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ICC war crimes probe in Palestine angers US and Israel

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Fatou Bensouda, 3 March, 2021. (ICC)

The ICC probe into war crimes committed by the United States and Israel in Palestine, headed by chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, has concluded war crimes were committed by Israel, the US and their allies.

In December 2019 Bensouda announced that such crimes have been, or were being committed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. She named the Israeli military, which has for years unleashed a reign of terror on Palestinians, as a perpetrator of war crimes.

The ICC prosecutor further noted that there was a reasonable basis to launch a probe into Israeli military actions in the besieged Gaza Strip, as well as illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Bensouda then asked the judges to rule on the extent of the court's jurisdiction in the case. And the court last month established that it had jurisdiction.

The announcement was not received well by Washington and Tel Aviv.

The US Vice President, Kamala Harris, told Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in a phone call that the US opposes any such probe as the court has no jurisdiction over the matter.

The phone call followed a statement by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Washington firmly opposes, and is deeply disappointed, by the decision.

If the state is very certain and very secure that the Israeli regime ...these occupiers have not committed war crimes. So, why not give a chance to the investigators, the bipartisan group, that will be coming in, that is not biased? And they will be investigating, all the cases that they have in their files in their system. And to prove that they're innocent, right and then at that point, we don't have this issue as a problem, coming up and arising again.

Firas al-Najim, Canadian Defenders for Human Rights, Ottawa

US and Israeli bullying and intimidation of ICC

The US and Israel have repeatedly shown their opposition to being held accountable for their actions over the years.

The ICC, which has often sought to expose war crimes committed by the Israeli regime and the US around the world, has faced bullying and intimidation from both Tel Aviv and Washington.

The Trump administration imposed sanctions on The Hague based tribunals staff last year, targeting them with asset freezes and travel bans, accusing them of violating US national sovereignty by launching a probe into war crimes committed by US troops in Afghanistan.

The Biden administration took no immediate action to reverse the move, despite promising to put overruling Trump's damaging measures at the top of the agenda.

The new US administration did announce it would rejoin the United Nations Human Rights Council, which its predecessor withdrew from in 2018, citing an anti Israeli bias, but it said upon re engaging with the UN body it would press to eliminate a disproportionate focus on its Israeli ally.

I mean, this shows essentially from the beginning that they’re not going there really for human rights, they’re going there to secure and support Israel and to bury their war crimes and to get people away from holding the Israeli regime accountable. I mean, why is there all these resolutions in the first place against Israel? Obviously because there are continuous developments, there are continuous war crimes, there is continuous bombardment, there are continuous blockades and there is continuous crime.

Firas al-Najim, Canadian Defenders for Human Rights, Ottawa

America is back

We will be back. And I'm a man of my word. America's back. I speak today as President of the United States, at the very start of my administration, and I'm sending a clear message to the world. America is back.

US President, Joe Biden

Joe Biden has repeated this sentence multiple times since becoming president, taking a veiled sideswipe at his predecessor’s isolationist foreign policy, and promising a return to multilateralism in a bid to win over estranged US allies, and revive the frosty transatlantic relations.

While European partners of Washington have largely expressed support for the Biden administration, divisions between them still persist.

In the latest example an EU spokesperson said the block supports the ICC as an independent and impartial judicial institution with no political objectives to pursue. Peter Stata was responding to a request for comment on Neythanyahu's recent diatribe against the court, who had blasted the war crime probe as "the essence of anti-Semitism".

 President Biden says he will bring back what he calls America's moral leadership in the world. The question which comes to mind is how the US can advocate such leadership while it continues to penalize those who work to expose crimes instead of the true culprits?

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