ICC Denounces ‘Unprecedented Attacks’ by US

Since almost the earliest days of the Israeli state and the earliest days of the CIA a secret bond, a secret link between them, basically by which the Israelis — the Israeli intelligence — did jobs for the CIA and for the rest of American intelligence. You can’t understand what’s been going on around the world with American covert operations and the Israeli covert operations until you understand that the two countries have this secret arrangement. ~dangerous-liaisons

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The International Criminal Court on Thursday rebuked the Trump administration for slapping sanctions and travel restrictions on court staff investigating alleged war crimes committed by U.S., calling the action “an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law.”

The new statement from the Hague-based body came after President Donald Trump issued an executive order authorizing the actions targeting ICC staff and their family members—as well as anyone who has “directly engaged in any effort by the ICC” to investigate the U.S. or a U.S. ally—as the Trump administration continues to lash out over ongoing investigations into alleged war crimes committed by U.S. forces and others in Afghanistan and alleged war crimes committed by Israel against Palestinians.

The court called Trump’s order “the latest in a series of unprecedented attacks on the ICC, an independent international judicial institution, as well as on the Rome Statute system of international criminal justice.”

“These attacks constitute an escalation and an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law and the court’s judicial proceedings,” the statement continued.

“They are announced with the declared aim of influencing the actions of ICC officials in the context of the court’s independent and objective investigations and impartial judicial proceedings.”

“An attack on the ICC also represents an attack against the interests of victims of atrocity crimes, for many of whom the court represents the last hope for justice,” the court added.

United Nations human rights spokesman Rupert Colville on Friday stressed the importance of the ICC being able to operate free from “threats or interference.”

“Victims of gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law and their families have the right to redress and the truth,” he said at a press briefing in Geneva.

Criticism came in from the E.U. as well, with Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Stef Blok saying he was “very disturbed” by the White House move, and the political block’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, deemed it “very bad news.”

Trump’s order had already prompted a chorus of harsh criticism from rights groups.

Daniel Balson, advocacy director for Amnesty International USA, expressed concern that the “vague and open-ended language in the executive order could leave open the possibility that NGO workers, activists, foreign government officials, and others working to advance international justice may find themselves implicated by these obstructive measures.”

They stay hidden and pull strings from behind the curtain. Whatever US does, they are behind it.

“The ICC has investigated individuals responsible for some of the world’s most horrific crimes, including those in Myanmar, the Central African Republic, and Darfur, to name just a few.

The ICC is a court of last resort; it exists to provide justice in situations where states are unwilling or unable to do so. It is a court for the people,” said Balson. “That the Trump administration is so committed to targeting the court speaks volumes about its lack of commitment to delivering justice to individuals, families, and communities.”

“Asset freezes and travel bans are for human rights violators, not those seeking to bring rights violators to justice,” added Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “By targeting the ICC, the Trump administration continues its assault on the global rule of law, putting the U.S. on the side of those who commit and cover up grave abuses, not those who prosecute them.”

 

Operating Outside the Rule of Law: Washington Pressures ICC

North Korea Criticizes ‘Gangster-Like’ U.S. Attitude After Talks With Mike Pompeo

June 4, 2020

President Trump, Pompeo, and John Bolton all called the ICC “political, corrupt, irresponsible, unaccountable, and lacking transparency, and therefore illegitimate.”

The critique sounded oddly enough like an accurate description of the Trump Administration itself.

There is apparently no limit to what the United States and Israel can get away with without any consequences.

The United States has been waging devastating economic warfare against Iran and Venezuela while also blaming China for a global health crisis that it is unwilling to help address due to its withdrawal from the World Health Organization.

Israel meanwhile is planning on illegally annexing significant parts of the Palestinian West Bank in July, with a green light from the Trump Administration, and no one in Europe or elsewhere is even interested in initiating serious sanctions that might lead to the postponing of that decision.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has even stated flatly that the remaining Palestinians who would be annexed will not become Israeli citizens – they will instead be “subjects” of the Jewish state with no guaranteed rights or privileges.

The American Establishment is totally committed to the principle that the United States and Israel should have a “free hand” in dealing with other countries in their respective spheres of influence.

That effectively means controlling the narrative so that the U.S. and the Jewish state always appear to be victims of other nations’ unprincipled behavior and also creating an environment where there can be no effective legal challenges to aggressive action.

Indeed, the one organization that was specifically set up to deal with issues like aggressive wars and ethnic cleansing, the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague, has been specifically targeted by both Washington and Jerusalem to deny it any jurisdiction in situations where either country is involved.

“If the court comes after us, Israel or other US allies, we will not sit quietly,” Bolton said.

Neither Israel nor the United States has recognized the ICC for the obvious reason that they are primary sources of egregious human rights and international law violations.

Israel is particularly concerned over its numerous war crimes, to include its violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention which forbids “the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory.”

The ICC has, in fact, been targeted recently by both the Trump Administration and Congress.

Two weeks ago, a bipartisan group of 69 United States senators submitted to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a letter condemning the “dangerous politicization of the court” that “unfairly targets Israel.”

The Senators urged Pompeo to continue his “vigorous support of Israel as it faces the growing possibility of investigations and prosecutions by the International Criminal Court.”

The letter included the claim that “actions currently underway could lead to the prosecution of Israeli nationals…” even though “the ICC does not enjoy legitimate jurisdiction in this case.”

The assertion that the ICC does not have jurisdiction is questionable at best as the “Palestinian State” has observer status and is a member of international bodies at the United Nations.

It is also a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC.

The Senate letter itself was predictably written by Ester Kurz, the legislative director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which is the leading Israel advocacy group in the United States.

