I am delighted that Palestine has finally applied to join the International Criminal Court. It is over three years since I blogged in recommendation that Palestine do this, and I have been somewhat baffled as to why it has taken so long to take a step which much of the international legal and human rights community has been so long urging. My own contacts into PLO circles (which do not rise above middling level) indicated simply that the leadership view was that “the time was not yet right”.
This delay was but one indicator of the powerlessness of the Abbas position, obliged to pay lip service to a US-led “peace process” which he knows to be an utter sham, and bullied by Blair and Obama into comparative quiescence by the threat of cutting off international lifelines to the beleaguered Palestinian people. But there should never have been any doubt that quiescence would result in continuing but deadly sure, slow strangulation. Intelligent pro-activity, such as joining the ICC, is a far better option.
For Obama to describe Palestinian accession to the International Criminal Court as “provocative” is ludicrous. How can it be provocative to seek to come under the jurisdiction of international law? It is US and Israeli exceptionalism that is a standing provocation to the international community.
We will now see what the ICC actually is. As a strong supporter of the rule of international law, I was reluctant to join the criticism of the ICC which notes it is active only against those condemned by the West. But the ICC’s inaction over the illegal invasion of Iraq remains inexcusable. It’s African trials conveniently ignore the colonial context. For example, the root cause of the ethnic violence in Kenya was white appropriation of the best farming land which evicted indigenous tribes into the territory of other tribes, causing resource conflict which still echoes. The ICC’s interest in Africa also carefully avoids the West’s preferred dictators and mineral grabs.
The ICC has already failed a key test where it declined to take action over the murderous Israeli assault on the Mavi Mamara on the grounds that the scale of the war crime was insufficient to reach the bar of the Court’s attention. That was not an incorrect legal argument, but an activist court could have gone either way.
The illegal Israeli settlements and murderous invasions of Gaza cannot be ruled inconsequent. Now the ICC has a chance to show whether it really is interested in the rule of international law, or whether it is simply a tool of neo-conservative hegemony.
The World is watching. Can The Hague redeem itself?