Israeli patriots and justice seekers should look to the Hague with hope

Gideon Levy 22/12/2019
Now it’s a double header. In a combination of events, not entirely coincidental, Israel and its prime minister are both accused of crimes, and both are trying to evade justice in the same way: by hobbling the justice system in each case. The suspicions regarding the state’s crimes are much more serious than those of its prime minister, and therefore the state’s evasion of justice is much more nefarious.

The Israelis, almost all of them, think differently, of course. For them, the greater corruption is that of the prime minister; in their consciousness, that of the state doesn’t exist. No one told them about the crimes that are committed every day. They have only been told that their army is the most moral in the world and they have swallowed this, hook, line and sinker. In Israel anyone who dares call a crime a crime is an anti-Semite. Now the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Fatou Bensouda, says there is reason to believe that Israel has committed war crimes. Perhaps anti-Semitism has spread to her home country of Gambia as well. But Chief Prosecutor Bensouda is cautious in her statements; she is too cautious.
This is the day we’ve been waiting for. All seekers of justice have been waiting for it. Anyone who believes that crimes have been committed hopes for the day when the perpetrators will be brought to justice, whether they be murderers, rapists, robbers or army commanders, ministers or settlers responsible for war crimes. The likelihood of Israel investigating itself is not slim; it’s nonexistent. And so we look to The Hague, to the place where war criminals are judged when their countries would not dream of prosecuting them.
Israel is a clear example of such a country. Does anyone seriously think that war crimes were not committed during the 2014 war in the Gaza Strip? Not even on Black Friday in Rafah? That the transfer of hundreds of thousands of civilians to occupied territories and the forced takeover of land there, including privately-owned land, is not a bold-faced and callous infraction of international law? Is there any fair legal official who sees hundreds of unarmed demonstrators killed near the fence that imprisons Gaza, a war crime in itself, and does not want to see those responsible punished?
This is a great day because it is not only a question of past crimes, but crimes that are happening every day, to this very day. They are going on while these lines are being written and while you are reading them. There is not one moment without a crime. The only way to stop them is by criminalizing those responsible. Israel will never do this itself, only The Hague. When ministers and officers fear leaving the country, the Air Force will think twice before bombarding tin shacks in Gaza and massacring their inhabitants.
The road is still long and the terror Israel casts on the international community is still great. But one achievement has already been chalked up: Israel did not deny the crimes, but rather the authority of the court to judge them. This misstep of Israeli propaganda will be corrected, but the claim that The Hague does not have the authority to deal with what is happening in the areas Israel occupies raises a powerful question: So who does? The Military Advocate General? The High Court of Justice? Surely you jest. “A black day for truth and justice,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on a day that is incomparably glorious in its promise of truth and justice. “Capitulation to the false and defamatory propaganda of Palestinian terror,” Kahol Lavan lawmaker Yair Lapid pontificated, once again proving that on the important issues, there really is no difference between him and Netanyahu.
Israel has done everything to reach The Hague. That’s what happens when the prosecution is a cemetery for war crimes, the High Court whitewashes them and the media hides them and covers for them. That’s the way it is when international law is disparaged for decades. There’s probably no other country that thumbs its nose at international law this way and pays no price for it. Perhaps now the moment of truth is approaching, the moment of penalty. It will be very good for Israel. It might clean out its stables, stained with blood and stolen land. Every Israeli patriot and seeker of justice should now look to The Hague with hope.