A similar letter was also circulated in the House of Representatives, which added an “American issue” by criticizing the ICC’s intention to investigate United States war crimes in Afghanistan. It received 262 signatures.

Anticipating the threat to Israeli interests, the U.S. Congress has long made security and other assistance to the Palestinian Authority conditional, suspending all support if “the Palestinians initiate an International Criminal Court (ICC) judicially authorized investigation, or actively support such an investigation, that subjects Israeli nationals to an investigation for alleged crimes against Palestinians.”

As Donald Trump has de facto cut off virtually all assistance, including the humanitarian aid given to refugees, the punishment for going to the ICC is essentially moot and the Palestinians have consequently moved ahead with their complaint in an attempt to upset the timetable for Israeli annexation.

The Senators’ letter surfaced at the same time as a warning was issued by Pompeo to the ICC that focused on Israel but was clearly intended to derail any attempts to look at American war crimes in Afghanistan.

He claimed that the ICC is a political body, not a legitimate judicial institution, and accused chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of maliciously investigating “Israeli war crimes in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

His complaint paralleled the Senatorial letter, which is perhaps no coincidence, in claiming that the court has no jurisdiction and the Palestinians are not “sovereign” and therefore have no standing to go to the court in the first place.

And Pompeo concluded with a threat: “A court that attempts to exercise its power outside its jurisdiction is a political tool that makes a mockery of the law and due process.

If the ICC continues down its current course, we will exact consequences.”

Israel has also claimed, as does the United States, that it is not subject to ICC “trial” because it has a functioning court system that is capable of punishing war criminals.

Of course, the fact is that Israel does not do so and the U.S. only does so when embarrassed.

The most recent American war criminal was convicted by military courts and then pardoned by President Donald Trump. He was even feted at the White House.

Bensouda announced in November 2017 that she would proceed with an investigation of alleged U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan.

The Trump Administration expressed its anger by criticizing her in tweets, canceling her visa to the United States, and threatening legal action against her, her staff and even ICC judges.

US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has sent a threatening letter to members of the UN General Assembly before a vote on a resolution against the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The White House warned that if the ICC even dares to detain an American citizen the United States would use military force to release him or her.

President Trump, Pompeo, and John Bolton all called the ICC “political, corrupt, irresponsible, unaccountable, and lacking transparency, and therefore illegitimate.”

The critique sounded oddly enough like an accurate description of the Trump Administration itself.

Bensouda, who has been timid about confronting Israel in the past, is now reportedly proceeding with the Palestinian complaint. She has also been authorized to proceed with her investigation of American crimes in Afghanistan.

If there is to be an actual trial, high-level politicians, officials, and military officers from both Israel and the U.S. could be summoned for questioning.

If the summonses are ignored, which is probable, the prosecutor could then issue international arrest warrants, meaning that they could be arrested and extradited to the Court if they were to travel to any of the 123 countries that are parties to the Rome Statute.

So, one can expect both the United States and Israel to continue their defamation of the ICC, to include the threats of armed response coming from Washington.

An attack on The Hague might be unimaginable in the real world, but the past three years have demonstrated that Donald Trump is capable of almost anything.

Until then, one hopes that Bensouda will continue her work to expose the crimes that continue to be committed in both Palestine and Afghanistan.

Embarrassing the United States and Israel in a very visible and highly respected public forum might be the only way to wake up the citizens of those two countries to the terrible things that have been and continue to be done in their names.

Norman Finkelstein’s new book indicts the ICC for whitewashing “israel”

“The prime impetus. . . was almost certainly to stem the rising tide of humanitarian vessels destined for Gaza.” He concludes that the fundamental truth is that the attack was a key part of “an Israeli plan or policy targeting humanitarian missions destined for Gaza so as to perpetuate crimes against humanity in Gaza.”

This May 31 marks 10 years since Israeli commandos attacked the Gaza Humanitarian Flotilla in international waters and killed 10 people. Norman Finkelstein, one of the world’s most effective critics of Israel, is observing the occasion with a persuasive indictment of Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, for refusing to take legal action over Israel’s lethal attack on the Mavi Marmara, the Flotilla’s flagship.

At first glance, Finkelstein’s new book resembles a legal brief. But start reading more closely, and you soon see his trademark indignation, intense and eloquent. The Comoro Islands, where the Mavi Marmara was registered, brought the Gaza Flotilla case to the ICC in 2013, and Finkelstein points out that the chief prosecutor since then has tried to bury it 3 times. He is not diplomatic; he charges that she “defiled her office by refusing to investigate credible allegations of Israeli criminality.”

Finkelstein, with his characteristic Talmudic scholarship, scrutinizes various human rights reports on Israel’s killings on the ship, examining them alongside the Israel government’s own alleged self-inquiry. He points out, chapter and verse, just how Fatou Bensouda accepted Israel’s version of events (which Amnesty International described as a “whitewash”) while dismissing contradictory reports from the U.N. Human Rights Council and the U.N. Secretary-General’s Panel of Inquiry.

He argues that as a consequence Bensouda “grossly misrepresent[ed] the facts of the assault” itself. But even worse — she took Israel’s armed commando attack as an isolated event, instead of connecting it to even larger Israeli crimes: “the illegal Israeli blockade and the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.”

Let’s start with the actual Israeli assault. Bensouda echoed Israel’s alibi; it planned to stop the Flotilla peacefully, its commandos met with resistance when they boarded the Mavi Marmara, after which perhaps some excesses happened but the actions of a few Israeli soldiers didn’t rise to the level of a case that the International Criminal Court should take up. Finkelstein crushes this version. If Israel truly expected to act nonviolently,

then why did they deploy an elite commando unit trained to kill, not the Israeli coast guard or a police-like unit accustomed to handling civil resisters?

