Israel and Palestine

„This is rich coming from an Israeli leader“

On 22 May, Spain, Ireland and Norway declared they would recognise Palestine as an independent state. Two days earlier, Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court had announced that he was asking the court to issue arrest warrants for three Hamas leaders (Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh) as well as Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant. An important part of the response of Israel’s government was that these steps were signs of callous antisemitism. Prominent Jewish persons disagree, however. Here we present quotes of four of them. Debate could be further propelled later today as a decision of the International Court of Justice regarding South Africa’s genocide charges is expected in the afternoon.
“Conservative understanding of office”: Karim Khan, the ICC Chief Prosecutor during a press conference at the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine in September 2023. picture alliance / Photoshot “Conservative understanding of office”: Karim Khan, the ICC Chief Prosecutor during a press conference at the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine in September 2023.

Thomas L. Friedman in the New York Times:

More than 140 countries and the Holy See have recognized the right of Palestinians to have a state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. What is noteworthy about this latest move, though, is that major Western European countries, and the United States, had resisted going there, arguing that peace should be worked out between the two parties. Until today. 

My focus is always on the practical: Will these recognitions of a nonexistent Palestinian state with undefined borders lead to the only sustainable solution — a real-life peace between two states for two indigenous communities — Jews and Palestinians? The answer is yes and no.

In the short term, these diplomatic recognitions from fellow democracies will not move the Israeli public. (…) In the long term, though, it is precisely these kinds of diplomatic shocks that could lead the opposition leaders in Israel to finally escape from the gravitational pull of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who dominates what is or is not permissible to say on this subject — and start calling for two states on terms Israel can live with. One can already see signs of that. If that does not transpire, though, Israel is heading for a world of hurt. 

Thomas L. Friedman is the foreign affairs opinion columnist of the New York Times. 

Kenneth Roth in the Guardian:

Khan is the ICC’s most experienced chief prosecutor of the three to date. My conversations with him from early in his tenure suggest his approach to his job is conservative. He is unlikely to have pursued charges without solid evidence behind them (…).

The demand for solid evidence is probably why Khan began with Israel’s starvation strategy, because the evidence was more readily available. Israel has barred his investigators from Gaza, where he would ordinarily want to investigate Israel’s indiscriminate and disproportionate bombing. Khan made clear that his investigation “continues”. More charges could come.

Netanyahu’s response was filled with evasions. He called the proposed charges “an attempt to deny Israel the basic right of self-defense”, which is preposterous. The proposed charges are not about whether Israel can defend itself but how – that is, not by committing war crimes. He said Israel had taken “unprecedented measures … to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches those in need in Gaza” – a claim belied by extensive evidence of Israel’s arbitrary obstruction of food, medicine and other necessities to the civilian population of Gaza, to the point that famine has arrived in parts of the territory. Indeed, the US government has been outspoken in criticizing the Netanyahu government for its arbitrary obstruction of humanitarian aid.

Using the common last resort for defenders of Israel, Netanyahu accused Khan of “callously pouring gasoline on the fires of antisemitism that are raging across the world”, claiming that “Khan takes his place among the great antisemites in modern times”. This is rich from an Israeli leader who has had no trouble embracing an antisemite – the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán – when it serves him. It also endangers Jews around the world, because if people see the charge of antisemitism as a thin cover for Israeli war crimes, it will cheapen the concept at a time when a strong defense is needed.

Kenneth Roth was the executive director of Human Rights Watch from 1993 to 2022 and is currently a visiting professor at Princeton University.

Anshel Pfeffer in Haaretz:

Khan emphasizes that “Israel, like all states, has a right to take action to defend its population.” However, he repeatedly mentions Israel’s alleged use of “starvation as a method of war. The ultimate responsibility for this, in his mind, is that of the politicians, not the generals. (…) 

Netanyahu will now try to use the ICC prosecutor’s request for an arrest warrant to present himself as a martyr suffering on Israel’s behalf. That may well work for a short while, and we may even see his polling numbers rise as a result. But this cannot be allowed to obscure what has happened. Israel embarked on a justified war in the aftermath of October 7 – a war that at first had broad international support. But the mismanagement of this war, the callousness and craven stupidity of this government, has transformed Israel into a global pariah that in the eyes of the world is on the same level as Hamas. This is as much on Netanyahu as on Karim Khan.

Anshel Pfeffer is a senior correspondent and columnist for the Tel Aviv-based newspaper Haaretz.

Tsafrir Cohen in press release of medico international: 

Germany’s Federal Government must decisively reconsider its stance towards Israel and Palestinians. The ICC’s steps seem to confirm what is causing outrage around the world but is doubted and sometimes denied in Germany: Israel’s military course is murderous and the Federal Government’s approach is misled. For good reason, Germany supports prosecuting Hamas for crimes, but its current stance towards Israel is not only supporting potential war crimes, but also contributing to the erosion of international law and international criminal law.  (…) In the past, the German government sided with human rights when serious crimes were dealt with by courts, for example when the Gambia brought a case against Myanmar before the International Court of Justice because of the persecution of the Rohingya or in the case of Ukraine. The same standards must apply now. Anything else would weaken the rule of law and would further reduce Germany’s credibility.

Tsafrir Cohen is the director general of medico international, the Frankfurt-based international non-governmental organisation. (only available in German) 

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