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Instead of Standing With the ICC, Israel’s Defenders of the Law Are Silent

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda during the trial of Malian Islamist militant Al-Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud, The Hague, Netherlands, July 8, 2019.
ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda during a trial at The Hague, July 8, 2019.Credit: Eva Plevier / Reuters
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

A large camp in Israel ‒ half the country ‒ is shocked by the smear campaign against the law enforcement establishment. Every attack on the courts and the prosecutors is seen by the members of this camp as a threat to democracy. The court is holy in their eyes and any criticism of it will lead to disaster.

These are the enlightened people, as journalist Dan Margalit once called them, facing the people of darkness, the lawbreakers. Liberal and democratic sentiment urges everyone to support them. They are enlightened, but now they are being put to the test.

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The International Criminal Court in The Hague is set to decide this week whether to launch an investigation into Israel and Hamas amid suspicions of war crimes. The suspicions against Israel revolve around the 2014 Gaza war, the settlements and the shooting of protesters near the Gaza border fence.

The prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has already found a basis for an investigation. The retaliation didn’t take long to come. Israel and the United States of Donald Trump declared war on the court and its prosecutor. Any means necessary is seen as permissible in this war, whether smearing Bensouda, or threats of serious sanctions against judges, prosecutors and investigators.

The judge is a bastard and Bensouda is pretty much the same; Israel and America will show them a thing or two. As long as the court decided to put African dictators and generals on trial, it had the support of the two leaders of the free world, the United States and Israel. But once it dared take steps against those two countries, the United States, at Israel’s encouragement, moved against the court.

The suspicions against Israel are grave and very strongly backed by evidence. Israel knows this better than Bensouda, so it has gone to war against the court and pitted the United States against it as well. It’s focusing on the question of the court’s jurisdiction to debate the suspicions. Administrative procedures are always the villain’s escape hatch.

You don’t need to be an expert in international law to know that 2014’s “Black Friday” in Rafah, where the army killed more than 100 people in retribution, most of them civilians, was a war crime, one of the many of Operation Protective Edge. And no legal expert with any reputation would claim that the settling of hundreds of thousands of a country’s citizens in occupied territory isn’t a blatant violation of international law. And no jurist would deny the criminality of killing more than 200 protesters and wounding about 8,000, very few armed or threatening anyone’s life, next to the fence that imprisons Gaza.

The statements by Israeli snipers as conveyed by Haaretz’s Hilo Glazer in early March left no room for doubt. Israelis should actually be hoping that the jurists at the Hague have read these testimonies.

Every Israeli must hope that The Hague will investigate, try and punish anyone who deserves it. The expectations of enlightened people, fighters against corruption and the defenders of Israel’s Supreme Court, should aim particularly high. After all, this is an important legal institution and a matter of instilling its image in the minds of the suspects. Are you vocal defenders of the loftiness of the Supreme Court not alarmed?

Israel and the United States are behaving exactly like Benjamin Netanyahu and his supporters do against Israel’s legal system: They are smearing the reputation of the criminal court at The Hague and accusing it of political bias. Just imagine what would happen if Netanyahu threatened to deny the salaries and freedoms of his judges and prosecutors, as the United States is threatening in a move orchestrated by Israel.

All this could have been prevented if Israel had a real legal system – not a military caricature of one – that put war criminals on trial. But footage of the execution of a helpless autistic man has been kept secret for a month, the executioners are free and everyone knows that nothing bad will happen to them.

Any law-abiding person should be looking to The Hague. Maybe that’s where justice will be done. Enlightened people should be the leaders of this struggle and defend The Hague exactly as they defend Israel’s Supreme Court. But they don’t.

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