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The Nakba, the ICC and international complicity

May 15, 2015 at 2:00 pm

As Palestinians commemorate the 67th anniversary of the Nakba and the atrocities upon which Israel’s settler-colonial state was established, the International Criminal Court is urging Israel to “cooperate” in preliminary investigations regarding war crimes committed against Palestinians last summer.

Palestine’s belated accession to the ICC was met with intense displeasure from Israel and further affirmations of refusal to cooperate with the international institution. In an interview with the Associated Press, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated: “If I don’t have the information that I’m requesting, I will be forced to find it from elsewhere, or I may perhaps be forced to just go with just one side of the story. That is why I think it’s in the best interest of both sides to provide my office with information.”

The preliminary investigations are to be assessed upon four criteria – establishing whether the crimes come under ICC jurisdiction, checking if there are legal frameworks that take precedence over ICC jurisdiction, determining whether the crimes warrant intervention at The Hague and whether ICC intervention constitutes an interest towards justice. According to Bensouda, the investigations “will be conducted in the most independent and impartial way, devoid of any political considerations.”

While the ICC’s chief prosecutor seems to have embarked upon stronger rhetoric, Israel’s colonial violence has thrived upon ignoring warnings from international institutions. Yet, there is a historical precedent inscribed by the international community which set the scene for the recurring, belligerent attitude embodied by Israel. The UN Partition Plan, which can be considered as one of the earliest endeavours to endorse settler-colonialism, has enabled Israel to fluctuate freely within parameters of its own creation – in terms of both geography and rhetoric. Hence, a diverse form of impunity was created; one that juxtaposes the reality of colonial violence against another form of colonial violence – the Partition Plan – as endorsed at the UN. Of all countries that voted against the plan, Cuba and Iran provided Palestinians with resources to further their anti-colonial struggle – a step later diluted through concessions, compromise and diplomacy.

Since international institutions have facilitated, rather than opposed, colonialism in Palestine, the ICC investigation should not be analysed within a strictly-defined parameter that refutes the obvious continuation of violence and oblivion. The Nakba constituted a manifestation of earlier international plans for Palestine, resulting in massacres, disappearances and the forced displacement of Palestinians. Operation Protective Edge provided the last manifestation of widespread and constant brutality against Palestinians – a reflection of the infamous Plan Dalet of 1948. Testimony documented by Breaking the Silence also indicates the Israeli practice of “disappearing” Palestinians – one particular testimony regarding the death of a wounded civilian states: “Eventually we put him out of his misery, and a D9 (armoured bulldozer) came over and dropped a mound of rubble on him and that was the end of it.”

Bensouda also noted the difficulties in establishing a timeframe during which decisions are made, highlighting Libya and Afghanistan as two countries on divergent ends of the spectrum, with the preliminary probe in Afghanistan having already reached a period of 10 years. In the case of Palestine, a lengthy timeframe would contribute to the “waiting process” that has characterised the dilution of Palestinian resistance, thus providing Israel with further opportunities to expand its colonisation process.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.