His indignation rises further when he considers Israel’s allegations that some of the passengers on the ship planned “extremely violent” resistance. He asks why these allegedly violent resisters “didn’t manage to kill any of the commandos,” but Israeli soldiers who were supposedly “rehearsed in the moral imperative to execute the operation ‘without any injuries’ ended up killing 10 passengers by shooting each of them multiple times, five in the head and even at point-blank range.”

(Another reason the outside world was confused about what happened on the Mavi Marmara was awful mainstream press coverage. At the time, this site noted that the New York Times religiously transmitted the Israeli version, but did not interview one single eyewitness from on board the ship.)

But Bensouda’s ignoring the Israeli siege of Gaza is the even greater injustice. Finkelstein concludes:

She refused to pronounce the blockade illegal, she effectively ignored the humanitarian catastrophe induced by the blockade. . . Had she properly rooted the assault [on the Mavi Marmara] in its critical context, the Prosecutor would have been hard-pressed to curtly dismiss the charge of Crimes against humanity.

Norman Finkelstein has a sharply different interpretation of the Israeli attack. He makes “the reasonable inference that Israel sought a bloody confrontation, although probably not on the scale that ensued.” He adds, “The prime impetus. . . was almost certainly to stem the rising tide of humanitarian vessels destined for Gaza.” He concludes that the fundamental truth is that the attack was a key part of “an Israeli plan or policy targeting humanitarian missions destined for Gaza so as to perpetuate crimes against humanity in Gaza.”

What’s worse, in the past 10 years Israel’s plan has largely worked. Resistance inside Gaza does continue, but the besieged territory is poorer and more isolated than ever. Finkelstein includes a long Appendix detailing Israeli crimes during its 2014 invasion of Gaza, and he traces the ongoing impunity right back to the failure of justice for the 10 dead on the Mavi Marmara. (He has even more detail in his vital longer work from 2018: Gaza: An Inquest Into Its Martyrdom.)

I Accuse! ends on a slightly upbeat note. In a last-minute postscript, Finkelstein notes that on December 20, 2019 Prosecutor Bensouda announced that, in response to a referral from the “State of Palestine,” the Court will open an investigation — although not into the Gaza Flotilla. He closes:

It is imperative to stay vigilant. The evidence amassed in these pages makes clear that the Prosecutor will not be persuaded by facts and reason but, instead, by the political forces at play behind closed doors and in the court of public opinion. Whereas Israel will bring to bear every squalid and sordid instrument in its arsenal, the forces arrayed against it will be able to draw on the mighty weapons of Truth and Justice. All eyes are now riveted on the Chief Prosecutor as the unfolding drama decides which side will prevail in this epic struggle.

ICC people should stay out of planes after Pompeo’s gangster style warning

Mike Pompeo is warning that there will be consequences if the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigates Israel.

It sounds like a gangster style warning. Warning about ‘consequences’ actually is often code for ‘we will kill you and your family’ among organized crime figures, and the people in politics who are basically organized crime types.

A famous example is when Dick Cheney threatened that there would be the “most extreme consequences for yourself, and the state of Minnesota” to Paul Wellstone.  

He said if Paul Wellstone continued to pursue the path he was on, opposing the invasion of Iraq – this was in 2003 – and also, threatening to try to investigate 9/11—well that part wasn’t public—there would be extreme consequences and less than a week later, Wellstone, his wife, his daughter, and his entire campaign staff died in an extremely suspicious plane crash in perfectly good weather when the media apparently was ordered to report that there was bad weather.

Wellstone: They Killed Him - Full Preview - YouTube

So that’s an example of the kinds of threats that high level American politicians in Republican neocon dominated administrations like to toss around. And I suppose they mean it.

So the people at the head of the ICC probably should stay out of private planes for the next couple of months.

So why is Pompeo so insistent that the ICC shouldn’t investigate Israel? Well, the answer to that, of course, is that Mike Pompeo is owned lock, stock, and barrel by the International Crime Syndicate, the ICS, otherwise known as the Kosher Nostra, which is an ethnically Jewish Zionist ideologically organized crime syndicate, that is located in many places in the United States, both east and west coast.

But, it now has control of a state or a fake state, the bogus and completely illegitimate so-called state of Israel, which is nothing but a front for this international crime cartel. Now that crime cartel put Trump in office. It owns the Trump administration. It’s basically represented by the neoconservative faction here in the United States.

And so these extremist Likudnik Zionist organized crime figures are not happy that people who oppose crime would be looking into their war crimes because this crime syndicate has been committing genocide in occupied Palestine since 1948, if not before.

It was committing terrorism before that and then it accelerated to genocide in 1948, and they have been routinely massacring civilians, including children.

Chris Hedges wrote an excellent article called Gaza Diary explaining how he actually watched Israeli snipers luring children to within range of their gunsights and then murdering them for sport. He said he’d seen horrors and atrocities in war zones all over the world, but he’d never seen anything like that.

And I could go on about the Israeli war crimes— dropping white phosphorus on civilians, blowing up and bombing hospitals, ambulances, United Nations installations and all kinds of other civilian targets on a routine basis, also being the only state in the world that legally allowed and encouraged torture, until Israel took over the United States and September 11, 2001, and instituted that same regime here.

So that the crimes and the war crimes of Israel are just off the charts. But the criminal syndicate that owns Israel as well as much of the world, the Western world’s financial infrastructure—we’re talking about the world’s biggest banksters here, among other things—these people have so much power that they’ve essentially taken over the United States.

