This comes as two Palestinian communities in the West Bank face imminent, total Israeli destruction.
The crimes detailed in the dossier include persecution, apartheid, the extensive theft, destruction and pillage of Palestinian property and evidence of the “wilful killing and murder” of hundreds of Palestinians since 2014.
Shawan Jabarin, director of the human rights group Al-Haq, said the dossier “provides a compelling and reasonable basis” for the prosecutor to open an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by Israel in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
This is the fourth dossier the human rights groups have provided the court. While it focuses on the West Bank, the previous files related to crimes committed by senior Israeli civilian and military officials during the 2014 attack on Gaza.
Death threats and harassment
Jabarin handed the file to the court in The Hague along with colleague Nada Kiswanson.
Kiswanson and other human rights investigators affiliated with Al-Haq have been the targets of a long-running campaign of harassment and death threats that a veteran Israeli analyst has tied to Israeli government “black ops.”
Al-Haq believes the threats are tied to Kiswanson’s work preparing the dossiers for the international court. The government of the Netherlands, where the court is based, has said that a criminal investigation has been opened into the threats.
“Israeli Jewish domination”
According to a statement from Al-Haq, the latest file “addresses Israel’s endeavor to enlarge its territory and ensure Israeli Jewish domination therein by altering the demographic composition of the occupied Palestinian territory.”
Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, said that Israel’s transfer of settlers into occupied Palestinian land “constitutes a unique war crime in that is coupled with the confiscation of massive tracts of Palestinian land, the extensive destruction of Palestinian property and the tearing apart of the Palestinian social fabric and way of life.”
Although Israel’s violations in the occupied West Bank can be looked at separately from those in Gaza, Issam Younis, director of the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, explained how they are linked: “The isolation of Gaza, in addition to the regular, full-scale military assaults, ultimately enables Israel to consolidate its control over the whole occupied Palestinian territory and deny Palestinians their internationally recognized right to self-determination.”
Israel’s conduct during the 2014 Gaza war, as well as allegations of numerous crimes in the West Bank, are currently the subject of a preliminary examination by the Hague prosecutors.
They must decide whether to open a full investigation, which could lead to formal indictments of Israeli officials and military personnel.
There is no time limit on the preliminary examination, and the prosecutors are under constant pressure from Israel and the United States to let Israel off the hook. They have every incentive to sit on their hands.
Last month, two human rights groups concluded that Israel’s own system for investigating alleged crimes against Palestinians by its forces is a sham.
Hundreds of cases, including the notorious killings of four boys playing football on a beach in July 2014, have not resulted in any accountability for the perpetrators.
In May 2016, B’Tselem announced it would no longer cooperate with Israeli military investigations of killings and other attacks on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
“We will no longer aid a system that whitewashes investigations and serves as a fig leaf for the occupation,” the Israeli human rights group’s director explained.
When it comes to crimes like apartheid and settler colonization, Israel would obviously do nothing to investigate and punish itself – since these crimes are planned and executed by the state itself.
But even in situations where Israel recognizes – at least on paper – that a certain act is a crime, there has been zero accountability.
This should be an important factor in the prosecutors’ decisions because according to its founding statute, the International Criminal Court only steps in when national judicial authorities are unwilling or unable to carry out genuine proceedings.
Villages face destruction
Whether the court acts is not just a matter of accounting for the past, but of stopping ongoing crimes.
This month, B’Tselem warned top Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, defense minister Avigdor Lieberman and the military chief of staff, that they would be personally liable for war crimes if they proceed with the apparently imminent destruction of Khan al-Ahmar and Susiya, two communities in the West Bank.
“The demolition of entire communities in the occupied territories is virtually unprecedented since 1967,” B’Tselem said.
Robert Piper, the top UN humanitarian aid official in Palestine, tweeted, “All eyes on the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar at risk of forcible transfers by Israeli authorities over the coming days.”
He inadvertently identified a problem in which the UN plays a major part: the so-called international community stands on the sidelines and just watches as Israel commits crimes daily.
It is obvious that Israel will never bring itself to justice and that it is up to the International Criminal Court to act. It has mountains of evidence in its hands. The question is whether it has the independence and the will to do its job.