Netanyahu Must Be Held To Account By The World

Netanyahu Must Be Held To Account By The World

Although Tel Aviv is not a state party to the 1998 Rome statute that established the ICC, there are precedents of autocrats and dictators from countries which are outside the court’s jurisdiction being tried in The Hague Court

Garimella SubramaniamUpdated: Sunday, November 19, 2023, 09:50 PM IST
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Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu | File

The high-intensity Israeli ground offensive that has all but destroyed the Al-Shifa Hospital, sheltering thousands of severely wounded patients, overstretched doctors and displaced citizens, is the lowest point in Israel’s long campaign of blatant lies, belligerent propaganda, brutality and barbarity. Here, despite the overblown hype about the hospital serving as the Hamas military nerve centre, it could muster only scant evidence of arms stockpiles either on the main premises of the hospital, the largest in Gaza, or the tunnels below. Pitifully few AK-type rifles, ammunition and other paraphernalia is all that they managed to show after all the civilians they killed in the process.

The human price of this charade of a military operation has been enormous. Authorities were forced to attend to critically wounded patients in open corridors, conduct surgeries without anaesthesia, leave pregnant women stranded and remove premature babies from incubators that were cut off from electricity. IDF’s actions were in violation of protocol that forbids raids on hospitals, which are accorded special protection under international humanitarian law. This applies even in cases where warring parties use medical facilities, since patient protection is always paramount. The assault on Al-Shifa is part of a pattern, more or less, behind the over 250 healthcare facilities that have been ravaged, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

But Al-Shifa is only the tip of the iceberg. Exemplifying the IDF’s slaughter of innocent civilians throughout this conflict are the aerial strikes on October 31 in the densely populated Jabaliya refugee camp, north of Gaza city. The largest of eight camps, Jabaliya houses people who were displaced in the 1948 war from what is Israel today. The IDF is reported to have dropped at least two bombs weighing 2,000 pounds each — the second heaviest in its arsenal — on densly populated Jabaliya. Tel Aviv’s impunities are legion: Israel is not even a signatory to a commitment undertaken by over 80 nations — including the US — not to resort to explosive weapons in highly populous areas.

More than 11,000 people have been killed in over a month of Israeli assaults since the Hamas pogrom on October 7, and the numbers keep rising. The WHO estimates five children are killed every hour. Save The Children, the UK-based NGO, says the number of minors killed over the past weeks in Palestine exceeds the total number killed in war zones worldwide since the year 2020. Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General has described the region as “a graveyard for children”. Then, there is this forced evacuation of as many as 1.5 million people from their homes in the north of Gaza. The concomitant misery and trauma from this mass migration, in effect at gunpoint, was further compounded by the horror of Israeli shelling that left several bodies strewn along the roads en route to the south.

It is hardly surprising, then, that those dead in little over a month of the Gaza slaughter has far exceeded those killed in the Russia-Ukraine war that has lasted the past 21 months. There have been 9,806 deaths, including 500 children, in the Ukraine war that appears to have paled into relative insignificance given the Gaza Strip carnage. The statistics, not to mention the Israeli air and ground onslaught, make President Vladimir Putin practically look like a merciful-hearted saint.

By all evidence, Israel’s far-right government has no clear strategy out of this bloody quagmire, except to extract further revenge and retribution for the horrors of October 7. Incidentally, the deaths on that dark Saturday account for the largest number of Israeli lives lost on its soil since 1948. Uncertainty surrounds the reported deal to secure the release of at least 50 women and children out of the more than 200 hostages, including Americans and other nationals, captured by Hamas, in exchange for the return of an unspecified number of women and children held in Israeli prisons.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls Hamas “the new Nazis.” He should know. His political ancestors did much to surreptitiously prop Hamas up to undercut Yasser Arafat, erstwhile leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). For his part, Netanyahu has nurtured the militant group with offers of piecemeal economic relief to Gazans while strictly maintaining the blockade. The Israeli prime minister’s image as a tough-talking defender of the country’s security is in tatters. During his time as the nation’s longest-serving prime minister since 2009, Israel has been at war with Hamas four times. The latest incursion occasioned comparisons with the worst intelligence failure during the 1973 Yom Kippur War when coordinated Egyptian and Syrian strikes shook the country. In fact, Netanyahu has faced recriminations over the failure to act on intelligence of unusual Hamas movements in Gaza the night before the multipronged assault on October 7.

The so-called rules-based international order which Western countries profess to uphold seems to have been given all but a quiet burial in the Gaza Strip. The refusal to hold Israel to account for its belligerence readily sacrifices the concerns of 2.3 million Palestinians. On another level, member states of the European Union have, with good reason, been apprehensive that Washington’s unconditional support to Tel Aviv might undermine efforts towards building a consensus with leading countries from the global south against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Moreover, French President Emmanuel Macron’s prevarication on the conflict in Gaza has been vividly illustrated by his recent comments. He controversially called for Hamas to be included in the Western coalition against the Islamic State, criticised by his own top diplomats conveyed in a confidential note, as implying a pro-Israel bias. His subsequent appeal for a humanitarian pause in hostilities may not have done enough to contain the damage. Macron later appealed to Israel to stop bombing babies and women, drawing angry rebukes from Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians.

A group representing Palestinian victims of attacks on Gaza have lodged a complaint with the International Criminal Court, arguing that Israel’s actions amount to crimes of genocide. Although Tel Aviv is not a state party to the 1998 Rome statute that established the ICC (Palestine acceded in 2015), there are precedents of autocrats and dictators from countries which are outside the court’s jurisdiction being tried in The Hague Court. It would be well nigh impossible to bring Netanyahu to justice within his own country, especially after the controversial and self-serving judicial reforms he has rammed through in parliament. The world community must hold Netanyahu to account.

(Garimella Subramaniam is Director, Strategic Initiatives, at Agnoshin Technologies, Chennai)

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