Their most rabid figures represent the Republican neocons. They own this Trump administration.

So they’re using a gangster-like Pompeo to threaten the people who run the ICC. It’s absolutely disgusting. The world needs to rise up against this. We need a global Intifada against this crime syndicate, and we need to overthrow these criminals.

We need a virtual Quds Day. The whole world should be observing Quds Day. Maybe it would even be easier to do that in kind of solidarity and working together online if people are not out in the streets, but of course it is very convenient to the Zionists, as well as to all sorts of other people in power, that in so many parts of the world, people are no longer allowed to protest.

So it’ll be interesting to see what happens on Quds Day. This would be a great time for people to really take a stand at least online.

U.S. to ICC: We Will Break Your Legs

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded by threatening to punish family members of ICC staff.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has threatened the family members of International Criminal Court staff, vowing that Washington will take punitive action against them if the court tries American soldiers for war crimes.

Pompeo also announced an intensification of unilateral US sanctions on Iran and Syria, which are illegal under international law, and which are undermining the countries’ attempts to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

In March 2019, the Pompeo State Department threatened to revoke or deny visas to any International Criminal Court (ICC) personnel investigating crimes committed by American forces.

A year later, on March 5, 2020, the ICC took a defiant step forward, officially approving an investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the US military and CIA in Afghanistan.

Pompeo responded by angrily condemning the court and its proceedings. His broadside was an apparent attempt at discrediting the institution, which the US government is not a party to.

In a subsequent State Department press briefing on March 17, Pompeo launched another tirade against the ICC, belittling it as a “so-called court,” a “nakedly political body,” and an “embarrassment.”

Pompeo, who previously served as director of the CIA, took the denunciations a step further, threatening the family members of ICC staff.

“We want to identify those responsible for this partisan investigation and their family members who may want to travel to the United States or engage in activity that’s inconsistent with making sure we protect Americans,” Pompeo said, according to the US State Department’s official transcript.

Sarah Leah Whitson, the managing director for research and policy at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, drew attention to the “shocking attack” on Twitter.

“This isn’t just unlawful collective punishment against family members; it’s not just a disturbing attack on staff of a judiciary — where the US has voted to refer other nations for prosecution; it’s abuse of federal authority to use sanctions against actual wrongdoers,” said Whitson, who previously directed the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch.

Whitson called on Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders to “condemn this US State Department assault on the staff and FAMILIES of ICC – abuse of sanctions authority in flagrant attack on judicial independence, unlawful collective punishment.”

Long history of US threatening multilateral institutions

This blatant US threat against the family members of International Criminal Court prosecutors is part of a longer historical pattern of Washington attacking multilateral institutions.

At the beginning of the George W. Bush administration’s so-called war on terror, in 2002, the US Congress passed a bill called the American Service-Members’ Protection Act — more commonly known as the “Hague Invasion Act.”

This unprecedented piece of legislation, which has no precedent anywhere else in the world, declares that the US government unilaterally grants itself the right to militarily invade the Hague if a citizen of the United States or any allied country is tried at the court.

Nor are Secretary of State Pompeo’s threats the first time US government officials have targeted the family members of international organizations.

José Bustani, the former director of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said hardline neoconservative John Bolton, a former under secretary of state for George W. Bush and national security adviser for Donald Trump, threatened him and his family when Bustani negotiated with the Iraqi government to allow in OPCW weapons inspectors.

“You have 24 hours to leave the organization, and if you don’t comply with this decision by Washington, we have ways to retaliate against you,” Bolton reportedly told Bustani, according to his recollection. “We know where your kids live. You have two sons in New York.”

US State Department imposes new sanctions on Iran and Syria as deadly coronavirus spreads

Denigrating the Iranian government as “terrorists” in his State Department press briefing, Mike Pompeo declared new sanctions on the social security investment company of Iran’s military, along with five Iranian nuclear scientists.

Moreover, Pompeo announced State Department sanctions on nine more entities, in South Africa, Hong Kong, and China, for doing business with Iran.

He also unveiled new sanctions on Syria’s minister of defense, citing the Syrian army’s battle to retake Idlib, the last remaining insurgent-held territory in the country, which is occupied by a rebranded al-Qaeda affiliate and other extremist Salafi-jihadists, backed by NATO member Turkey.

US sanctions on Iran have devastated the country’s health infrastructure, greatly exacerbating the coronavirus pandemic.

A new study by researchers at the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran warned that millions of people could die due to Covid-19 — which Pompeo repeatedly referred to as the “Wuhan virus” in his press briefing.

An article by German state broadcaster DW concisely explained how US sanctions have set the stage for mass death in Iran: “Iran’s government applied for a $5 billion (€4.6 billion) loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to fight the epidemic — the first time it has asked the IMF for assistance in over 50 years.

Yet, even if it gets the loan, the administration won’t be able to shop for much-needed medical supplies: US sanctions make the banking transactions required to secure even medical supplies and humanitarian goods virtually impossible.”

Author: Ben Norton

ICC chief prosecutor dismisses anti-Semitism allegation

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has rejected the charge of anti-Semitism following its announcement to launch a full investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes in the Palestinian Territories.

The landmark decision was met with hostility in Tel-Aviv. Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, dismissed the court’s decision, stating that it had no jurisdiction to investigate in the Palestinian Territories.

To disrupt the court’s investigation, Israel threatened to prevent ICC officials from entering the occupied territories; a move that would mirror its treatment of United Nations investigators, also prevented from entering the region.

Further attack on the ICC ensued. Netanyahu denounced the court’s decision as “pure anti-Semitism,” during a candle-lighting ceremony marking the start of the eight-day Hanukkah holiday, last month.

