Jewish Organizations Slam ICC Decision to Open War Crimes Investigation Against Israel

NGO Monitor's legal adviser calls the ruling a “legal travesty”; Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations rejects the court’s claim of jurisdiction.
February 8, 2021
International Criminal Court, The Hague, Netherlands. Source: United Nations.

Jewish groups and legal experts are directing harsh criticism at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague over its ruling on Friday that it has jurisdiction to investigate Israel for war crimes.

A three-judge panel ruled that Judea and Samaria, the Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem are within its jurisdiction, as “Palestine [is] a State party to the ICC Rome Statute.” The 2-1 decision cleared the way for ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to open a war-crimes probe into Israel Defense Forces actions.

Israeli Prime Minister on Saturday called the ruling “pure anti-Semitism,” and the U.S. State Department issued a statement opposing the ruling.

NGO Monitor, together with three other groups, have jointly filed an amicus brief with the ICC that lays out the legal and factual flaws behind the argument that the ICC has jurisdiction to investigate Israel.

According to NGO Monitor’s legal adviser Anne Herzberg, the court’s ruling is “hardly surprising.”

“The ICC prosecutor has been gunning for Israel for several years, and has been working closely with European-funded terror-linked NGOs to craft bogus indictments against Israeli officials,” she told JNS. “The fact that Palestine is not a state, that the Oslo accords expressly prevent the court from asserting jurisdiction and that the prosecutor made up a fake rule to go after the Jewish state, were ignored. And the judges have repeatedly flouted the ICC’s own procedures to try and manufacture a case against Israel,” she added.

“NGO Monitor has found that many of these radical groups benefit from European governmental financial support,” said Herzberg. “In other words, anti-Israel animus and political machinations are more important to the court than preserving its credibility. European donors of the terror-tied NGOs and the court share responsibility for this legal travesty.”

Former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon, who currently serves as chairman of the World Likud, also had harsh words for the ICC chief prosecutor.

“If anyone should take the stand, it should be ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda,” said Danon, adding that the ICC has “once again chosen to demonize and persecute Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East,” he said in a statement on Saturday.

Danon further stated that “this hypocritical and anti-Semitic ruling” by Bensouda “focuses on Israel while ignoring countries who carry out horrific human rights abuses every single day. This lack of accountability is a misuse of the ICC’s power and position, a perversion of justice, and much worse, enables the real and sickening exploitation to continue. The decision has broadcast the ICC’s true colors to the international community.”

‘Distortion of international law’

Professor Eugene Kontorovich, Director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, agreed that the ICC has no jurisdiction in this case, calling the ruling “lawless.”

“The ICC’s acceptance of jurisdiction to investigate a non-member state on behalf of a member that is not a state, and its conclusion about jurisdiction, are lawless and entirely results-oriented,” he told JNS. “The ICC has treated Israel by a standard it has applied to no other nation. It makes a mockery of the Oslo Accords and shows Israel that it gains nothing from concessions, while the Palestinians face no consequences from unilateral action.”

Kontorovich noted that the Biden State Department recently asked that neither side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict take action to change the status quo at this time. “Now the P.A. [Palestinian Authority] is seeking to establish borders via the ICC, rather than negotiations. One wonders how Washington will react to this,” said Kontorovich.

Representatives of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations also rejected the claim that the ICC has jurisdiction in the case, charging that the court was “politically and ideologically motivated” since its own founding statutes “limit its involvement to disputes between sovereign states only.”

In a statement issued on Sunday and signed by its executive team, the Jewish umbrella group called the ruling a “distortion of international law” and said that the court’s ruling “undermines its own legitimacy as an unbiased judicial forum.”

The group said they appreciated the U.S. State Department’s statement regarding the ruling.

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