The International Criminal Court’s announcement that it will investigate prima facie war crimes committed by Israel predictably elicited angry responses, which reached their peak with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement, “The biased court in The Hague made a decision that constitutes undiluted antisemitism and the height of hypocrisy.”
It’s important to note that the court hasn’t found Israel guilty of any crimes. But Netanyahu sees its very decision to investigate as chutzpah and hypocrisy stemming from antisemitism. This is a direct continuation of his attitude toward every other international agency that criticizes Israel’s policies in the territories. “The hatred of Jews is now also directed against the nation-state of the Jews,” he said at the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony in 2017. “The new-old antisemitism is widespread in certain circles in the West, and it is also common in UN institutions.”
In contrast, President Reuven Rivlin wisely warned at that very same ceremony against a worldview in which “the world is divided into two, with the Righteous Among the Nations on one side and antisemites and Nazis on the other, and in any case, all criticism of Israel is antisemitism. This approach is also a fundamental error. It’s dangerous to us as a nation and a people, and it’s no less dangerous to the memory of the Holocaust.”
A country that considers itself an honored member of the family of nations and boasts of being “the only democracy in the Middle East” has to prove that it has clean hands precisely because it isn’t Syria, Iran or Sudan – countries Netanyahu frequently cites to prove the “hypocrisy” of Israel’s critics, and especially of the International Criminal Court. Netanyahu won’t cooperate with the court, won’t allow its investigations to be conducted in Israel and will recruit other countries to undermine its legitimacy. The prime minister has a wealth of experience in running smear campaigns and inciting against courts, and he will surely demonstrate his talents against anyone he views as trying to “fabricate a case” against Israel.
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But no attempt to tar the investigation as antisemitic and wage a campaign against the court can serve as a substitute for Israel’s obligation to conduct its own honest investigation into the incidents that gave rise to the complaint against it, halt the kinds of actions that put it on a collision course with the international community and cooperate with the court. A state that doesn’t consider itself to be guilty has no need to fear an investigation.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.