International indictment of Israel is also a rebuke for the US

International indictment of Israel is also a rebuke for the US

Israeli strikes on a Rafah refugee camp on Sunday killed more than 30, all civilians, and injured many others (File/AFP)
Israeli strikes on a Rafah refugee camp on Sunday killed more than 30, all civilians, and injured many others (File/AFP)
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Horrifying images of decapitated babies, charred bodies, and burnt tents in an Israeli-designated “safe area” where thousands of distressed Palestinians in Gaza were forced to flee a few weeks ago have drawn condemnation from all parts of the globe. The raid by Israeli fighter jets on a Rafah refugee camp on Sunday killed more than 30, all civilians, and injured many others. This was one more war crime committed by Israel since it unleashed its military on the enclave to kill as many of the population as possible — extermination, in the words of the International Criminal Court prosecutor — and level the 365 sq. km strip, home to more than 2 million people.

The list of crimes and atrocities committed by Israel in the past eight months is long and shocking. But while Israel is now being condemned by most European countries, days after the International Court of Justice ordered it to halt its Rafah offensive and avoid harming civilians, and following the ICC’s intent to issue arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, on charges of war crimes and others, one government in particular has chosen to either ignore the carnage, or disguise its position on the genocidal war through empty rhetoric, denial, and obfuscation. That is the Biden administration, which has the power to stop the slaughter.

The ICJ and the ICC have come under shameful attack and intimidation by neocons and pro-Israel US lawmakers. Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, said he wants to pass legislation to sanction ICC officials. He had slammed the court’s request for arrest warrants, writing in a statement that its “baseless and illegitimate decision should face global condemnation.” He added: “International bureaucrats cannot be allowed to use ‘lawfare’ to usurp the authority of democratic nations that maintain the rule of law.”

There is a marked departure in policy position between the US and its Western allies

Osama Al-Sharif

President Joe Biden described the ICC’s move as “outrageous.” At the same time, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that he would like to work with Congress to take action against the ICC following its move on arrest warrants.

In a show of disdain for the ICC, Johnson confirmed he was moving ahead with an invitation to Netanyahu to address Congress. US lawmakers have warned that if the UN recognizes Palestine as a state, Washington will defund the international body.

The hysteria regarding the highest world court, the ICJ, as well as the ICC, even considering a genocide case and other serious charges against Israel and its leaders has been evident for months. Last week, hawkish Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a fervent supporter of Israel, condemned the ICC and said it can “go to hell” for moving against Netanyahu. Another pro-Israel senator, Republican Tom Cotton, was one of several lawmakers who signed a letter warning ICC prosecutor Karim Khan days before he made his historic decision. The letter said that if you target Israel, we will target you.

Only Israeli politicians, including the opposition, have taken similar hostile positions against the symbols of international law, especially the UN, ICJ, and ICC.

When the truth about Israel’s war on Gaza began reaching the rest of the world, most Western governments started reversing their initial position of supporting Israel’s right to defend itself at any cost. France, Belgium, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, and others now condemn the atrocities and demand an immediate ceasefire. The UK Conservative government has refused to stop arms sales to Israel and grudgingly demanded a ceasefire despite a significant shift in public opinion against Israel. Canada, too, has suspended arms sales to Israel, while Germany now says that it will arrest Netanyahu if a warrant is issued.

US lawmakers have also attacked Spain, Ireland, and Norway for announcing their intention to recognize the state of Palestine. There is a marked departure in policy position between the US and its Western allies over Israel’s war on Gaza, the need for accountability, and delivering delayed justice for the Palestinians.

If and when the ICC issues arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Gallant, the rift across the North Atlantic will become deeper and almost impossible to bridge, especially if Donald Trump wins a second term in November. What is at stake now is the survival of a rules-based international order that Israel is violating and attacking.

Biden should look beyond his reelection bid and do the right thing, no matter what

Osama Al-Sharif

The Biden administration cannot afford to sit on the fence while Netanyahu and his extremist partners continue with their genocidal war in Gaza and the West Bank. Biden’s red line on Rafah has been crossed many times over the past three weeks in defiance of the US president.

In reality, the indictments issued by the ICJ and the ICC are also indirect rebukes for the US, which has enabled and justified this criminal onslaught and the slaughter in Gaza. By challenging the international order, the one that the US prides itself on sponsoring for the past three decades, Washington and the hysterical war-mongering lawmakers are pushing a radical, domineering, and eventually isolationist agenda that is a harbinger of a new global order, or chaos.

By tying itself to the criminal, genocidal, apartheid regime that is Israel today, the US risks losing its standing on the world stage. Gaza has exposed many faults in the current order, one that is blind to the most horrific tragedies of our time. Israel has already blemished itself in a way that cannot be erased. It has to look itself in the mirror and decide how far it can survive, having taken a route pushed by extremists and bigots.

However, for the US, the challenge is much more significant. It now faces an unprecedented internal struggle as the chasm between the political elite and its citizens widens. The war on Gaza has fractured America’s image of itself, a false one to begin with: that of a city on a hill, a righteous and benevolent one. Now, it is an accessory to genocide, and its weapons and political backing are responsible for the Rafah massacre and the score of others that Israel has committed in the past few months.

America’s lack of strong leadership has been visible for years. Its political system is corrupt and dysfunctional, flawed by black money, political action committees, and super-PACs. However, correcting such flaws is the business of the American people. Meanwhile, the world needs to move on, hoping that America’s decline can be overridden through collective adjustment by responsible states.

Biden should look beyond his reelection bid and do the right thing, no matter what, for the sake of American global leadership, and reining in a rogue Israel that is committing murder and putting the entire rules-based order on a tipping point.

  • Osama Al-Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman. X: @plato010
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