To Hold Israel Accountable, Defend Palestinian Civil Society

To Hold Israel Accountable, Defend Palestinian Civil Society
Activists hang a banner over the entrance to the al-Haq Human Rights Organization, after it and five other Palestinian civil society organizations were raided and shut down by the Israeli military, in Ramallah, Palestinian Territories, Aug. 18, 2022 (DPA photo by Ilia Yefimovich via AP Images).

The past month has seen a series of significant developments with regard to the legal ramifications of Israel’s military operations in Gaza, and the Palestine-Israel conflict more broadly. On May 20, the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, requested arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas senior leadership. Four days later, the International Court of Justice ordered a halt to Israel’s military operations in Rafah as part of its preliminary measures in the case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of committing genocide in Gaza. That same week, Dutch prosecutors confirmed they were studying a previously unannounced criminal complaint filed by Palestinian and international civil society organizations in November accusing online travel agency of listing vacation rentals in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, which are illegal under international law.

Any one of these developments would have been almost unthinkable just eight months ago. But the scale of devastation caused by Israel’s military operations in Gaza has mobilized many states to try to hold Israel accountable in institutions of international justice. This was certainly true of South Africa’s decision to bring its ICJ case against Israel under the Genocide Convention. It is also very likely what spurred Khan to apply for ICC arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant—as well as for Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh—after having dragged his feet on a pre-existing investigation into past accusations of international crimes against Israeli authorities and Hamas leadership since taking office in 2021.

These legal milestones have been accompanied by political milestones, as many states have similarly taken decisive stances opposing the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza and the erosion of international norms it represents. Most states have expressed their opposition to Israel’s conduct of the war by publicly stating their support and respect for the so-called rules-based international order and endorsing the universal and impartial mandate of the international judicial institutions established to enforce it.

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