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US threatens ICC, warning ‘if they [prosecute] Israel, we’re next!’

The International Criminal Court applied for an arrest warrant for Israel’s PM Netanyahu over crimes against humanity in Gaza. While the Biden administration threatens sanctions on ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan, US Senator Lindsey Graham warns, “if they’ll do this to Israel, we’re next!”

US ICC charges Israel Gaza we're next

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has applied for arrest warrants for top Israeli officials over crimes against humanity in Gaza.

In response to these charges, the Joe Biden administration is threatening to impose sanctions on ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan.

Top Republican lawmakers have suggested that the US military should invade the Hague, if Israeli officials are tried there.

In a hearing, Senator Lindsey Graham warned, “if they’ll do this to Israel, we’re next!”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken was questioned in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on May 21. He indicated that the Biden administration supports a GOP-led initiative to levy sanctions against the ICC.

Asked if the Democratic administration would approve of a Republican proposal for sanctions, Blinken replied positively, stating, “We want to work with you on a bipartisan basis to find an appropriate response”.

The Financial Times cited anonymous US government officials who “expect the measures would target prosecutor Karim Khan and others involved in the investigation”.

The newspaper said the Biden administration’s sanctions would likely be similar to those that the Donald Trump administration imposed on the ICC in 2020.

This flagrantly contradicts Washington’s professed commitment to defend a so-called “rules-based international order”.

It also demonstrates the blatant hypocrisy of the US government, given that Biden and Blinken had both strongly supported the ICC’s decision in 2023 to issue an arrest warrant for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

In the Senate, lawmaker Lindsey Graham called for bipartisan collaboration to punish the Hague. He pledged that the ICC “shall and will pay a price”.

“What I hope to happen is that we level sanctions against the ICC for this outrage, to not only help our friends in Israel, but to protect ourself over time”, he added.

Several days before testifying in the Senate, Graham went on TV and called for Israel to drop nuclear bombs on Gaza.

Although Graham is a conservative Republican and Trump ally, he praised Democratic leaders for their attacks on the Hague.

“Mr. Secretary [Blinken], your statement yesterday was excellent”, Graham said. “The President’s [Biden’s] statement was excellent. Senator Schumer’s statement on the floor was excellent, about the outrage here”.

“Mr. Secretary [Blinken], I appreciate what you’ve said; it is now time for us to act”, the Republican senator urged.

“So we, hopefully, together [Democrats and Republicans] will find a way to, register our displeasure with the ICC, ‘cause if they’ll do this to Israel, we’re next!” Graham warned.

When the senator said this, protesters from the peace group CODEPINK clapped in approval at the idea of justice for US war crimes.

Graham recalled in anger that the ICC had previously “tried to come after our soldiers in Afghanistan, but reason prevailed”.

In 2020, the Hague opened an investigation into war crimes committed by US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The Trump administration responded by sanctioning ICC officials and their family members.

In 2021, the Court suddenly dropped this investigation. Ironically, it was Karim Khan who decided to do so, almost immediately after beginning his term as chief prosecutor.

In fact, Israel’s own state media reported that Washington and Tel Aviv had lobbied to get Khan elected as prosecutor. (This is despite the fact that the US and Israel have refused to ratify the Rome Statute and join the ICC.)

Although the US and Israel initially supported Khan, they have since turned against him, as the ICC prosecutor has been forced to act, in an attempt to salvage the reputation of the legal body.

Global South nations have long criticized the ICC, accusing it of pro-Western bias. As of 2016, only Africans had been tried for the worst crimes at the Court.

In fact, in an interview on CNN this May, Khan revealed that a “senior leader” in the West had pressured him not to charge Israeli officials, arguing that the ICC “is built for Africa and for thugs like Putin”.

To save face, after seven months of Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza, the ICC announced the charges on May 20, applying for arrest warrants against Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Netanyahu and Gallant are accused of the following:

  • “Extermination and/or murder … in the context of deaths caused by starvation, as a crime against humanity”,
  • “Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare as a war crime”,
  • “Persecution as a crime against humanity”,
  • “Intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population as a war crime”, and
  • “Wilful killing … or Murder as a war crime”.

Netanyahu responded to the order by posting a video on Twitter in which he denounced the Hague and declared, “No one will stop us”.

However, while Khan charged two Israeli officials, he also applied for arrest warrants against three Hamas officials, accusing them of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The ICC prosecutor failed to mention that Israel has illegally occupied Palestinian territory for decades, and that international law clearly establishes that people living under military occupation have a legal right to armed resistance.

The right of the Palestinian people to resist illegal Israeli occupation “by all available means, including armed struggle”, has been reaffirmed over years in the UN General Assembly, including in resolutions 38/17 from 1983 and 45/130 from 1990.

Some advocates of Palestinian human rights accused Khan of “bothsidesism” and creating a false equivalence between oppressor and oppressed – between those living under illegal military occupation and those resisting that illegal military occupation.

The prominent human rights lawyer and former UN official Craig Mokhiber, who resigned in protest of the international body’s refusal to stop Israel’s US-sponsored genocide in Gaza, warned on Twitter, in response to reports that the Biden administration is threatening sanctions on the ICC:

“This is a decisive moment for the rule of law. Two rogue, nuclear-armed states, the US & Israel, are on a global rampage, trampling human life and international law underfoot. Will international institutions stand up or bow to lawless bullying?”

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