A letter from Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director
B'Tselem: The Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
Naturally, we are all worried about the COVID-19 crisis and its ramifications. I wish each and every one of us good health – in Israel, in the Occupied Territories and throughout the world.
The virus may change realities on a global scale, but locally some things don’t change. Netanyahu’s government is continuing its fight against the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction to investigate the situation in Palestine.
Having previously compared possible ICC action to anti-Semitic decrees and called for sanctions against “the ICC, its officials, prosecutors, everyone”, several days ago Netanyahu sent a delegation to Washington DC to form a joint battle plan against the court together with the Trump administration.
We, at B’Tselem, think otherwise: that clearly, the fight must not be against the ICC, but against the crimes it is authorized to investigate.
That is why we are issuing today a position paper that refutes a memorandum by Israel’s Attorney General, in which he supports everything the ICC is not meant to be in order to stop it from doing what it is meant to do.
The AG issued his memorandum several hours before the ICC Prosecutor announced she had found reasonable cause to launch an investigation. As his opinion represents the government, the memorandum constitutes Israel’s official legal position on the matter. That is why it is important to expose the absurdity of the AG’s claims, which are based on intentional misquotation, disregard for international law and an extreme misrepresentation of reality. Learn more by reading our paper.
The ICC is currently focusing on the question of jurisdiction. Yet, as the government’s far-reaching measures already indicate, Israel’s objection is driven not by theoretical interest in such questions but by a fundamental disagreement with the values the court is supposed to protect – the very same values Israel seeks to continue trampling underfoot while enjoying full immunity for its actions in the Occupied Territories.
If no one is ever held accountable, nothing will change. That is exactly what Israel’s government is seeking. Yet if the ICC rules it has jurisdiction in Palestine, then it will launch an investigation – and Israel may finally have to start considering the price for its crimes against the Palestinians. We hope the court will make the right decision to back the Prosecutor’s position and rule: there is jurisdiction, and there will be an investigation.