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ICC Prosecutor Wants to Rob Israel of Its Legitimate Right to Self Dense

The International Criminal Court, The Hague, Netherlands. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

On Monday, International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan KC sought arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Members of Congress from both parties have quickly condemned this action from ICC. Democratic Representative Ritchie Torres (NY) said:

The decision to seek arrest warrants is not law but politics. It is not justice but rather retribution against Israel for the original sin of existing as a Jewish State and the subsequent sin of defending itself amid the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.

Today’s decision in effect makes it criminal for a state like Israel to defend itself against an enemy shrewd enough to embed itself in a civilian population, as Hamas has done to an extent never seen before in the history of warfare.

Republican Representative Elise Stefanik (NY) said, “The ICC is an illegitimate court that [equates] a peaceful nation protecting its right to exist with radical terror groups that commit genocide.” International legal expert Eugene Kontorovich explained that, “Diplomatically, it is an attempt to create moral equivalence between Hamas and Israel.”

As will be discussed below, the ICC prosecutor’s factual allegations have no basis. Indeed, Israel’s enemies have sought to use the ICC against it long before the October 7 war began. The recent actions of the ICC prosecutor merely highlight that Court’s illegitimacy and the way that the Jewish State is persecuted in international forums that are functionally controlled by Israel’s enemies.

Like most intergovernmental institutions, the ICC is the subject of the political whims of the undemocratic majority of states. Its very founding document, the Rome Statute, was even altered at the demand of Arab and Islamic states in order to invent a new “war crime” aimed at criminalizing Israeli settlements.

This weaponization of the ICC against the Jewish state is now on full display. Just in order to claim jurisdiction over Israel — which is not a party to the Rome Statute –the ICC had to invent two legal fantasies: (1) it had to pretend that the Palestine Liberation Organization is actually a “state,” and (2) it had to pretend that a treaty can bind actual states that never signed onto the treaty.

To justify these fictions, the ICC relied in large part on the meaningless, non-binding, and political recommendations of the same body that once declared “Zionism is a form of racism.” It did so all while ignoring actual international law that clearly articulates the criteria for statehood, of which the PLO undeniably falls short.

Monday’s actions by the Prosecutor threaten not only Israel. They amounts to a power grab, in which Prosecutor Karim Khan has decided his judgment supersedes that of democratic governments.

The ICC, according to its own rules, is meant to act only as a court of last resort; that is, the ICC is only supposed to get involved when a state is unable or unwilling to investigate allegations itself. This is a high bar for a prosecutor. Israel has one of the most robust and independent judicial systems in the world, including its highly respected Supreme Court. The IDF itself maintains arguably the most professional and independent system of legal advisors and reviewers, who regularly take on incidents for investigation and prosecution.

If Israel’s independent and professional legal system isn’t sufficient for Khan, then no legal system is. This would open all democracies engaged in self-defense to lawfare waged by bad actors and second guessing by a rogue prosecutor, including, potentially, the US.

The allegations against Netanyahu and Gallant are factually baseless. The first is “Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare as a war crime contrary to article 8(2)(b)(xxv) of the [Rome] Statute.”

As international law expert Eugene Kontorovich explained early in the war, “siege is a ‘legitimate’ and ordinary part of lawful war … An army need not help its enemy obtain provisions during a conflict. When military objectives and civilians are intermingled, siege aimed at the former also will affect the latter. As with other situations of collateral damage to civilians, international law permits a siege as long as it isn’t ‘for the purpose of denying sustenance to the civilian population.’ There is no indication that Israel has any strategy of starving out civilians.”

Despite the legality of such a siege, beginning on October 18 — only 11 days after Hamas’ barbaric attack, as the full reality of how many people had been killed and how many taken hostage was still being absorbed — Israel agreed to allow aid into Gaza and has allowed sufficient aid in ever since. Israel also restarted supplying Gaza with water on October 15.

While there may have been isolated cases of individuals with underlying medical problems being malnourished, and certainly Hamas obstructs distribution of food aid, there is no wide-scale starvation occurring.

The Gaza Ministry of Health claims that since the start of the war, 32 individuals have died of malnutrition and dehydration, or .0015 percent of the population. Of course no one wants anyone, in Gaza or elsewhere, to die of starvation, but to put this in perspective, this does not come close to comparing with places in which actual famines have occurred, and rather is at about the same level as France.

A senior Israeli defense official told The Jerusalem Post, “most of the food that Israel has been sending into the Strip has ‘immediately been taken by Hamas terrorists, who then sell some of the supplies for ten times more than what it’s worth,’” and a former senior Israeli defense official told the Post, “there is no food shortage in Gaza; there are those who are hungry since Hamas has taken all of the food and they don’t have enough money to pay Hamas on the black market.” This tactic serves a dual purpose for Hamas: it enriches the terror group while providing the fodder exactly for ICC allegations like this one.