“New edicts are being cast against the Jewish people – anti-Semitic edicts by the International Criminal Court telling us that we, the Jews, standing here next to this wall … in this city, in this country, have no right to live here and that by doing so, we are committing a war crime,” asserted the Israeli prime minister.

READ: More war crimes are Israel’s plan for the immediate future

Other senior politicians, The Times of Israel reported, similarly condemned the court and its prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, because of her decision.

Some Israeli journalists published articles highlighting her past as a senior official in the Gambian government, where she served under a brutal dictator, in an apparent effort to sully her reputation.

This week chief ICC prosecutor, Bensouda, dismissed the accusation, in an interview with The Times of Israel. “This is a particularly regrettable accusation that is without merit,” stressed Bensouda.

Bensouda explained that she expected to face attempts to undermine her credibility through “character assassination” in the same way that witnesses are discredited and undermined during a legal case.

“I, along with my office, execute our mandate under the Rome Statute with utmost independence, objectivity, fairness and professional integrity.

We will continue to meet our responsibilities as required by the Rome Statute without fear or favour,” she added.

READ: Will Israel ‘invade The Hague’ now?

Bensouda is the latest in a growing list of people to face the charge of anti-Semitism. Last week a Jewish teacher in a New York school was fired for expressing remarks critical of Israel.

150 people signed a letter in defense of the teacher, in which it was claimed that the controversy around her firing was another instance in the “weaponisation of anti-Semitism” which “is the subject of a pitched battle within Jewish communities.”

Their concerns were echoed in December by the author of a controversial definition of anti-Semitism, who spoke out over its misuse and warned of its “chilling effect” on free speech. US attorney, Kenneth Stern, who drafted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) “working definition of antisemitism,” warned that “right-wing Jews were weaponizing” it to supress criticism of Israel.

Israhell: “The ICC prosecutor has caved in to Palestinian lies and hatred”

The decision flies in the face of anyone who still believes the Israeli claim that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) is the “most moral army in the world,” or that Israel does not commit war crimes.

January 1, 2020

Israel attack on the Gaza Strip killed nine Palestinians from the same family 2019 Christmas eve.

Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor, said in a statement regarding “alleged crimes” committed in the occupied Palestinian territories that “all the statutory criteria under the Rome Statute for the opening of an investigation have been met.”

The territories in question include the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. These territories constitute the state of Palestine, as it is recognized by the United Nations.

The decision flies in the face of anyone who still believes the Israeli claim that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) is the “most moral army in the world,” or that Israel does not commit war crimes.

Issues of Jurisdiction

Under the Rome Statute, the founding document that established the International Criminal Court, it is determined that cases can be heard by the court only if one of the affected parties is a signatory. The state of Palestine has been a signatory since 2015.

Israel, which like the United States never signed the Rome Statute, claims that Palestine is not a sovereign state and therefore the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction to investigate issues related to it.

Yet according to UN General Assembly resolution 67/19, adopted on November 29, 2012, Palestine assumed the status of a UN “non-member observer state,” affording it the ability to accede to international treaties like the Rome Statute, and indeed it didn’t take long for Palestine to become the 123rd state party to the statute giving the ICC the legal right to exercise jurisdiction on its territory.

Clearly anticipating that the ICC jurisdiction over Palestine would be called into questions by Israel, Prosecutor Bensouda said in her statement, the full version of which can be found on the ICC website, that she had filed a request for a jurisdictional ruling on the issue.

“Specifically, I have sought confirmation that the ‘territory’ over which the court may exercise its jurisdiction, and which I may subject to investigation, comprises the West Bank and Gaza,” Bensouda said.

She went on to say that she recognizes that “Palestine does not have full control over the Occupied Palestinian Territory and its borders are disputed.”

The West Bank and the Gaza Strip are heavily controlled by the Israeli government and East Jerusalem has been effectively annexed by Israel.

Image result for US envoy smashes wall dug under Palestinian homes in E. Jerusalem with SLEDGEHAMMER animated gif

Bensouda quite oddly adds that “The Palestinian Authority does not govern Gaza.” Hamas, however, is the party that currently governs Gaza, in as much as Israeli permits it to do so, as it is the party that won the 2006 Palestinian Authority parliamentary elections.”

Bensouda says that although she is of the view that “the Court may exercise its jurisdiction notwithstanding these matters,” she is aware of contrary views, and therefore “requests that a Pre-Trial Chamber I (“the Chamber”) rule on the scope of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in the situation in Palestine.”

Specifically, Bensouda affirmed, she is seeking confirmation that the “territory” over which the ICC may exercise jurisdiction comprises the “Occupied Palestinian Territory, that is the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

She also made it clear that she wants the issue determined before she begins an investigation instead of being settled later by judges after her investigations are completed. It is not clear when a decision will be made on this, but Bensouda said she had asked the court to “rule expeditiously” and to allow potential victims to participate in proceedings.

Israel Responds

Notwithstanding the legal challenges, the decision of the prosecutor is encouraging. In Israel, the reactions to her decision were predictably fast, and not surprisingly, fierce. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s response to Bensouda’s decision was that it is “baseless and outrageous.”

As expected, he said that “the court has no jurisdiction” because only sovereign states can petition the court, and “there has never been a sovereign Palestinian state.” He added that the ICC’s decision means that Jews living in their historic homeland, the land of the Bible, is a war crime.

National Union chairman and Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich tweeted his response to the ICC prosecutor’s decision saying that that the Prime Minister should give the Palestinian Authority 48-hours to pull its petition to the ICC or else face being “torn down.”

He added that this should have been done long ago when the Palestinians first petitioned the UN for statehood.

