Opinion

Israel Steps Up Contempt for ICC

Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, at a press conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, November 12, 2019.
Oded Balilty,AP

The Israeli prime minister’s defense speech against the charges in the International Criminal Court is all ready. Here is the opening paragraph: “This is a very difficult day, and I know that it is difficult for very many people who support and love Israel. And I want to tell you a few things, heart to heart. I have great respect for the international judicial authorities. They have a tremendous reputation, and rightly so. But I think one would have to be blind not to see that something not good is happening with the ICC’s investigators. Because what we are witnessing tonight is an attempted governmental coup against the State of Israel, with false allegations and a tainted and tendentious investigation process.”

Sound familiar? It’s basically a quick cut-and-paste, with minor adjustments, of Benjamin Netanyahu’s historic speech following the attorney general’s announcement of his intention to file charges against him. The same spirit, the same bitterness and, mainly, the same pathetic claim of selective law enforcement.

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Why don’t they investigate Syria and Iraq or China or Iran and Hamas, whine the accused’s (pardon me, the suspect’s) professional spokespeople, as for now it is only an “examination” rather than questioning under caution.

Selective international enforcement is a lame and dangerous argument. Lame, because it’s like the claim of a driver caught breaking the law while other drivers go whizzing past the police officer. Dangerous, because in so doing Israel is placing itself in the company of the world’s worst states and demanding equal treatment.

What could be more convincing encouragement of the need for an investigation than the Israeli demand to investigate other states that allegedly committed the same crimes? It’s tantamount to an admission of guilt. Does Israel really want to be treated the same as China, Iran or Syria? Does it feel a kinship with Russia, which occupied the Crimean Peninsula?

Russia is subject to sanctions because of that occupation. Iran is being punished not just for its nuclear program but for its violations of human rights. And as for China, this month the U.S. Congress passed a bill calling for sanctions on Beijing because of its ongoing mistreatment of the Uyghur minority.

So maybe Israel wishes it could be the beneficiary of the kind of “affirmative action” enjoyed by Turkey, whose killing of Kurdish civilians within its territory is barely being investigated by the ICC. Probably not. Both houses of Congress recently recognized the 1915 Armenian genocide, and last year President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Turkey for its arrest of an American priest.

No exhausting proceedings of the ICC were required to penalize these countries. If there is such a thing as selective international law enforcement, Israel is actually the beneficiary of it.

Essentially, though, it makes no difference for Israel whether the ICC decides to investigate those countries and even convict them of crimes. Because Israel doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of its alleged offenses, chiefly the construction of settlements in occupied territory. Or as Netanyahu put it: “The court comes along and says we have no right to live here, and that if we do live here, we are committing a war crime.”

In other words, Israel is about to show even greater contempt for evil international institutions that are bent on harassing it.

But this is a false claim, of course. The ICC does not deny Israel’s right to live “here,” in the State of Israel, whose borders were recognized by the international community, the same international community that established the ICC. Nor does it deny the right of the settlers to live in the future in the West Bank, or on the moon for that matter, if Israel and the Palestinians agree to that. But right now, according to international law, this is a criminal offense. Not anti-Semitism on the basis of anti-Zionism, not discrimination and not revenge.