Perspectives-Winter 2022-1

Last May, more than 180 Israeli scientists and intellectuals wrote a letter to the International Crime Court (ICC) urging it not to accept the state’s rejection of war crimes investigation in Palestinian territories. Israel told the International Crime Court that it had no jurisdiction to probe Israeli war crimes. In their plea to Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, Israel’s top voices spoke about the state’s refusal to cooperate with the court’s probe into violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. WHAT IS A WAR CRIME? To this day, “war crime” can seem like an ever-evolving, nebulous phrase. In 1942, Hersch Lauterpacht, a leading international lawyer who helped prosecute the Nazis for war crimes at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremburg, Germany, wrote a memo in which he asked, “Is there a definition of war crime?” REASONABLE BASIS TO BELIEVE ISRAELI CRIMES HAVE BEEN COMMITTED Bensouda announced that there was not only reasonable basis to believe that Israeli war crimes were being committed in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, but that potential cases would be admissible. There was no reason to believe the findings would not serve the interests of justice. But, justice for whom, exactly? These days, justice is as malleable as the ever-changing borders between Israel and the Occupied Territories. It’s definition – like the studded map of Israel and its diaspora – continually changes. WILLFUL KILLING OF PALESTINIAN CITIZENS The ICC found that there was reasonable basis to believe that in the context of the 2014 hostilities in Gaza, members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) committed war crimes. These violations included willful killing and willfully causing serious injury to body or health and intentionally directing an attack against objects or persons using the distinctive emblems of the Geneva conventions. The ICC also stated there was reasonable basis to believe that members of the Israeli authorities have committed war crimes inter alia, through the transfer of Israeli civilians into the West Bank since the summer of 2014. Prosecution stated investigation would be required into the IDF’s use of lethal and non-lethal weapons against people participating in demonstrations beginning in March 2018 near the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Under article 54(1)(b) of the Statue, the Prosecutor is required to “take appropriate measures to ensure the effective investigation and prosecution of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court. The Prosecutor’s duty is to “establish the truth.” What is the truth? When it comes to the situation in Israel and Palestine – one of Top Israeli Intellectuals Urge Human Rights Groups to Investigate War Crimes. Is Israel Committing Who Can Be Trusted to Tell? War Crimes? 10