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For the mere act of submitting documents to the International Criminal Court detailing Israel’s ongoing human rights violations and history of war crimes on Thursday, the Palestinian Authority is now facing a barrage of threats and rebukes from U.S. lawmakers and the White House.
The warnings followed the PA Foreign Ministry’s submission of documents to the ICC in the Hague on Thursday which provided prosecutors with information regarding Israel’s policies relating to last summer’s seven-week military assault on Gaza, the existence of illegal settlements, and continued mass detention of Palestinians living under occupation.
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“The United States has made it clear that we oppose actions against Israel at the ICC as counterproductive,” White House National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey said in response to the filing.
A handful of congressional representatives have already threatened to withhold $400 million in aid for the West Bank.
“By formally submitting allegations against Israeli forces to the ICC Chief Prosecutor, President [Mahmoud] Abbas has triggered a provision in U.S. law that suspends all economic assistance to the PA,” said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee in a statement.
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While the documents themselves have not been publicly disclosed, Palestinian diplomats and human rights groups discussed their contents with reporters.
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has already launched an initial probe into Israeli war crimes and is weighing whether to launch a more serious investigation. Because Palestine is now officially a member of the ICC, even if Bensouda’s investigation does not bear fruit, Palestinians officials maintain they can still issue their own complaint.
“The challenge is that these are long and drawn out processes that may not result in an outcome for five, ten, or 20 years,” Yousef Munayyer, executive director for the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, told Common Dreams. “It’s very important that Palestinians are looking at different venues through which they can advance their rights.”
That, in fact, is just what Palestinian civil society and social movement organizations are doing through multiple, ongoing efforts to win self-determination, from protest movements throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem to the global call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel.
Meanwhile, the human rights crisis in Palestine continues to escalate amid growing international condemnation of Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies, including from the United Nations.
However, Israel has historically dodged accountability for human rights violations, thanks in large part to backing from world powers, including the United States.
Amid this climate, the small act of seeking redress from the ICC could result in severe repercussions. When the Palestinian Authority applied to join the court earlier this year, Israel swiftly punished them by seizing and withholding millions of dollars in tax transfers.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed earlier this year, “We will not let [Israeli army] soldiers and officers to be dragged to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.”
But as Washington Post reporter William Booth points out, “If Israel were ever prosecuted by the court, the defendant would not be a conscript but a top Israeli commander or Netanyahu himself.”
It is not clear at this point if Netanyahu will, in fact, ever see charges under this global body.
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