Retaliatory Response to Palestinian Authority's ICC Bid Underscores Injustice of U.S. and Israeli Policies: Critics
Following PA's application to join global court, Israel responded with swift punitive measures, including withholding of tax revenue
The Palestinian Authority's formal application to join the International Criminal Court has been met with a flood of retaliation and threats from Israel and the United States, illustrating, critics say, the unjust policies of these powerful countries.
The PA formally submitted the application to the global court on Friday, signaling the intention to "seek justice for all the victims that have been killed by Israel," including during the latest 50-day military assault on Gaza, which killed at least 2,194 Palestinians, over 75 percent of them civilians and more than 500 of them children.
Just one day after the application was submitted, Israel announced that it will freeze approximately $127.6 million in Palestinian Authority tax revenue in retaliation. Excluding international aid, this revenue comprises two-thirds of the PA's annual budget, according to Al Jazeera America.
Furthermore, the Israeli government will urge U.S. Congress to cease aid payments to the PA, a top Israeli official declared on Sunday.
The halting of PA revenue is just the beginning, Foreign Ministry Director-General Nissim Ben Sheetrit threatened on Sunday. "Israel is about to switch from defense to attack mode," he said, according to Haaretz.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu echoed this sentiment. "The Palestinian Authority has chosen confrontation with Israel and we will not sit idly by," he declared.
U.S. officials also jumped into the fray. On Friday, State Department spokesperson Jeff Rathke slammed the application to the ICC: "Today’s action is entirely counterproductive and does nothing to further the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a sovereign and independent state. It badly damages the atmosphere with the very people with whom they ultimately need to make peace."
In an interview with Democracy Now! on Monday, Ali Abunimah, co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, responded, "I'll tell you what didn’t help the atmosphere, was when, during the summer massacre in Gaza, when dozens of people were being killed every day by Israeli bombs, when entire neighborhoods were being destroyed and carpet-bombed by Israeli shelling, when, during that time, the Obama administration, President Obama, decided to resupply the Israeli military with bombs so it could continue to murder people in Gaza."
However, while Abunimah insisted that Palestinians "deserve to bring the perpetrators" of war crimes to justice, he warned, "I don’t trust this Palestinian Authority leadership," who he described as "unelected, Israeli-backed, [and] U.S.-financed."
In an op-ed published in the Independent on Monday, journalist Robert Fisk argued that the uproar over PA's bid to join this body of international law highlights the absurdity of Israeli and U.S. policy. "When will Palestinians learn?" he sarcastically wrote. "Turning to International Law isn't the answer—just ask America and Israel."
Both the U.S. and Israel are non-participants in the international court.
The application to the ICC immediately followed the defeat in the United Nations Security Council of a resolution, backed by Jordan, for the establishment of a Palestinian state and the replacement of Israeli security forces with a third-party presence. The resolution fell under criticism for failing to call for real end to the occupation, in an apparent bid to win approval from the United States.
Speaking with Democracy Now! on Monday, Phyllis Bennis, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, argued that "the fact that the Palestinians are joining an international institution is important both for the substance and because this U.N. initiative, overall—including, frankly, the Security Council resolution, as far as it went—are major attacks on the legitimacy of the so-called diplomacy, under U.S. control, that has failed for the last 24 years."
According to Abunimah, "I think what people should take away from this soap opera at the United Nations is that Palestinians are not going to get justice from Obama, they’re not going to get justice from Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren or whoever next might be coming down the line, they’re not going to get it from the UN, and they’re not going to get it from the European Union, which continues to arm Israel to commit massacres against Palestinians."
"They're going to get it from resistance, legitimate resistance, which includes a global solidarity movement, a critical global solidarity movement, whose major and most effective expression at this moment in history is boycott, divestment and sanctions," Abunimah continued.