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Israel & Christians Today: Weekly Update (March 22)

Andrew Tucker - 22 March 2019

In this week’s update we focus on the increasing isolation of Israel in the international political arena, including the possibility of criminal prosecution of Israeli leaders for war crimes.

International pressure is mounting against Israel in the United Nations and other international institutions. These past couple of weeks have seen some important developments.

International law – especially human rights law – is the instrument used to attack the legitimacy of Israel and the Jewish people.

Of course it is justified to criticise Israel for infringing international law. Israel no doubt infringes international law sometimes and in some situations. All states do. But the obsessive attention to Israel and the biased application of law to Israel crosses the border from legitimate criticism to illegitimate attack on the sovereign equality of the state of Israel.

It is little different from the use of the legal system in Nazi Germany to first differentiate, then delegitimize, physically separate, and ultimately destroy the Jewish people.

At the risk of being alarmist, it seems to me that the combined effect of all of these initiatives to narrow the borders of Israel, require Jews to be removed from Arab land, and deny the right of the Jewish State to self-defence are akin to the way the Nazi’s forced the Jews into ghetto’s in Poland in the late 1930’s. We all know the results of that policy.

It is important to be aware of these developments, to take action to resist them, and (most importantly) to pray that the eyes of our political leaders will be opened to the significance of their actions.


UN Human Rights Council

On Monday 18th March 2019 the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) published a series of reports condemning Israel for war crimes. One report related to the use of force by Israeli security forces in confronting the March of Return at the Gaza the border in early 2018. This can be accessed here.

Another concerned the (allegedly ongoing) breaches of the law of belligerent occupation in the “occupied territories”.

A summary of the debate and the reports can be accessed here.

Inevitably the reports make little or no mention of the complex situation within which Israel must operate, the blatant breaches of international law by those using and advocating terrorism to kill Jews, nor the underlying claims of Israel and the Jewish people to territorial sovereignty.

See this excellent analysis of the Gaza border report by Alan Baker of JCPA.

Jerusalem 

The State of Palestine has brought proceedings in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the United States of America. “Palestine” claims that the United States Embassy’s move of its Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem contravenes the terms of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Their argument is basically that an embassy must be “in” the host state, and Jerusalem is not “in Israel”.

The case raises two legal questions:
1. Is Palestine a state?
2. Is Jerusalem part of the State of Israel?

Both are fundamental issues and it will be very interesting to see if the court decides to determine these issues, and if so it’s decision. The parties are required to submit their case on the first issue in the course of 2018, and a decision on the question whether Palestine is a state can be expected in 2020.

See this initial analysis by Prof Marko Milanovic, Professor of Public International Law at Nottingham University.

“Settlements”

The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has published her report on 2018. She has indicated that she is completing her preliminary examination of possible war crimes by Israel.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) was established in 2002 in order to prosecute individuals for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In a way it is a global manifestation of the Nuremberg trials against Nazi war criminals after World War II. Like the USA and several other states, Israel has never signed the Rome Statute which established the ICC, and is thus not bound by the ICC. Nevertheless, Israeli leaders can be charged for war crimes committed on the territory of a state that is a party to the ICC Statute.

In 2015 the “Government of the State of Palestine” purported to accede to the ICC statute, and lodged a declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the ICC over alleged crimes committed in “Palestinian” territory. Since then, the Prosecutor of the ICC Fatou Bensouda has been undertaking a “preliminary examination” of whether to open investigations against Israel for crimes committed on “Palestinian” territory. The Prosecutor’s approach is disturbing for many reasons. One is that the Prosecutor is adopting a wide definition of statehood that seems to go beyond the intention of the ICC Statute. Under international law, a state only exists when it manifests the legal characteristics of statehood, the most important being that it must have an effective governing authority that actually governs a specific territory. “Palestine” hardly fits that definition, because the Palestinians themselves argue that their territory is controlled by Israel.

The Prosecutor is examining two issues. The first concerns the question whether Israel committed war crimes in the course of the 2014 Gaza hostilities (Operation Protective Edge). The second concerns the question whether Israeli “settlements” and other activities in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity within the meaning of the Rome Statute.

The latter claim is based on the view that (a) East Jerusalem and the “West Bank” constitute occupied territory under international law, and (b) Israel has “deported or transferred” its population into those territories since 1967. Both those views are highly controversial and problematic. Notwithstanding the fact that there are many other allegedly “occupied” territories in the world, and blatant cases of population transfer (eg. Turkey in Northern Cyprus and Russia in Eastern Ukraine) no other leaders have been prosecuted for transferring their population into occupied territories. This is a clear case of singling out Israel for special treatment. It is not yet clear whether the Prosecutor will open an investigation into these issues, or – if she decides to do so – when this will happen.

Here is the ICC report on Palestine.

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Andrew Tucker is International Editor of our bi-monthly newspaper Israel & Christians Today. The goal of Israel & Christians Today is to help Christians to take God’s Word seriously, and study current events in the world in the context of the Bible. Click here to subscribe.

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