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ICC arrest warrants: How the intl. tribunal equates oppressors with oppressed

By Musa Iqbal

It was just last year that a rare event occurred uniting both imperialist parties within the United States: The International Criminal Court (ICC) sought an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

Thrilled American lawmakers, hawkish pundits, liberal and conservative commentators, all hailed the International Criminal Court despite Russia and the US both not being subject to its jurisdiction.

It did not matter for the war profiteers in Washington. For them, the ICC – the Hague-based international tribunal dominated by Western influence that has historically only pursued African leaders - was willing to side with them against one of their primary geopolitical rivals, and thus its legitimacy was upheld, without both parties being signatories to the Rome Statute. 

More than a year later, the same warhawks, who have during this time accumulated millions from war profiteering, are now prepared to slap ICC judges and prosecutors with sanctions and threaten the same legitimacy they hailed just over a year ago. 

On Monday, May 20, ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan announced that he would seek arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and military affairs minister Yoav Gallant for crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip. 

“We submit that the crimes against humanity charged were committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population pursuant to State policy,” he stated.

Listing starvation, intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population, extermination, and “other inhumane acts as crimes against humanity”, the ICC lead prosecutor built a case against the regime.

It came at a time when the illegitimate entity in Tel Aviv is grappling with both internal and external crises, having failed to achieve any of its military objectives in the besieged Palestinian territory.

However, in the same breath, the ICC prosecutor also sought charges for three leaders of the Hamas resistance movement: Yahya Sinwar, Muhammad Deif, and Ismael Haniyeh - equating the oppressor with the oppressed, the genocidal regime with fighters who have the right to defend themselves.

While only two Zionist officials are being sought for arrest, the ICC has put three Palestinians on the list, ironically with the death toll in Gaza climbing to nearly 40,000 and an invasion of Rafah looking imminent.

By issuing arrest warrants for the heroic Al Aqsa Storm Operation on October 7, 2023, the ICC prosecutors are spitting in the face of the right to resist criminal occupation and aggression.

Any follower of the Palestinian cause knows that relying on international organizations is a path to nowhere - as long as American hegemony exists. But that hegemony is declining. And it shows - take note of the American political reaction to the arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Gallant.

Last month, US Congresspeople drafted a letter promising sanctions and other punitive actions if the ICC issues arrest warrants against Israeli regime officials.

Non-governmental organizations that tow the Washington political line also lashed out at the ICC, in order to discredit and delegitimize it. Again, a bulk of these organizations praised the ICC whenever the target of arrests was a Washington-designated target. There is no dearth of hypocrisy in Washington. 

In a statement, US President Joe Biden declared: “Let me be clear, we reject the ICC’s application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders…There is no equivalence between Israel and Hamas.”

Ironically, he is right - just for the wrong reasons. 

Occupation, ethnic cleansing, and genocide are not permitted within international standards and the so-called rule of law. However, resistance to occupation is a human right that is mentioned by name under Protocol I of the Geneva Convention.

Indeed - there is no equivalence between the Israeli occupation and the Gaza-based resistance movement Hamas, or for that matter any other Palestinian resistance faction.

The ICC’s “both sides are wrong” defense is commonly resorted to by Western neoliberals.

Seeking to absolve themselves of blame, the defense here chalks the blame up to Zionist leadership, while condemning the whole of Palestinian resistance.

Many analysts agree that Washington’s exit strategy from the Gaza genocide - the Biden administration cannot afford to continue with it in an election year - will be throwing Netanyahu under the bus, and chalking up the genocide to “bad leadership.”

The shamefulness of this defense goes to show that the institutions that were engineered by the West can only bend so much. The genocide in Gaza, which many have labeled the “live-streamed genocide,” has proved that if an international institution fails to acknowledge Israeli crimes, it will have no legitimacy at all in the eyes of the international public.

However, the imperialist architects of these institutions still wield influence - and they are exercising this influence in order to ensure that they still have the final say - no matter how messy it gets. 

Be that as it may, even imperialist influence cannot stop the global tide that is seemingly drowning the Israeli regime. Though Israel is no longer a signatory to the Rome Statute (which it left almost right after it initially signed it, disagreeing with population transfer as a war crime) - arrest warrants for its two top war criminals, if approved by ICC judges, further solidifies its growing isolation globally.

Although international agencies cannot enter the Israeli occupation and arrest Netanyahu and Gallant, countries that are signatories to the Rome Statute are obliged to bring in criminals with arrest warrants - facing harsh consequences if they fail to do so.

Netanyahu and Gallant would be outcasts globally while simultaneously facing the wrath of Zionist settlers who are protesting weekly due to their failure to destroy Hamas and free Israeli captives.

Despite being the darlings of the West, some countries have expressed readiness to arrest the two Zionist regime officials if the arrest application is approved - including Norway - angering pro-Zionist cheerleaders and lobby groups across the West.

Meanwhile, resistance leaders Sinwar and Deif are in Gaza, fighting alongside the resistance in commanding positions - and Haniyeh is in Qatar, a country that is not a signatory to the Rome Statute.

All three of these esteemed men are not runaway criminals with no home - they are Palestinian, and they only wish to be in Palestine. An arrest warrant, though insulting, is the least of their concerns.

Victory for Palestine will not be won with a pen and a legal document but with resistance.

We see the Palestinian resistance factions are still strong in the face of a genocidal onslaught while the very fabric of the settler-colonial Zionist society is torn apart.

Arrest warrants won’t change much. The reality on the battlefield alone will eventually determine the fate of Palestine and Gaza, and resistance has already prevailed there.

Musa Iqbal is a Boston-based researcher and writer focused on US domestic and foreign policy.

(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)

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