Palestinians must put the Occupation on trial

Palestinians must put the Occupation on trial
4 min read
05 Jan, 2015
Palestine's membership of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is an opportunity to put Israeli occupation itself on trial, and not just its consequences, even if such a trial may only be held in the court of international public opinion.
The brutal reality of the Occupation must be put on trial [AFP]
Palestine's membership of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will sound the opening salvo of a real battle that will break the terms of the negotiations imposed by the United States and Israel - regardless of the calculations of the Palestinian leadership. The move will effectively give the Palestinian people a new tool to confront and resist Israeli occupation.

Even if the Palestinian Authority does not exercise its right to bring Israel before the ICC, joining the court gives any Palestinian party the right to bring legal action against Israeli governments and officials before the attention of the international court. In other words, the move will open a new front in the battle that will be accessible to all Palestinians, wherever they may be.

But if the Palestinian Authority has signed up to the ICC merely as a negotiations manoeuvre, meaning to use the ICC as a bargaining chip to improve its negotiating position, then it is an unacceptable and even dangerous ploy.

For one thing, this would cause the measure to lose much of its worth, and would subject the Palestinian move once again to the same dictates based on guaranteeing Israel's security - even as Israel and its army continue to relentlessly violate the security and safety of the Palestinian people.

A new hope

It is not clear whether the Palestinian Authority realises that, by joining the ICC, it has acquired a new tool to undermine the equation of "security coordination".
     By joining the ICC, [the PA] has acquired a new tool to undermine the equation of 'security coordination'.


This equation has protected and sanctioned Israeli assaults, and has lent acceptance to the Israeli occupation's domination of Palestinian lands and people. Indeed, suing Israel would put matters right in that there could be no legitimacy derived from the occupation itself, let alone its practices and violations.

The problem is not just about the killing of civilians in breach of international conventions. It is the occupation itself that represents the fundamental violation.

Therefore, reducing the issue to killing civilians denies Palestinians the right to resist and criminalises any resistance. That is, taking action before the ICC is not enough without studying the cases submitted and their legal foundations.

Striking back

It all depends on the seriousness of the Palestinian Authority in submitting cases to the ICC, including those related to the war on Gaza. Otherwise, the Palestinian Authority will take us back to its habit of backtracking after each US promise or Israeli threat - especially now it has finally made a move that indeed challenges all attempts to intimidate or cajole it.

However, this time, any official backpedalling or failure to use the right to take Israel to court is not solely the prerogative of official Palestinian decision-makers. The door is wide open to the Palestinian people, individually or collectively, to bring action before the ICC and make life difficult for current and former Israeli officials, at the very least.

As Palestinian analyst Ghassan Khatib reminds us, any case brought before the ICC could seriously hinder the movement of Israeli officials around the world, especially since retired Israeli army and intelligence officers often take jobs with global security consulting companies. Therefore, it is important not to underestimate the move.

At the same time, however, we must not exaggerate and portray the matter as though this is a battle to end the occupation. Even if the world's top legal minds were to be retained, the ICC is not fully removed from the influence of global powers - especially Washington. Otherwise, we would have seen most elected and unelected officials, especially those in the US, already behind bars.
     Israel senses the approaching danger of legal accountability which could threaten its very legitimacy.


Return of 'delegitimisation'

In the Israeli case, international laws were often manipulated and sometimes broken to grant Israel legitimacy to dispossess a people and steal their homeland.

Israel senses the approaching danger of legal accountability which could threaten its very legitimacy, and this - in and of itself - is a source of strength for the Palestinian people that the PA must not squander in any negotiations-related politial calculus.

This is an opportunity to put the occupation itself on trial, and not just its consequences, even such a trial may only be held in the court of international public opinion.

But getting Israel into the dock will require a political will to break free of the influence of the negotiating process, and Palestinian initiatives beyond the scope defined by the Palestinian Authority.

The emphasis should be that no treaties or negotiations can legitimise the occupation or undermine inalienable Palestinian rights.

Lamis Andoni is a veteran journalist and editor in chief of al-Araby al-Jadeed English.

Opinions expressed in this article represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.