Israeli leaders must know they can go to prison

On Saturday I appeared on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story to discuss the decision by the International Criminal Court prosecutor to open an investigation into alleged war crimes in Palestine.

Does this mean Palestinians can finally expect justice?

The other guests were international lawyer Toby Cadman and Robbie Sabel, a former legal adviser to the Israeli government.

Watch the video above.

After a five-year preliminary investigation, Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor, announced Friday that there is “a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.”

But she said she won’t start the investigation – which could lead to indictments and arrest warrants for Israeli leaders – until court judges decide on the extent of the territory over which the court has jurisdiction.

Cadman stressed that Bensouda has said she has jurisdiction and does not need further permission to open an investigation. Rather, she is seeking to clarify how far that jurisdiction goes.

I emphasized that the heart of the matter is justice for Palestinians like Zakiya Maadi. She lost her son Bassam, her daughter-in-law Iman, and her young granddaughters Hala and Jana, when Israel bombed their home in Gaza on 1 August 2014.

That was Black Friday, when Israel launched massive indiscriminate shelling of Rafah using warplanes and thousands of highly inaccurate artillery shells.

The family also lost two more members, including Yousef, Zakiya’s toddler grandson.

The Maadi family, I noted, is just one of almost 150 families who lost three or more members during the Israeli attack that summer.

In total, Israel killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 551 children, over 51 days – an average of 11 children per day.

Yet the 2014 attack on Gaza is just one aspect of an investigation that will include Israel’s crimes across the occupied West Bank, including its construction of settlements.

The court may also investigate alleged crimes by Palestinian resistance groups, such as the firing of rockets from Gaza.

I argued that Palestinian groups are responding to and resisting the assaults of an occupying power armed by the United States and the European Union, and that actions by Palestinians are unlikely to rise to a level of gravity that should concern the court.

I also noted that the vast majority of the thousands of Palestinians killed and injured in Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza were civilians. By contrast, the vast majority of Israelis killed – 67 out of 73 – were soldiers.

Sabel offered Israeli government talking points in an effort to wriggle out of any international accountability – including the claim that West Bank land Israel has occupied and seized for colonial settlement are “not under the jurisdiction” of Palestinians.

Cadman dismissed Sabel’s claim that Gaza is no longer under Israeli occupation as a “ludicrous argument.”

I noted that an ICC investigation and prosecutions are important not just to account for past crimes, but because Israel’s crimes are ongoing and future crimes must be deterred.

Israeli politicians, civil servants, generals and soldiers should have to think twice before they participate in these crimes, knowing that by doing so there is a very real chance they could end up in a prison cell in The Hague.




He was a victim of criminals, there was NO justice. Zionist colonizers of Palestine must be judged by real court, not by the crooked tool of USA imperialism.
I am not saying that Slobodan Milošević was a saint, but his "trial" was a farce.


Indeed it was a farce. Unfortunately for him he was Serbian and not from a super power like Israel or usa


It's precisely institutions like the ICC which are under threat from Trump, Johnson and the Right in general. International law and the power to enforce it is a problem for those who believe in the unfettered rights of money. They may be blinded by their own propaganda of making their countries great again or taking back control but what lurks just beneath the surface of these ideologies (remember ideology serves a masking function) is the desire for nothing to get in the way of money. We have just been through an election campaign during which a BBC journalist became agitated at a Labour MPs assertion that he would like to see a Britain without billionaires. In the journalists view, becoming a billionaire was a fine aspiration. Nothing could express more clearly the hegemony of money. To aspire to be a billionaire is to put the cart before the horse: by what means? Gangsterism? Drug dealing? If the blank desire for money is an aspiration, a hierarchy of values has collapsed. As Adam Smith pointed out, the pursuit of individual wealth is a delusion. It's the prosperity of communities which matters. Shared wealth is compatible with equality. Individual wealth is its enemy, and equality is the basis of democracy. We should never forget the material basis of Israel's oppression of the Palestinians. That god gave the land to Abraham is ideology. It masks the real desire for land and wealth, the real bases of power. The law is a compromised tool in the fight for justice. As Anatole France remarked: "The law in its majestic equality forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges and beg in the streets." But some measure of equity is better than none and it is none the rich crave. In thrall to alienated human capacities, which is what money is, the rich want the right to impose dehumanisation wherever it serves their advantage. International law gets in their way. Which is why we should vigorously defend it.


i think that this is a positive development for 2 reasons.
1. if any israelis are arrested, israel will be forced to "arrest" (ie kidnap) members of the ICC in order to gain the freedom of their people. once that happens, the ICC will be cut down to it's natural size. if the US supports them (no reason to assume that it won't), israel can get away with such an arrest.
2. i think this will help shift politics in israel to the right, as the soft left (netanyahu and his crowd) that have been undercutting israel's interests in order to placate "international opinion" will be shown to have failed. there is no concession that israel can offer the haters that will satisfy them, so it is better if israel just acts in it's own interests.


the usual twisted logic that helps Israeli Zionists continue to dig themselves in deeper and deeper...


And there it is.
The perpetrators crying the victim, as ever. Always "forced" against their better kindly nature to be ever more violent and aggressive should their manifestly malign crimes and everyday behavior be called to account.
This zionist hubris is going to be a real problem for all, particularly the Zionist criminals.
When they finally have to face real justice, the Israeli Justice System being a bigger farce than the US Supreme Court of today, they will not know which way to turn.
It may be a while away yet but that day will come.


Israel is and does everything it falsely and hypocritically accuses its past, present and future victims of being or doing. The claim that Gazan rockets justify what Israel does is a violation of causality - because Gazans and Palestinians are only in their desperate condition because of 70 years of Israel ethnic-cleansing, abuse, humiliation, torture, land-theft, murder and mass-murder. AND, a careful study of the use of rockets by Gazans shows that, 96% of the time, at minimum, it is the Israelis who broke ceasefires with deadly force BEFORE.... Gazans fired a rocket or rockets WHICH, unlike the munitions Israel uses, lack any warheads of guidance systems. Gazans rockets can only be aimed in a general direction, whereas Israel actually boasts of the accuracy with which it destroyed 18,000 dwellings in Gaza, ONE AT A TIME with precision-guided missiles and 1000lb bombs that leave 100' diameter craters 30' deep!

It is abominable lies for Israel to use Palestinians reactions to Israel crimes as justification for those crimes.


...and the PA. Do they know they can go to prison as well?


They're in prison now. What do you think the Occupation is?