Yair Lapid, a co-founder of Israel’s Blue and White party, tweeted, “The ICC prosecutor has caved in to Palestinian lies and hatred.

US/Israel will discredit and disconnect from authoritative organizations that disagrees with Israel.

As a former member of the Security Cabinet and a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, I can testify that the IDF does more than any army in history to prevent civilian casualties.”

Despite the evidence, this is a claim often repeated by Israeli politicians.

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz also attacked the court’s decision. Having served as the IDF Chief of Staff, he is likely to be a major target of any investigation into war crimes.

In his response to the decision, he mentioned his decades of military service, including “serving as the IDF’s 20th Chief of Staff.”

He stated that “the IDF is one of the most moral armies in the world,” and asserted that “The IDF and the State of Israel do not commit war crimes.” Gantz oversaw more than one Israeli assault on the besieged Gaza strip, assaults that saw scores of civilian casualties.

Israeli Fears

Israel has good reason to fear the International Criminal Court’s decision. Moving forward with an investigation into crimes committed in the Palestinian territories will expose both current and former government officials and military personnel to prosecution when they travel abroad.

That fear is not entirely irrational and not without precedent.

In 2011, it was reported that retired Israeli General Danny Rothschild was forced to cut a scheduled visit to London short and cancel two planned lectures there. This after the Israeli Embassy warned him he was in danger of being arrested if he stayed in the country.

The event came a day after Knesset member and former Defense Minister Amir Peretz was forced to cut short a London visit for the same reason.

All roads lead to Israel

Trial International, an NGO that fights impunity for international crimes and supports victims in their quest for justice, reports that on June 30, 2016, former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was in London for a conference and was summoned to the police regarding allegations of war crimes committed between 2008 and 2009.

Livni was ultimately granted diplomatic immunity. Then, on January 23, 2017, Livni was invited to attend a conference at the European Parliament in Brussels when the Belgium prosecutor’s office announced its intention to arrest and question her regarding her alleged involvement in Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s bloody 22-day military assault on the Gaza Strip in 2008. Livini decided to cancel her trip to Belgium.

Matan Kahana is a member of the Israeli “New Right” party. Kahana is a retired colonel in the IDF who served both as a soldier in Israel’s notorious murder squad “Sayeret Matkal” and as a fighter pilot and officer in the Israeli Airforce. He participated in countless “operations” in which Palestinian civilians were killed.

As an airforce pilot, he would have been directly involved in bombing and killing countless defenseless citizens in the Gaza Strip. Kahana made a statement on Twitter following the ICC’s announcement that “if only people knew how careful the IDF soldiers try not to harm “uninvolved persons.”

Gaza is under attack at this moment.

Yet these “efforts” Kahana and other Israeli officials speak of seem to fail time and time again. The number of civilian casualties from Israeli attacks is staggering and has reached the point where one must question the intent of the IDF and those who send it on these so-called missions.

While a thorough investigation will no doubt precede any decision by the International Criminal Court, it doesn’t take a great legal scholar to understand that dropping tons of bombs from fighter jets on a defenseless civilian population constitutes a war crime.

The full report of the prosecutor states that the scope of any formal proceedings is also likely to include an investigation into the “use by members of the IDF of non-lethal and lethal means against persons participating in demonstrations beginning in March 2018.”

The demonstrations the ICC is referring to are the protests known as “The Great Return March.” This means that the enormous efforts Israel makes to justify its attacks on Palestinians — and to claim that they are carried out in self-defense only — may finally be beginning to fail.

Israel fears ICC could issue global arrest warrants for top officials

If Israeli officials and military personnel have not committed any war crimes in the West Bank, Gaza, or East Jerusalem, why would they be so scared of such a probe. Why would not the Israeli government cooperate to prove the Palestinian claim is false???
It is always the guilty who is afraid and does not want any investigation into their actions. Simple fact.

PM, defense ministers, IDF chiefs, low-level soldiers could all face prosecution if probe launched; minister: Netanyahu should give PA ultimatum — pull ICC appeal or be torn down

Israel fears the International Criminal Court’s decision to move forward with a potential investigation into crimes allegedly committed in the Palestinian territories by Israel will open up current and former government officials and military personnel to prosecution on the global stage, according to a report Saturday.

With Israel planning to refuse to cooperate with a potential investigation by the ICC, officials fear top officers of the Israel Defense Forces, as well as low-ranking soldiers, could face international arrest warrants, Israel’s Channel 12 reported.

The prime minister, defense ministers, IDF chiefs and the heads of the Shin Bet security service over the past five years could all face the danger of prosecution.

The ICC deals with the prosecution of individuals for alleged crimes, rather than states.

Regarding the question of whether Israel will cooperate with the ICC’s pre-trial chamber in the coming 120 days, an official in the PMO said: “A decision will be reached after the legal teams make their recommendations.”

Meanwhile diplomatic sources told Channel 12: “There will be no cooperation with the court… certainly not if it will eventually be decided to open an [official] probe.”

Private Israeli organizations could potentially defend those prosecuted but the Israeli government would not work with a probe in any formal capacity, they said.

 

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit of Saturday evening called ICC top prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s decision to move forward with an investigation as “unreasonable” and “rash.”

He said Israel “is a democratic state of law, obligated and committed to respecting international law and humanitarian values. This commitment has stood strong for decades, through all the challenged and tough times Israel has faced. It is rooted in the character and values of the State of Israel and guaranteed by a strong and independent justice system…there is no place for international judicial intervention in such a situation.”

The probe will apparently cover Israel’s policy of settling its citizens in the West Bank, its actions during the 2014 war in Gaza and its response to the Palestinian protests on the Strip’s border held since March of last year. It will also look at Hamas’s targeting of Israeli civilians during the 2014 war and its use of Palestinian civilians as human shields.