In particular, in light of last week’s discovery of 50 cross-border tunnels from Rafah into Egypt, which certainly could have been used to bring in food as easily as any other materials had that been necessary, blaming Israel for any difficulty in food distribution simply doesn’t hold up to the facts. If in fact the population was starving, why didn’t they bring in food through those cross-border tunnels?

The ICC Prosecutor has also made allegations of “Willfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health contrary to article 8(2)(a)(iii), or cruel treatment as a war crime contrary to article 8(2)(c)(i); Wilful killing contrary to article 8(2)(a)(i), or Murder as a war crime contrary to article 8(2)(c)(i); Intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population as a war crime contrary to articles 8(2)(b)(i), or 8(2)(e)(i); Extermination and/or murder contrary to articles 7(1)(b) and 7(1)(a), including in the context of deaths caused by starvation, as a crime against humanity.”

Multiple legal experts have attested to the fact that Israel uses all means possible to avoid harm to civilians. Just last week, John Spencer, the chair of urban warfare studies with the Modern War Institute at West Point, told CNN, “I can say with very strong confidence that Israel has done everything the US military has ever done in the history of urban combat and things that we’ve never done, implementing every civilian harm mitigation technique that has been developed in the last 30 years despite Hamas’ tactics.”

And Brigadier General (Ret) Mark Kimmitt, former Assistant Secretary of State for political-military affairs and deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, has detailed the “extensive procedures the IDF uses to enforce tough standards aimed at minimizing civilian deaths and protecting infrastructure.”

The remaining allegations, “Persecution as a crime against humanity contrary to article 7(1)(h); Other inhumane acts as crimes against humanity contrary to article 7(1)(k),” are too vague to be meaningful.

Hamas is still holding about 129 hostages, including a one-year old baby, and its unknown how many are dead and how many are living. Yet, the ICC prosecutor seeks to tie Israel’s hands to prevent it from taking the necessary actions to recover them.

On October 7, Israel was attacked with a barbarity not seen since medieval times. It is fighting this war, not by choice, but out of necessity for its survival. To have its defensive war characterized in this manner, as “extermination” or “murder” and used to justify international legal action against its leaders, is to twist morality on its head in the cruelest possible way.

In any war, there will be civilian casualties. But extrapolating from the existence of civilian casualties that Israel has “willfully” caused more suffering or death than necessary to achieve its lawful military aims, or that it has intentionally directed attacks against civilians, is to characterize any war that Israel fights as a genocide or a war crime and to effectively rob it of its legitimate right to self-defense.

Karen Bekker is the Assistant Director in the Media Response Team at CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis. David Litman is a Research Analyst at CAMERA. A version of this article appeared on the CAMERA website.

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Netanyahu Heads to DC After Biden Quits 2024 Race, Says Israel Will Remain ‘Strong’ US Ally Whoever Is in White House

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Jerusalem, Feb. 18, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday departed for a highly anticipated trip to Washington, DC, where he will meet with US President Joe and Biden and deliver a speech before Congress this week as America grapples with the aftermath of Biden’s unprecedented decision to end his 2024 reelection campaign.

During his first trip to the US capital in almost four years, Netanyahu plans to visit the White House and also address US lawmakers on Wednesday. Netanyahu was originally expected to meet with Biden on Tuesday; however, several Hebrew media outlets reported that the meeting will likely be delayed due to Biden still being sick with COVID-19.

It is unclear how Biden’s shock decision on Sunday to drop out of the US presidential race will impact Netanyahu’s address to the US Congress. According to Israel’s Channel 13, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, a close confidant of Netanyahu, assured US officials that the speech will not include criticism of or against Biden following repeated requests by US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan for information about what the Israeli premier will say.

Netanyahu issued a statement following Biden’s announcement indicating the Israeli premier will underline the importance of bipartisanship in maintaining a close US-Israel relationship.

“I will seek to anchor the bipartisan support that is so important for Israel. And I will tell my friends on both sides of the aisle [in Congress] that regardless of who the American people choose as their next president, Israel remains America’s indispensable and strong ally in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said while leaving Israel for Washington, DC. “In this time of war and uncertainty it’s important that Israel’s enemies know that America and Israel stand together today, tomorrow, and always.”

The Israeli premier also expressed gratitude to Biden, stating that he will thank the US president for helping the Jewish state as he prepares to exit the White House.

“I plan to see President Biden, whom I’ve known for over 40 years. This will be an opportunity to thank him for the things he did for Israel in the war and during his long and distinguished career in public service, as senator, as vice president, and as president,” Netanyahu said.

