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Why Many Israeli Jews Distrust The ICC

Today’s post comes to us from contributor Josh Zuckerman. Thanks, Josh!

Why Many Israeli Jews Distrust The ICC


If you’ve been following international politics lately, you know that International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors applied for arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant.

That these applications were made simultaneously to arrest warrants for Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh paints a false equivalency between the two sides.

For many Israeli Jews, however, skepticism about the fairness of international law is nothing new. To understand why, let’s examine the process the ICC used to request these warrants.

How A Borderless State Adopted An International Treaty

To start, the ICC has no jurisdiction over the state of Israel. The ICC only has jurisdiction over those countries which have ratified the “Rome Statute,” an international treaty written in 1998 that established the court. Israel, along with forty other countries, never signed the treaty, and therefore it falls outside the ICC’s scope.

However, the ICC claims that it holds jurisdiction over any actions performed within the geographic limits of the countries over which it does have jurisdiction. Therefore, because the “State of Palestine” signed the Rome Statute in 2015, argues the ICC, the court has jurisdiction over Israeli actions within said “state.”

But how does a state with no defined borders, no ability to collect its own taxes, nor any of the other defining characteristics of being an independent country have the right to ratify an international treaty like the Rome Statute?

In November of 2012, the United Nations passed General Assembly Resolution 67/19, which granted Palestine a non-member “permanent observer state” status. At the time, the resolution largely was seen as a symbolic gesture. It was passed shortly after Operation Pillar of Defense, an eight-day Israel Defense Force campaign into Gaza launched as response to Hamas launching over 100 rockets into Israel from the strip within a 24 hour period. During the span of the conflict, Hamas launched more than 1,400 rockets from Gaza into Israel. (Hmm, the UN symbolically supporting Palestine after Israel defends itself… Sound familiar?)

Because the UN granted Palestine this special “observer state” status, Palestine was able to sign onto the Rome Statute, thus granting the ICC jurisdiction over its territory.

But here’s where things get even more confusing.

Justice for Thee, But Not For Me

Most, if not all the countries voting on the ICC’s arrest warrants were aware of the special status granted to the nebulous “state of Palestine.” These include Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and others. However, many of those countries haven’t adopted the Rome Statute, either. Therefore, they fall outside the ICC’s jurisdiction just as much as Israel.

In fact, the only other Arab League countries which have adopted the Rome Statute are Jordan, Djibouti, and Comoros.

Meaning the ICC, which purports to have jurisdiction over Israel’s actions in Palestine and can thus issue arrest warrants for its leaders, has been given this authority by states that fall outside the ICC’s jurisdiction.

Moreover, the ICC makes no claims of jurisdiction over Hezbollah’s actions in Israel or Iran’s actions in Israel. Lebanon and Iran are no more members than Israel, and therefore fall outside the bounds of the court’s accountability.

Thus, appearances suggest that the Arab League countries knowingly helped create and/or exploit an international system of justice to disproportionately hold Israel accountable for actions, while simultaneously holding themselves to a significantly lower standard of scrutiny and accountability.

How can any reasonable person look at that system and think, “Yes, this is what justice looks like”?


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