Bensouda has now referred the matter of the probe to the Hague-based tribunal to rule on the specific territory over which it has jurisdiction, as Israel is not a member of the court.

On Saturday, National Union chairman and Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give the Palestinian Authority a 48-hour ultimatum to pull its petition or see the Ramallah-based political authority “torn down.”

Smotrich slammed the ICC as “anti-Semitic” and said Netanyahu should have issued the ultimatum to the PA years ago when it filed the request to open the probe in 2015.

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz also attacked the court’s decision. Citing his decades of military service, including as the IDF’s 20th chief of staff, Gantz “unequivocally” stated that “the IDF is one of the most moral armies in the world.”

He asserted that “The IDF and the State of Israel do not commit war crimes.”

Gantz argued that there was “no basis” for the ICC top prosecutor’s demand that a criminal probe be opened into “the situation in Palestine.”

Gantz argued that Bensouda’s decision had been politically rather than legally based.

 

“I want to be clear: In the fight for Israel’s international legitimacy: there is no coalition or opposition. We will all fight for justice and for our fundamental right to defend the State of Israel and the citizens of Israel,” the Blue and White chairman said.

New Right MK and former justice minister Ayelet Shaked called the move “a political, hypocritical and predictable decision.”

Repeating the official Israeli line on the matter, Shaked said the ICC “has no authority” to open the probe. She then called on the government to “fight the court with all the tools at its

disposal.”

But on the left, lawmakers remained largely silent in the more than 24 hours since Bensouda announced there was a “basis” to investigate alleged war crimes in the Palestinian territories.

Democratic Camp chairman Nitzan Horowitz retweeted a post by an Israeli reporter who pointed out that Netanyahu was warned last month that the probe could be imminent after Bensouda wrote her office was watching with “concern” following the premier’s announcement of his plans to annex the Jordan Valley.

Bensouda said Friday that in addition to there being grounds to probe Israel, there was also a “reasonable basis” that Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups committed war crimes by targeting civilians and torturing individuals.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said Saturday that the PA would file a list to the ICC with the names of all “the Palestinian victims” of the conflict.

Israel was built on a lie and everything that comes from it is a lie.

In the Gaza Strip, a Hamas spokesman praised the announcement, even though Bensouda said there were also grounds to probe the terror group for war crimes.

The ICC announcement has been widely praised by Palestinian leaders, with PA President Mahmoud Abbas calling it a “great” and “historic” day.

“We have achieved what we want, and from this day on, the ICC machine will start accepting the cases that we have previously presented,” he was quoted saying by the official Wafa news agency at an event for his Fatah party in Ramallah.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu called it “a dark day for truth and justice.”

It was also condemned by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said the inquiry “unfairly targets” the Jewish state.

Netanyahu expressed astonishment that Bensouda “says it is a crime, a war crime, for Jews to live in their homeland, the land of the Bible, the land of our forefathers.” Bensouda had said Israel’s policy of settling its civilians in the West Bank could constitute a crime.

Anticipating Bensouda’s announcement, Israeli officials had earlier made public a legal opinion by Mandelblit arguing that the court has no jurisdiction for an investigation. He claimed that by turning to the ICC, the Palestinians were seeking “to push the Court to determine political issues that should be resolved by negotiations, and not by criminal proceedings.”

According to the Foreign Ministry’s legal adviser, Tal Becker, “There is a Palestinian effort to criminalize the conflict, where only the Israelis have legal obligations and only the Palestinians have rights. But as history has shown, that will only drive the two sides further apart.”

 

ICC was launched in 2015 after the PA signed the Rome Statute and formally accepted the court’s jurisdiction over its territory. It probes Israeli construction beyond the Green Line, the 2014 Gaza War and the so-called March of Return Gaza border protests.

Bensouda has in the past indicated that the question of whether the court has jurisdiction was a complicated one, which is why the attorney general last year decided to issue a paper explaining Israel’s point of view, said Roy Schöndorf, the deputy attorney general for international law at the Justice Ministry.

The attorney general’s report only deals with the ICC’s supposed lack of jurisdiction. Mandelblit did not address other matters that the prosecutor has to take into account as she weighs opening an investigation, such as whether the alleged crimes are grave enough to merit the court’s involvement, or if local courts are reliable to investigate them.

Israel’s B’Tselem to describe demolitions as ‘war crimes’ for ICC

If nothing else it pleases me that Israhell always has a rock in it’s stolen shoe and exists in a constant state of fear that they will be replaced by the natives…

February 6, 2018

B’Tselem’s executive director speaks about his organization’s decision to describe the demolition and displacement of Palestinian villages as ‘war crimes,’ and the role of international pressure in changing Israeli policy in the West Bank.
B’Tselem’s decision to start describing forcible displacement as a war crime is of particular significance considering that the ICC prosecutor is currently conducting a preliminary examination into Israel’s actions in the occupied territories, specifically including its settlements and forcible population transfer, among other alleged crimes.

The international diplomatic and human rights community often couches its criticism of Israeli policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians in softened, diplomatic terms. For years the U.S. State Department called Israeli settlements “unhelpful.” EU diplomats described the planned forced displacement of entire Palestinian communities as “contrary to Israel’s obligations” under international law.
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There are other words to describe these actions, however. According to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC), both Israel’s settlement enterprise and forcible transfer of Palestinian communities could easily fall under the definition of war crimes.

