Elections and ICC ruling take centre stage

Palestine Update 445

Elections and ICC ruling take centre stage
Hardly a few months ago, it was presumed that Netanyahu and Trump had a hotline through which they fiercely and fearlessly ganged up on the Palestinians. Today, Netanyahu is wondering why Biden has not so much as called him. And it is 22 days – and counting since Biden assumed power! In politics, I guess, you don’t take things for granted. Israel was everything (almost) to Trump. Not quite the same anymore. It has actually been reported that  Israeli ambassador to the UN Danny Danon took the supposed slight to social media, tweeting Netanyahu’s office phone number to Joe Biden. To make things worse for Netanyahu, yet another Israeli election loom and Netanyahu desperately needs a message from the US that will increase his political bandwidth.

Nor has Netanyahu done anything to stimulate a difference in the political context. Israel persists with policies that entrench the occupation, expand settlements and lay the groundwork for unilateral, de jure annexation. Biden must, either, convey an alternative roadmap or alert Netanyahu to dire consequences if he insists on his speeding train of perilous political thought.

And on the subject of elections, “Hussein al-Sheikh, the Palestinian minister who acts as a liaison with Israel, has met with Palestinian prisoner Marwan Barghouti. This is an exceptional visit because, normally, Israeli Prison Services do not allow security prisoners to receive outside visitors since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Israel’s reaction to that decision has been tight-lipped. There are multiple guesses doing the rounds. Is there an impending political breakthrough looming?

Israeli politics are certainly not static. Merav Michaeli who was elected head of one of the oldest and most iconic political parties in Israel last month is now battling to bring Labor back from the periphery and turn it once again into the political space of the Israeli left. Will the odds favour her? Michaeli told Jewish Insider in an interview this week. ‘The fact that it’s alive again is something that helps bring people together.’

The other issue that is doing the political rounds in Israel and Palestine is whether the ICC has, in fact, opened the door for justice in Palestine. Will there be an end to impunity for those who have committed grave crimes? Israel is nervous and is fighting back but it might just have its back to the wall. In desperation it is resorting to aggression  by arresting  anyone it deems  a possible suspect A new and aggressive mood of arresting anyone it deems a worthy suspect and punishable .

In this context, it can be safely argued: “Ending impunity and pursuing justice can only bring us closer to peace in the Middle East”.

Ranjan Solomon

New ICC ruling ‘opens the door’ for justice in occupied Palestine – Independent UN expert 

The ruling of the International Criminal Court (ICC) that is does have jurisdiction over grave crimes committed in occupied Palestinian territory is a “significant step forward in the quest for justice and accountability”, an independent UN human rights expert said.  “This offers profound hope to those who believe that consequences, not condonation, must be the answer to the commission of grave crimes”.  The judgment, which includes potential war crimes, is a major move towards ending impunity in the 53-year-old occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza. “The leading political organs of the United Nations have repeatedly failed to enforce their own significant body of resolutions on the Israeli occupation”, the UN expert said. “This ruling opens the door for credible allegations of Rome Statute crimes to finally be investigated and potentially reach the trial stage at the ICC.”

Probing the past 
The ICC prosecutor can now investigate a number of past allegations, including “grave crimes” committed by Israel during the 2014 war against Gaza, the killing and wounding of thousands of largely unarmed demonstrators during the Great March of Return in 2018-2019 and Israel’s settlement activities in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, according to the press release from OHCHR.  Moreover, the prosecutor can also look into allegations of grave crimes involving Palestinian armed groups.  “In adopting the Rome Statute and creating the International Criminal Court, the international community pledged its determination to end impunity for the perpetrators of grave crimes”, the Special Rapporteur stated. “Yet, in the context of Israel’s protracted occupation, the international community has permitted a culture of exceptionalism to prevail”.  He also maintained that, had international legal obligations been purposively enforced years ago, “the occupation and the conflict would have been justly resolved and there would have been no need for the ICC process”.

Call for global backing 
The preamble of the Rome Statute calls for ‘international cooperation’ to ensure the ‘lasting respect for and the enforcement of international justice. Ending impunity and pursuing justice can only bring us closer to peace in the Middle East”.

