The International Criminal Court (ICC) has rejected the charge of anti-Semitism following its announcement to launch a full investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes in the Palestinian Territories.
The landmark decision was met with hostility in Tel-Aviv. Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, dismissed the court’s decision, stating that it had no jurisdiction to investigate in the Palestinian Territories. To disrupt the court’s investigation, Israel threatened to prevent ICC officials from entering the occupied territories; a move that would mirror its treatment of United Nations investigators, also prevented from entering the region.
Further attack on the ICC ensued. Netanyahu denounced the court’s decision as “pure anti-Semitism,” during a candle-lighting ceremony marking the start of the eight-day Hanukkah holiday, last month.
“New edicts are being cast against the Jewish people – anti-Semitic edicts by the International Criminal Court telling us that we, the Jews, standing here next to this wall … in this city, in this country, have no right to live here and that by doing so, we are committing a war crime,” asserted the Israeli prime minister.
Other senior politicians, The Times of Israel reported, similarly condemned the court and its prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, because of her decision. Some Israeli journalists published articles highlighting her past as a senior official in the Gambian government, where she served under a brutal dictator, in an apparent effort to sully her reputation.
This week chief ICC prosecutor, Bensouda, dismissed the accusation, in an interview with The Times of Israel. “This is a particularly regrettable accusation that is without merit,” stressed Bensouda. Bensouda explained that she expected to face attempts to undermine her credibility through “character assassination” in the same way that witnesses are discredited and undermined during a legal case.
“I, along with my office, execute our mandate under the Rome Statute with utmost independence, objectivity, fairness and professional integrity. We will continue to meet our responsibilities as required by the Rome Statute without fear or favour,” she added.
Bensouda is the latest in a growing list of people to face the charge of anti-Semitism. Last week a Jewish teacher in a New York school was fired for expressing remarks critical of Israel. 150 people signed a letter in defence of the teacher, in which it was claimed that the controversy around her firing was another instance in the “weaponisation of anti-Semitism” which “is the subject of a pitched battle within Jewish communities.”
Their concerns were echoed in December by the author of a controversial definition of anti-Semitism, who spoke out over its misuse and warned of its “chilling effect” on free speech. US attorney, Kenneth Stern, who drafted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) “working definition of antisemitism,” warned that “right-wing Jews were weaponising” it to supress criticism of Israel.