It was of particular note, therefore, that late last year Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem sent a letter to Israel’s prime minister, defense minister, justice minister, and top military officials about the planned forcible displacement of two Palestinian communities, Susya and Khan al-Amer, warning that “these actions would constitute a war crime committed at your instruction and under your responsibility, and for which you would bear personal liability.”

B’Tselem’s decision to start describing forcible displacement as a war crime is of particular significance considering that the ICC prosecutor is currently conducting a preliminary examination into Israel’s actions in the occupied territories, specifically including its settlements and forcible population transfer, among other alleged crimes.

Fast-forward to 2018, and the two villages named in B’Tselem’s letter, Susya and Khan al-Amer, are once again waging public campaigns to stave off their demolition and displacement. In the past pressure by European and American diplomats has succeeded in delaying demolitions in those villages. But with the Trump administration thus far showing zero willingness to criticize Israel, all that could change.

+972 spoke with B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad earlier this week about the decision to describe Israel’s actions against Palestinian communities in the West Bank as war crimes, whether that should also be the case for settlements and the planned mass deportation of asylum seekers, and the most effective path for saving communities like Susya and Khan al Amer.

The following interview has been edited for length.

What prompted the change in language?

When we issued that statement [about moving to war crimes terminology], it was in response to a quite unprecedented statement by the minister of defense a couple of months ago, that they have a concrete plan to entirely demolish two Palestinian communities, Khan al-Ahmer and Susya, which is almost unprecedented since 1967.

That was a highly unusual statement by the defense minister. At the same time, it needs to be said — and we’re saying this as well — that the overall policy of trying to forcefully displace Palestinians out of major parts of the West Bank through creating unlivable, unbearable conditions is not new.

What are the goals of the shift to using ‘war crimes’ terminology?

In the most direct sense, we want prevent war crimes from occurring. We want to stop these policies. We want to prevent forcible displacement. We think it’s the obvious right of Palestinian communities to continue living their lives and to develop their communities where they are. And Israel’s use of ‘rule of law’ justifications to implement this policy does not in any way make it legal or lawful or acceptable. The state gives a lot of attention to legal process so that it can find legal justifications for actions that are unjustifiable, and unfortunately the courts have been cooperating with that for many years.
ACRI executive director Hagai El-Ad at the Human Rights Day march in Tel Aviv, December 11, 2009 (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

The second thing is the tactical choice in the implementation of this policy to do it gradually, over time, and not by directly, physically putting Palestinian families on trucks and shipping them from one part of the West Bank to another. [Instead, it is done] through the creation of unbearable living conditions so that people will self-deport themselves from one part of the West Bank to another. That’s the strategy.

The point we made is that the fact that this is done through by creating unbearable living conditions — demolishing water systems and classrooms and homes and taking solar panels, all of these are various aspects of creating unbearable living conditions — does not make acceptable or legal in anyway.

Is there a potentially broader scope for this? Is there a hope that designating these policies as war crimes will have some implications in the international legal arena, and not just in Israel?

What we have seen in recent years is that the one thing, the only effective leverage that has prevented the state from going ahead with certain actions was international pressure, through statements, visits by diplomats, and conversations between Israeli officials and representatives of other countries that happened quietly. Susya is very well known but there are many efforts in other parts of the West Bank.

In the piece in Haaretz with Liberman, in which he made that statement with regard to Susya and Khan al-Ahmar, if you read the article — I’m not sure if its a direct quote or provided as context by the reporter — there’s a sentence that says the previous U.S. administration used to give a lot of attention to these communities, but apparently that is no longer the case. Which again demonstrates the same point: it is only international pressure and condemnation that has worked. It has not succeeded in providing proper protection for all of these communities all over the West Bank — far from it. But it was successful in buying more time and in limiting to some extent some of Israel’s actions. If no one is preserving those red lines any more, then that can have dire consequences.
Susya, West Bank, Palestinian village under threat of destruction (Activestills)

Susya, West Bank, Palestinian village under threat of destruction (Activestills)

Is the change in language a way to make opposing the demolitions more effective? How sustainable is the current strategy of organizing an international campaign for specific villages each time when there are so many villages under threat?

Time will tell whether this is effective or not. But before the question of effectiveness, we have a responsibility as a human rights organization to call things as they are. So at the most direct level, we’re calling a spade a spade because it’s a spade; it is our legal analysis and the way we see things as they are.

At the same time, humanity did not invent these terms just for the sake of academic discussion. Humanity invented these terms in order to prevent them from taking place, to provide red lines so that they will not be crossed.

Will you be using war crimes language to describe other Israel policies, like the expansion and legalization of settlements, or the deportation of asylum seekers?

I don’t know. Of course, there is a lot of concern that over-usage of this language — that [it] will end up losing its effectiveness, to the extent that it even has that. We try to use the appropriate language and speak with the right moral conviction as it is relevant to the current reality — not overdoing it and not under-doing it.

I have to say, with a lot of bitterness and pain, that this reality, this slowly moving strategy in the West Bank to displace Palestinians through these tactics of creating unbearable living conditions — it is not new. There were phases during the years when it slowed down; there were phases during the years when its ticked up. And in the meantime, that means that even if the strategy in some places is not successful, because Palestinians somehow succeed in holding onto their land and their communities — through courage and commitment and steadfastness — even if that is the case, it means that in the meantime, and the meantime can be a very long time, thousands of people have to endure living under conditions that are absolutely unacceptable and unjustifiable. And all this is done out of a planned policy to displace them.

The cruelty of this ongoing reality — even on days when there is no demolition, no legal developments, absolutely usual days when nothing happens — is another day people need to endure without electricity, connection to the water grid, and with the knowledge that demolition may be coming, with that fear all of the time. For us that’s the most important thing that we have to try and reverse.