Amid declining support for Israel among US liberal Democratic lawmakers, Netanyahu hopes to use his congressional address and White House visit to mend relations with Democrats, who have become increasingly uneasy over Israel’s war effort against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

Biden has come under heavy fire from Republicans as well as pro-Israel Democrats for what they’ve described as him turning against Israel amid the ongoing war in Gaza.

The US president expressed strong support for Israel following Hamas’ brutal invasion of southern Israel on Oct. 7, when Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists murdered 1,200 people and kidnapped about 250 hostages during their onslaught. In recent months, however, Biden has paused some weapons shipments to Israel and accused the US ally of “indiscriminate bombing” — a charge rejected by Israeli officials.

The Biden administration also discouraged Israel from launching a military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah to target some of the last remaining Hamas battalions, arguing such an operation would put too many civilians at risk. Experts told The Algemeiner at the time that Israeli forces needed to operate in Rafah in order to dismantle Hamas’ military capabilities.

More broadly, the relationship between the Democratic Party and Israel has deteriorated in the months following Oct. 7. Several high-profile Democrats, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), have suggested that Israel’s military operations in Gaza are tantamount to a “genocide.” Democratic lawmakers have also called on Biden to halt arms transfers to Israel, citing concern over mounting civilian casualties in Gaza.

While Israeli officials have expressed frustration about the Biden administration pressuring them to halt their military campaign, Netanyahu is expected to use his visit as a way to repair some of the damage. The trip could also serve as a way to make Israel’s case directly to the American public, which overall remains pro-Israel despite declining support among younger demographics.

The percentage of Americans that express “little or no confidence” in Netanyahu has increased by 11 points since 2023, according to an April poll by Pew Research Center. Among Democrats, a staggering 71 percent express “little or no confidence” in the Israeli leader. 

Anti-Israel groups have also organized protests in advance of Netanyahu’s congressional address. Far-left organizations such as Party for Socialism and Liberation and Palestinian Youth Movement are urging their supporters to “surround the Capitol” during Netanyahu’s address. Leaders of these groups have branded Netanyahu as a “war criminal” and have called for his arrest. 

The people charge Benjamin Netanyahu with genocide. When war criminal Netanyahu comes to Washington DC,” Palestinian Youth Movement wrote on Instagram, “the people of the world stand with Palestine and against the genocide committed by Israel with full support of the United States and impunity.”

In addition to meeting with Biden, Netanyahu may also speak with Republican presidential nominee and former US President Donald Trump. Netanyahu has requested an in-person meeting with Trump while in the US this week, according to Politico.

The Algemeiner could not immediately verify the report.

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Pro-Hamas Demonstrators Avoid Punishment Following Wave of Dropped Charges, Reports Say

Law enforcement officers detain a demonstrator, as they clear out a pro-Hamas protest encampment at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Los Angeles, California, US, May 2, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/David Swanson

The State Attorney’s Office of Cook County, Illinois has dropped criminal charges filed against three Northwestern University faculty and one graduate student who allegedly obstructed law enforcement’s efforts to clear an unlawful demonstration at the Deering Meadow section of campus.

According to a local National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate, the office said its decision is based on its “policy not to prosecute peaceful protesters.”

Charges against the four individuals were pursued by the Northwestern University Police Department, which said that they allegedly engaged in “obstructing a police officer during the protests,” a crime for which they could, if convicted, spend a year in jail and pay a $2,500 fine, The Daily Northwestern reported last week. They had already appeared before a judge and were scheduled to do so again in August.

The university had defended the recommendation of its police department and rejected the notion that the individuals acted peaceably, saying in a statement issued earlier this month that it “does not permit activity that disrupts university operations, violates the law, or includes the intimidation or harassment of members of the community.”

Many more protesters have similarly avoided punishment for the actions they took during a burst of pro-Hamas demonstrations at the end of the 2023-2024 academic year, according to a new report by The New York Times. Prosecutors in Travis County, Texas, for example, have dropped over 100 charges of criminal trespassing filed against University of Texas at Austin protesters, the paper said, and 60 other Northwestern University protesters saw their charges dismissed, with prosecutors calling them “constitutionally dubious.” The Times added, however, that some charges will stick, including those filed against someone who bit a police officer, and many students are still awaiting the outcome of disciplinary proceedings.

Per the report, “At the University of Virginia on May 4, as students were preparing for final exams, administrators called in police to break up an encampment. Police officers in riot gear used chemical irritants to get protesters to disperse and eventually arrested 27 people. The local prosecutor dropped the charges facing seven people after he determined there wasn’t enough evidence. He offered the rest an agreement: their charges would be dismissed in August if they didn’t have any outstanding criminal charges at the time.”

Prosecutors in other states have not been as forbearing. According to Fresh Take Florida, prosecutors in Alachua County, Florida charged seven University of Florida students, as well as two non-students, with trespassing and resisting arrest. The defendants have resolved to take their chances at trial, the news service added, noting that all nine have rejected “deferred prosecution,” an agreement that would require them to plead guilty, or no contest, in exchange for the state’s expunging the convictions from their records in the future so long as they abstain from committing more criminal acts.

