DISARMAMENT & SECURITY .
An article by Jessica Corbett from Common Dreams ( licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Israelis Against Apartheid, a group representing more than 1,500 citizens, this week urged the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor “to take accelerated action against the escalating Israeli war crimes and genocide of the Palestinian people” in Gaza.
An injured child is brought to the al-Aqsa Hospital after an Israeli attack on Maghazi Refugee Camp in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza on November 3, 2023. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images)
“For the safety and future in the region, all elements of international law must be enforced and war crimes should be investigated,” declares the letter to the ICC’s Karim A. A. Khan, noting his ongoing Palestine investigation and recent remarks on the war.
The letter, dated Thursday, explains that “as Israeli anti-colonial activists, we have joined our voices to the voices of Palestinians for decades warning on the dangerous course of action pursued by the Israeli state and repeatedly called for international intervention.”
“Persistent impunity has created the conditions for the consolidation of the Israeli apartheid regime, which is intent on committing ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Indigenous Palestinian population,” the letter continues. “The acute deterioration in basic conditions of life that we are now witnessing could have been avoided if Israel had not been continuously granted impunity for its ongoing crimes.”
Officials believe Palestinian militants took around 240 hostages in a Hamas-led surprise attack on Israel October 7, which sparked Israeli forces' retaliatory air and ground assault of Gaza. Since the war began, more than 1,500 Israelis and 9,400 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed, along with at least 133 Palestinians in the West Bank, which has seen a surge in Israeli settler violence.
Over the past four weeks, as Israeli forces have killed thousands of civilians and bombed residential, medical, educational, and religious buildings, allegations of war crimes have mounted. Critics worldwide have accused Israel of committing "a textbook case of genocide," citing not only the bloodshed but also comments from Israeli leaders including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“We are extremely concerned by the Israeli institutional calls for genocide that are being loudly and clearly voiced in Hebrew and believe that they should be seriously taken into consideration as thousands, if not millions, of lives are at stake,” says the letter to the ICC prosecutor.
(Continued in right column)
How can war crimes be documented, stopped, punished and prevented?
Can International Pressure Stop the War in Gaza?
(Continued from left column)
“Israeli military personnel and journalists are now openly calling for ethnic cleansing and genocide,” the letter adds. “It is evident that Israel is disregarding the lives of civilians in Gaza, ordering them to evacuate vast areas even as there is no safe place in Gaza to which people can flee.”
The letter to Khan details the remarks from Netanyahu and others calling for or justifying genocide, and urges him to:
° Issue immediate arrest warrants against Israeli political and military-security leaders who are committing war crimes and crimes against humanity;
° Accelerate your investigation into the ongoing crimes being perpetrated at this very moment by the state of Israel, its military forces, and armed Israeli citizens under military protection; and
° Be a validated and balanced platform for alleged crimes arising from the current situation, rather than making reference to unvalidated and unverified claims.
While applauding some of Khan’s statements in Egypt after his trip to the Rafah border crossing with Gaza last weekend, the letter also says that “we deeply regret that, despite the opening of an investigation, followed by the Pre-Trial Chamber I’s 2021 decision that the court may exercise its criminal jurisdiction over the situation in Palestine, you have so far failed to take concrete action to stop the tragic trajectory of events in our region by holding Israel accountable.”
Khan said that “we need the law more than ever. Not the law in abstract terms, not the law as a theory for academicians, lawyers and judges. But we need to see justice in action. People need to see that the law has an impact on their lives. And this law, this justice, must be focused on the most vulnerable. It should be almost tangible. It is something they should be able to cling on to. It is something that they should be able to embrace when they are faced with so much loss, pain, and suffering.”
The prosecutor spoke about both the Hamas-led attack on Israel, including hostage-taking, and the Israeli war on Gaza, where civilians have been cut off from essentials like food, water, electricity, and medicine. He also highlighted an online portal to which anyone can submit information on alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and crimes of aggression.
Khan asked civil society organizations “to send us any and all evidence that underpins their reports or their communiques or their notices that they issue,” stressing that “reports by themselves are, of course, not evidence and I cannot and will not act pursuant to my oath of office without reliable evidence that we can validate that can stand up in a court of law.”
“I also want to be clear that my office is in the business of conducting credible, relevant, professional, and independent criminal investigations,” he said. “And so I don’t, I haven’t, and I won’t be giving a running commentary on social media, or anywhere else for that matter, regarding the state of investigations in this or any other situation. But the absence of commentary does not mean the absence of investigations.”
(Editor’s note: Public opinion in Israel is seriously split, as indicated by the announcement of another group, calling itself “Doctors for the Rights of Israeli Soldiers” that called for the bombing of Gaza Strip’s largest hospital, claiming that Hamas fighters were using the civilian facility as a base. This was condemned by doctors working in Gaza.)