Photo courtesy of ICC

The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim Khan has requested a panel of three ICC judges to issue arrest warrants on five people, Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant of Israel and Yahya Sinwar, Ismail Haniyeh and Ibrahim Al-Masri of Hamas.

Last week the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a ruling ordering Israel to “immediately halt its military offensive in Rafah”. It acted in support of a South African application that sought a number of measures against Israel, accusing it of stepping up what it says is a genocide.

How long will the judges take to issue the warrants is anybody’s guess. Against Putin it was almost immediate but against Israeli leaders it may take weeks, months or even never. But the announcement of the arrest by the prosecutor was unusual and his rationale for doing so might have been to send a strong warning to the five people that they are now under ICC’s watch list and therefore they might cease escalating their violence and counter violence.  On the other hand, it may prove counterproductive and worsen the situation once the offenders take the view that they would be arrested in any case and that therefore continuation of the same is not going to change their fate.

Netanyahu’s behaviour suggests just that. ICC does not have an international police force to do the arresting and has to rely on member countries to do the job for it. One of the three Hamas leaders identified by ICC, for example, is in Qatar, which is not a member of ICC like Israel. Without the physical presence of the accused no trial could be held. Moreover, with full backing for Israel by US President Joe Biden, what hope is there for the ICJ to expect compliance from Netanyahu and his military cronies to stop the killings and destructions in Raffa? Israel has already rejected the ICJ order and when Netanyahu was asked by a reporter whether it would be risky for him to travel freely after ICC warrants, he replied that it would be risky not for him but for the ICC prosecutor. Is he going to ask Mossad to target the prosecutor? President Biden, who earlier said that Israel’s Raffa offensive would mark the “red line”, is now saying nothing about Israel’s determination to reject ICJ’s order. These instances expose not only the incapacity and helplessness of our international institutions but also the mafia like behaviour of countries such as US and Israel.

However, the problem with Khan’s request is his attempt to equate the gravity and scale of crimes committed by an oppressor with those by the oppressed. In trying to portray his action as even handed he has actually earned the wrath of both sides. Netanyahu and his backers condemned ICC for emboldening the terrorists. Israel’s staunch supporter President Biden called it “outrageous” and even prepared to join his Republican opponents in calling for sanctions against ICC itself. On the other hand, Palestinian supporters view Khan’s inclusion of Hamas leaders as equating freedom struggle with terrorism.

Nowhere in history freedom struggles had succeeded without shedding bloodshed. Even prior to Israel’s birth in 1948 when Palestine was a mandatory territory under the British, Palestinians had paid through blood for their liberation struggle and independence. When they rose in revolt in 1936 the British employed more troops in Palestine than they did in the Indian subcontinent, killed and exiled Palestinian leadership and put down the revolt with so much cruelty that in 1948, when Israeli terror outfits unleashed their campaign to cleanse Palestine of Arabs, there was virtually no organized resistance. The British therefore actually paved the way for the Nakba that continues today.

Again, after the Ramadhan/Yom Kippur War of 1973 followed by Oslo Accords in 1993 Gaza and West Bank became Israel’s occupied territories without any hope of that occupier ever agreeing to a two state solution. At the end, what a horror of an occupation it turned out to be for the Arabs. As Antony Lowenstein said those territories became the laboratory for Israel to test its deadly weapons. For more than 50 years none of the so called two state promoters ever cared to note the systematic oppression of Palestinian Arabs in that open prison at the hands of Israeli police and settlers. The rocket attacks on October 7 2023 by Hamas – a child of Mossad and funded and nurtured by Netanyahu and his Likud Party to be used as counterweight to check the rising popularity of Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority – did not therefore come out of vacuum as the UN Secretary General pointed out. It marked the beginning of a desperate but bloody resistance struggle unleashed against an oppressor by the oppressed who were let down by world leaders.

The sole objective of Hamas was liberation of Palestine from settler colonialism and nothing else. Palestinians want to live as equals with human dignity as their neighbours including Jews. The recently won full membership status to Palestine at the UN and the daring recognition already of a Palestinian state by Ireland, Norway and Spain would not have eventuated had it not been for Hamas’ opening bloody salvo and Netanyahu’s genocidal response. The crimes committed by Israel in Gaza with weapons supplied by US are totally different in scale and character from the guilt of Hamas fighters.  How can the two be equal? Let history be the final judge.

In spite of their shortcomings however, ICC warrants and ICJ order do matter in the sense that the combined actions of the two institutions, thanks to the brave and historic role of South Africa, had added a juridical dimension to the political legitimacy of Palestinian struggle. It is worth driving the point that South Africa’s decision to charge Israel on behalf of Palestinians at the highest court of justice has put all Arab countries in particular and all Muslim countries to shame. How else could one compare South Africa’s courage to challenge the military might of Israel with its powerful supporters from US, UK, EU and the West in general with the Arab world rushing to normalise relations with Israel? Isn’t the abject weakness of Arabs to speak truth in front of power that signifies for example, UAE’s and Bahrain’s readiness to be signatories to the US sponsored Abraham Accord aiming to normalise relations with Israel?

ICC’s and ICJ’s actions have also added strength to the voice of anti-Israel protestors all over the world.  In retaliation to these protests Israel and its backers have produced a counter voice by dubbing those protests ground zero of anti-Semitism. Didn’t President Biden himself describe the university protests anti-Semitist? That description has been copied by leaders in UK, France, Germany, Canada and Australia. The corporate media in these countries is using it to sanitise and cover up the horrors of Zionist Israel. The fact that the ICC prosecutor Karim Khan and ICJ President Nawaf Salam are both Muslims seem to have added more justification to this counter propaganda, which threatens another wave of Islamophobia in the West. Palestinian Arabs are the last of any who can be accused of anti-Semitism because they have a long history of living peacefully with Jews for more than a millennium. On the contrary it was Christian Europe that branded the Jews “Christ killers” and forced them to live in ghettoes. They watched in silence when Hitler inaugurated the Holocaust.  But it is heartening to witness the Holocaust survivors and tens of thousands of other peace loving Jews condemning what Israel is doing in Gaza and Raffa. The resignation of President Biden’s first Jewish political appointee, Lily Greenberg, over his continued support for Netanyahu signifies further evidence that ICC warrants and ICJ order do matter.

In spite of worldwide condemnation of and anger against both Israel and US how could one explain the symbiotic relationship between these two countries? There is only one explanation. Without Israel there is no other dependable ally in the entire Middle East to protect US and the West’s interests. After the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and the end of Muslim Caliphate, imperial Britain and its Western allies including Czarist Russia were determined not to allow another Muslim power to emerge to challenge Western supremacy. That determination persists even now under US leadership, a fact not even passingly highlighted in any of Western analyses. Israel was deliberately created in the heart of the Arab world not only to get rid of the hated “Christ killers” from the West but also to make it grow powerful enough to safeguard the interests of the West. Today, Israel is US’ deputy sheriff in that region. So far over $300 billion US tax payer money had been funneled by way of economic aid to Israel and it was US that clandestinely helped that country to build up its nuclear arsenal.  Today that country is behaving like a monster. It is worth remembering the following words of John F. Kennedy. “One day after I am long gone, you will remember me and say, we should have stopped the nuclear program of Israel, abolished the Federal Reserve and kicked out all secret societies, oculists, usurpers and Zionists out of our wonderful country, to keep it that way, but it is never too late, just remember that”.