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March 7, 2021

War crimes

Editorial

 
March 7, 2021

The International Criminal Court based at The Hague has decided to investigate war crimes committed in the Palestinian territories held by Israel since 2014. Chief Prosecutor at the ICC Fatou Bensouda has said that the investigations would cover crimes committed by Israeli military forces, other agents working for Israel, Hamas and Palestinian militant groups, as well as any other factor that came to light. As could easily be predicted, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has angrily condemned the ICC decision, calling it an act of ‘anti-Semitism’ and has said that it simply shows a bias against Jewish people. Other members of the Israeli government have taken the same stance.

The probe for the ICC is legally and technically possible because in 2015 the Palestinian Authority, which looks over the West Bank in Gaza, became a member of the ICC. Israel has refused membership. This also presents some technical problems, with Tel Aviv insisting that a probe cannot be held, given that it does not hold membership within the ICC. But it does appear that the chief prosecutor is determined the investigation will go ahead. And it is important that it does. The probe will also investigate violence against Palestinians during demonstrations unleashed after 2018. Many of the most chilling stories from these demonstrations have already been brought into public knowledge. In this sense, the effort to hold Israel to account for its actions and also investigate Palestinian acts during the war, and periods of tension between the two people who live together in a territory that originally belonged to Arabs is important. The US State Department has backed Israel but under the administration of President Joe Biden may soften its stance to some degree. However, any major softening is unlikely given the close ties between Israel and the US.

The Palestinians have welcomed the investigation and said that they will support it in every way they could. This is good news for the people of Palestine and all those who support them. The suffering of the Palestinians has been immense since the creation of the state of Israel nearly 70 years ago. It is time they were given their rights and their complaints investigated by a neutral and recognised body.