focus — with political help from the US and the biased mainstream American news media — to others.
Ironically, this argument is exactly the same one used by Palestinians about the American judicial system, which has allowed lawsuits to be filed against Palestinians and Palestinian organizations in dozens of cases while dismissing similar charges against Israelis or Israeli organizations.
In this case, at least, the argument is irrelevant. Bensouda has already said that she will also investigate claims of atrocities committed by Hamas and the Palestinians.
Even if the ICC does investigate both sides, the consequences will not be the same. The Palestinians are the occupied and the oppressed. They live under the yoke of Israel’s military brutality and discrimination — reinforced by 66 laws that discriminate against Christians and Muslims.
If Israelis are indicted and convicted, they may well find themselves being treated in the same way that they have treated the Palestinians.
And if that happens, I believe it will be a good thing: True justice.