The Guardian • Issue #2101

Israeli war crimes

March for Gaza, Washington DC, 2024.

March for Gaza, Washington DC, 2024. Photo: Philip Cohen –flickr.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Two events have damned Israel’s genocidal campaign and further exposed the criminal role of the United States in supporting the slaughter in Gaza. The decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defence Minister Gallant as war criminals, guilty of crimes against humanity, should be applauded. The decision by Ireland, Norway, and Spain to officially recognise Palestine as a sovereign state sends a message of solidarity to Palestinians and to all people of good will.

DOING THE RIGHT THING

The decision of the three EU member-states is hardly a radical act. More than 140 of the 193 UN member states have voted in support of full Palestinian admission. It is still  an important step. The logic and symbolism behind the action by Ireland, Norway, and Spain was neatly summed up by Irish Prime Minister, Simon Harris when he said that “there is never a wrong time to do the right thing.” He pointed out that “a comprehensive peace settlement now seems, in many ways, further away than it has ever been … We believe you can’t say you’re in favour of a two-state solution and not recognise the very existence of two states.”

Both the decision by the three EU states and the ruling by the ICC were met with virulent opposition from Israel and its American paymaster.

The American president has often spoken in the abstract of his support for a two-state solution but refuses to accept the will of the vast majority of humanity. He says that a Palestinian state should be realised through “direct negotiations between the parties, not through unilateral recognition.” With one side refusing to even consider a Palestinian state, then such a proposition is tantamount to giving the green light to perpetual occupation, and apartheid.

Biden was quick to voice strident criticism of the ICC’s ruling and made the outrageous claim that what is happening in Gaza is not genocide. To make sure there was no confusion, he added that “We reject the ICC’s application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders.”

America’s staunchest allies wrung their hands but didn’t do much. Germany said it was a matter that required further dialogue. France said conditions had not yet been met. France summed up the mealy-mouthed response of America and Israel’s supporters by saying that now is “not the right time” to act, and that by doing nothing they were somehow performing a “diplomatic” in the service of establishing a two-state solution.

STEP UP, ALBANESE

Australia, which took a step and voted for recognition of Palestine in the UN General Assembly, but needs to take another step and join with Ireland, Norway, and Spain. Now is the time for the Albanese government to listen to the Irish Prime Minister, and to accept that there is never a wrong time to do the right thing. The Australian Prime Minister said it was “inappropriate to comment.” This is an inexcusable position to adopt.

Israel’s denunciations of the decision were predictable enough. There was an irony in this. Israel railed at the ICC for what they called a false “moral equivalence,” when the Court also indicted three leaders of Hamas. Israel, unwittingly, made a valid point. The seven-month slaughter, the 35,000 dead, the bombing, the destruction of hospitals and schools, the starvation of children, the killing of aid workers and journalists, cannot be considered in any way equivalent to anything the Palestinian resistance has done.

ATROCITIES CONTINUE

Israel has effectively cut off aid to Gaza. Catherine Russell, Director of UNICEF, has again warned that children are increasingly facing death from hunger and dehydration.

Fuel supplies are running out. This means electricity to what remains of Gaza’s hospital and health system will be cut off. Tens of thousands of families, displaced from Rafah, are now living among the rubble.

When these atrocities are called war crimes, the war criminals denounce those who legitimately apportion blame. Israel’s response was swift. They attacked the integrity of the Court, attacked the states who have recognised Palestine, and withdrew ambassadors. Itamar Ben-Gvir, the extremist minister for National Security, made a provocative, but telling, visit to the Al Aqsa Mosque where he declared that the site “belongs only to the state of Israel. We will not even allow a statement about a Palestinian state.”

The three European nations that have angered Israel are clear in their support for the concept of a two-state solution. This is in line with the United Nations and remains the policy of the Palestinian Authority. Netanyahu, in a televised statement, once more referred to Palestine as Judea and Samaria, evoking the language of the extremists, the settlers, all those who deny the rights of the Palestinian people a homeland.

The response, regardless of its rhetoric and symbolism, was also a bloody one. The attacks on Gaza became more brutal. The deprivations became more appalling.

US SUPPORT

It must always be remembered that this genocide, this slaughter of innocents, can only be carried out with the support of the United States.

Secretary of State Blinken finally buried any pretence that the American response was anything other that blanket support for Israel. At the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing in Washington, Republican Lindsey Graham cut to the chase when attacking the ICC especially as it might relate to other war criminal states, like the USA. His concern was that prosecuting Israel might be the tip of an iceberg. “If they do this to Israel, we will be next.” Horrified at the idea of the US facing consequences for war crimes, Graham asked Blinken to support sanctions on the International Criminal Court for doing its job. He called the ICC verdict an “outrage against Israel.”

Blinken replied, “I welcome working with you on that.” Some in the Biden administration have sought to minimise the harm of that remark. Graham seemed to see no ambiguity, calling Blinken’s statement “terrific.”

Implicit in Blinken’s exchange was the hint that the US might support some form of sanctions against the ICC. Lindsey Graham and Blinken have an ally here in Australia. Opposition leader Peter Dutton, has called for Australia to cut ties with the ICC and has urged other nations to follow suit. This found immediate favour with Israel. Ron Dermer, Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister and an ‘observing member’ of Israel’s War Cabinet remarked that “I didn’t know the head of your opposition had said that. I applaud him for doing it.”

Public opinion is clearly against the likes of Graham and Blinken and reactionaries like Peter Dutton. Biden can continue facilitating Israeli genocide, but they stand, isolated and damned before the world.

The two Israeli leaders who have had arrest warrants served by the ICC prosecutor are responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands, the traumatisation of an entire population, the destruction of hope and the chance of anything resembling a normal life. Netanyahu has referred to Palestinians as “monsters.” Gallant speaks of Palestinians as “human animals.” Biden’s hands are no less bloodstained. His rhetoric might be less sickening but the intent is the same.

Biden speaks not merely about defending one or two war criminals, but of standing with Israel and offering an ironclad guarantee of support. Netanyahu may be the worst of individuals but he remains a symbol of a country as part of an entire political and economic structure that is imperialism. Behind him stand other equally brutal tyrants.

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