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US calls ICC decision to investigate Gaza "tragic irony"

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Reprinted from Mondoweiss

Fatou Bensouda
(image by ICC file photo)

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court yesterday opened a "preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine," with the possibility of a full-blown investigation of Israeli war crimes during last summer's Gaza onslaught; and the US is standing steadfastly behind Israel.

The New York Times says Israelis have responded in fury to the announcement by prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

"Israel's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman... said Israel would seek to disband the court, which he described as an anti-Israel institution that 'embodies hypocrisy and grants a tailwind to terrorism.'

"... the investigation, infused with internationally recognized legality and credibility, was one that the Israelis had sought to prevent. 'It's like she turned the key in the ignition of the judicial vehicle,' Richard Dicker, director of the international justice program at Human Rights Watch, said of Ms. Bensouda."

The U.S. government deplored the decision as a "tragic irony" in a statement last night. Palestine is not a state and Israel should not be investigated because it has a right to defend itself from thousands of rockets, the State Department's Jeff Rathke said:

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"We strongly disagree with the ICC Prosecutor's action today. As we have said repeatedly, we do not believe that Palestine is a state and therefore we do not believe that it is eligible to join the ICC. It is a tragic irony that Israel, which has withstood thousands of terrorist rockets fired at its civilians and its neighborhoods, is now being scrutinized by the ICC. The place to resolve the differences between the parties is through direct negotiations, not unilateral actions by either side. We will continue to oppose actions against Israel at the ICC as counterproductive to the cause of peace."

Writes Jamil Dakwar:

"How in the world seeking int'l justice & accountability for war crimes is 'counterproductive to the cause of peace.'"

The ICC says that Palestine has standing at the ICC since its accession to the Rome Statute at the beginning of the year:

"The Office considers that, since Palestine was granted observer State status in the UN by the UNGA, it must be considered a 'State' for the purposes of accession to the Rome Statute (in accordance with the 'all States' formula)."

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Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu released a statement on the Sabbath, linking Palestinian attacks on Israel with the Paris massacre of Jews last week. He also mentioned the thousands of rockets and suggested that Israel will seek to delegitimize the ICC itself.

"It is an outrage that, mere days after terrorists massacred Jews in France, the general prosecutor launches an inquiry into the Jewish State -- because we are defending our people from Hamas, a terror organization that is allied with the Palestinian Authority and whose war criminals fired thousands of missiles on Israeli citizens...

"Israel categorically rejects the statement by the ICC prosecutor. The Palestinian Authority is not a state and therefore there is no place, also according to the ICC's own regulations, for such a probe. The absurdity of the decision is even greater since the PA is cooperating with Hamas, a terrorist organization that commits war crimes. Israel is fighting terrorism while upholding international law and has an independent judiciary.

"The decision by the ICC is a complete reversal of the original objectives that were at the basis of the founding of the ICC, which was founded following the mass killing of six million Jews by the Nazis.

"Now, there are those who wish to use this court against the Jewish state, which is defending itself from murderous terror that attacks Israel as well as the entire world."

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Philip Weiss is a longtime writer and journalist in New York. He co-edits a website on Israel/Palestine,, which he founded in order to foster the movement for greater fairness and justice for Palestinians in American foreign policy. He is currently working on a novel about the US in Australia during WW2.

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