One of the nine, computer science student Parker Stanley Hovis, 26, — who was suspended for three years — proclaimed earlier this month that they will contest the state’s cases.

“We did not resist arrest, and we are prepared to fight our charges,” Hovis said in a statement. “We’re standing in solidarity with each other, and collectively demanding that the state drop the charges against us.”

Jewish civil rights group have described the anti-Israel protesters across the US as posing an imminent threat to Jewish students and faculty while noting that many avert being identified by concealing their faces with masks and keffiyehs, a traditional headscarf worn by Palestinians which has become known as a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian cause and opposition to Israel. Images and footage of the practice have been widely circulated online, and it has rendered identifying the protesters — many of whom have chanted antisemitic slogans, vandalized school property, and threatened to harm Jewish students and faculty during a weeks-long demonstration between April and May — virtually impossible.

On Thursday, one such civil rights group, StandWithUs (SWU), implored the US Department of Justice to crack down on masked protests at Columbia University by enforcing legal statues which are widely referred to as the “KKK Laws,” citing numerous antisemitic incidents of harassment and assault on its campus and the difficulty of punishing the perpetrators.

Dating back to the administration of former US President Ulysses S. Grant, the so-called “KKK Laws” empower the federal government to prosecute those who engage in activities which violate the civil rights of protected groups, as the Ku Klux Klan did across the US South during Reconstruction to prevent African Americans from voting and living as free citizens. StandWithUs alleges that five anti-Zionist groups — most notably Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) — currently operating on Columbia University’s campus have perpetrated similar abuses in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which guarantees all students, regardless of race or ethnic background, has the right to a safe learning environment.

“We hope the Department of Justice will take this opportunity to restore justice on Columbia University’s campuses and hold bad actors responsible for violating federal laws,” Yael Lerman, director of the SWU Saidoff Legal Department, said in a statement.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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France Says Israeli Athletes ‘Welcome’ at Olympics Amid Mounting Threats, Added Security Measures

The Olympic Village prepared for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Photo: Paris 2024 / Raphael Vriet

French leaders said on Monday that the Israeli delegation to the 2024 Paris Olympics is welcome in France, despite what critics described as “antisemitic” comments to the contrary made by a French politician two days earlier

At an anti-Israel rally on Saturday, far-left French lawmaker Thomas Portes said, “I am here to say that, no, the Israeli delegation is not welcome in Paris. Israeli athletes are not welcome at the Olympic Games in Paris.”

Portes called for Israelis to be excluded from the Paris Olympics because of Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip who perpetrated the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel.

Portes later also told the newspaper Le Parisien that “France’s diplomats should pressure the International Olympic Committee to bar the Israeli flag and anthem, as is done for Russia” due to its invasion of Ukraine.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said Portes’ comments had “obvious antisemitic overtones” and “placed a target on the backs of the Israeli athletes.” He added, “I want to express my disgust at that. I want to assure the Israeli athletes of our full protection, like all athletes, but particularly them, also welcoming them.”

Darmanin also announced that Israel’s Olympic delegation, which includes 88 athletes representing the Jewish state, will have increased security and will receive 24-hour security from French police. He said the decision was made after taking into consideration the 1972 Munich Olympics — where 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were murdered by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September — and how Israeli athletes are a target for attacks, especially since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

France has experienced a record surge in antisemitic incidents since Oct. 7, when Hamas launched the war with its massacre across southern Israel.

French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné reiterated that the Israeli delegation “is welcome in France” for the Paris Olympics during his visit to Brussels on Monday, the French-language newspaper Le Monde reported. He called Portes’ remarks “irresponsible and dangerous,” and added that France “will ensure the security of the [Israeli] delegation.”

Paris Police Chief Laurent Nuñez said 30,000 to 45,000 police personnel will be working daily to ensure safety at Olympic sites and fan zones in Paris.

It was previously reported that Israel doubled its security budget for this year’s Games, which will be Israel’s 18th appearance in the Olympics. Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar told The Telegraph that the Israeli Olympic delegation this year, which is the second-largest Israeli delegation in Olympics history, has received threats but he did not go into detail. He added that delegation members will receive security details from Israel’s Shin Bet security agency but not everyone will have their own bodyguards.

“We try our best to make sure the athletes feel free but also safe and not afraid. We don’t want them to notice the security guards too much. We want them to feel confident so they can do their job,” he explained to the publication.

There have been calls to ban Israel from the Paris Olympics because of the Israel-Hamas war, but Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said in March there is no doubt that Israel will participate in the Paris Olympics.

The 2024 Olympic Games will take place from July 26-Aug. 11.

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