Israel’s arrest campaign aims to destroy a new Palestinian movement
“Since late 2019, Israeli forces have been waging a campaign of mass arrests, targeting hundreds of young women and men in Palestine. They have been brutally arrested, their homes stormed at dawn, their belongings searched and confiscated. Detainees have been interrogated for weeks on end and prevented from meeting with lawyers, with their files and charges concealed…As for those who have gone to trial, most were charged with ridiculous offences.

Birzeit University student Layan Kayed, 22, was accused of ‘terrorist activity’ after making and selling falafel sandwiches as part of an activity for a student movement affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Meanwhile, student Mays Abu Ghosh was arrested over her membership in the university’s student union and her journalistic activities. Others have been imprisoned over selling books or coffee as part of student activities. This campaign of arrests carries an extreme sociopolitical risk. Israel is attempting to eliminate a left-wing social and political youth network under military pretexts. It is waging a war against a group whose social, cultural and academic work is tied to anti-Zionist values and struggles.”

On 10th February, “the Israeli army rounded up 31 Palestinians in overnight raids across the occupied West Bank. Palestinian Prisoners’ Society claimed that most of those detained were minors. The Israeli army usually carries out incursions into West Bank cities and towns, claiming to arrest wanted Palestinians. Israel is holding about 4,500 Palestinian prisoners, including 37 women, 140 minors, and about 450 administrative detainees.
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Politics, not law, will decide whether Israel faces war crimes charges
“…last week’s ruling offers Palestinians a few slivers of hope. It confirms that Israel’s battle to deny the Palestinian fight for statehood is not entirely going its way. And it suggests that the post-Trump political climate may turn out to be more stormy for Israel than expected. Its leaders may have to be slightly more cautious about the scale and visibility of the war crimes they approve. The court may settle to leave the sword of a possible investigation hanging over Israel, hoping that alone will be enough to curb Israel’s worst excesses, such as plans to annex swaths of the West Bank.  Or the ICC may trust that its jurisdiction ruling will serve as a wake-up call to the Israeli Supreme Court, whose failures to enforce international law in the occupied territories paved the way to The Hague. But settling for any of these outcomes will be more evasion by the court, more playing politics. The test of whether the ICC is a judicial body rather than a political one is not, as Netanyahu demands that it refuse to investigate Israel. The real test is whether it can rise above the name-calling and gas lighting to apply international law in a way that truly protects Palestinians.”

UN expert urges international community to support ICC’s Palestine-Israel ruling
Over the last decades, Israel has reportedly sold weapons to approximately 130 countries. And yet, when one digs a little, it is impossible to find a full list of those countries. Apart from its reports to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, Israel releases no official information about its arms exports. There are good reasons Israel wants to hide these sales, since its clientele has involved some of the world’s most tyrannical dictatorships and human rights abusers. Israel has sold arms to South Sudan and the military junta in Myanmar. Countries like Morocco, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and others have begun using Israeli spyware against journalists and political opposition. Some of these governments have committed what amounts to war crimes, and abetting such crimes is deemed illegal under international law.

Israel’s clients would rather not make any of this public. Thus, headlines about Israel selling a new missile or spyware system often mention an “Asian-Pacific country” or “a country in Europe,” in order to maintain the client’s confidentiality. This confidentiality then translates into a lack of both internal and external accountability for these governments and their military purchases. The government works within a comfortable legal framework that doesn’t demand transparency or external monitoring, and the companies involved have an economic interest in maintaining the confidentiality of their clients. All this makes it nearly impossible to find out exactly to whom Israel is selling. And yet, this information remains vital. It is crucial for activists in Israel who in recent years have demanded — and sometimes succeeded — in stopping Israel’s arms sales to countries committing gross human rights violations.

U.S. Quaker nonprofit American Friends Service Committee has launched the Database of Israeli Military and Security Exports (DIMSE) vital to activists in places like Mexico, where Israeli spyware “Pegasus” was used against journalists and human rights activists. Moreover, the information is vital for Palestine solidarity activists who demand an arms embargo against Israel in order to bring about an end to the occupation. This is an especially important demand when considering that military operations in Gaza and the West Bank are used as a laboratory for Israeli arms companies that can develop, test, and then market their weapons a “battle proven.”