The ICC's decision to investigate Israel is welcomed but more urgently an intervention is needed to stop an increase in crimes against Palestinians.

The International Criminal Court announced yesterday that they would be opening an investigation into Israeli war crimes committed in the Gaza Strip and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This investigation will consider all actions from all parties (Israel, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, for example) starting from June 13, 2014, one month prior to the bombardment of the Gaza Strip. 

The Palestinians naturally welcomed this decision considering the request has been under review for some years now, and Israeli violence against Palestinians is increasing on a daily basis. 

The Israelis, however, refuted the decision, and actually have begun campaigning against the ICC. If you attempt to do a quick Google search on the matter, it is likely the first link is a paid ad attempting to sway public opinion. While this investigation is set to focus on events in 2014, they are also set to investigate the ongoing illegal occupation of Palestinian land. The US, under the Biden administration, that has been praised for giving greater weight to global human rights, has also come out swinging against the ICC investigation. 

While it is positive, likely in the long-term, that this will push forth the Palestinian movement to statehood and liberty, in the interim, Israel is propagating a number of types of violence agaisnt Palestinians today. These crimes include discriminatory health policies, a rise in unpunished settler violence against Palestinians, and a frightening rise in house demolitions across the Occupied Territories, specifically, East Jerusalem. 

Covid-19 vaccine discrimination

This issue has become so widely covered from so many different angles that even on the US late night show, Saturday Night Live (SNL), host Michael Che said in a skit, “Israel is reporting that they vaccinated half of their population, and I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half.” 

Unfortunately, that sums up exactly what is happening in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel. Israel refused to even provide frontline workers doses of the vaccine, while garnering international praise for vaccinating half its population. 

The Israeli Ambassador to the US replied to the comedian on Twitter with a blatant lie: “Your ‘joke’ is ignorant — the fact is that the success of our vaccination drive is exactly because every citizen of Israel — Jewish, Muslim, Christian — is entitled [to] it. Apologize!”

While the PA has been able to secure some vaccinations, it remains that as an occupying power under Article 56 of the fourth Geneva Convention Israel is required to provide necessary medical supplies and vaccines. 

Settler Violence

Israeli settlements have been sprouting like weeds this past decade and due to this, forced evictions, land planning and allocation (major settlements are oft near Palestinian refugee camps), as well as a general lack of reprimand for crimes against Palestinians, violence has seen a vicious spike. 

In this past month alone illegal Israeli settlers have vandalised and destroyed cars and homes, razed farmland in Salfit and Hebron, killed a Palestinian man who was taking a hike near Ramallah, and a settler rammed his car into an unarmed man in Qalqilya, this week. This is notwithstanding all the aggression that the Palestinians endure from the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). It is frequently understood that these crimes go unpunished, whether perpetrated by a soldier or settler. But as the major events are laid out, it is plain for anyone to see, that at the very least, it needs international intervention. 

Settler expansion: demolitions and evictions

Nearing the end of 2020, Israel demolished nearly an entire village in the Occupied Territories near the Jordan Valley displacing more than 50 people. The EU report on the illegal demolition reads, “Around 60 Palestinians – 35 of them children – have been displaced since Israeli forces confiscated and demolished 46 structures belonging to Palestinian families in Hamsa al-Foqa in the northern Jordan Valley.”

The statement called the recent developments a “regrettable trend of confiscations and demolitions seen throughout last year” that Israel continued despite the Covid-19 outbreak. Even the US and the EU, amongst other bodies, have repeatedly called for a complete cessation of illegal activity. 

These homes are not randomly selected, however, and I do not believe any to be excluded from this policy. The basis of these evictions, more recently, has been for Israelis (settlers) to claim any connection to land in East Jerusalem if a property was ever owned by a Jew prior to 1948. Of course, this does not include the Palestinians. As previously mentioned, in al-Khalil and Betlehem areas, there are a number of Palestinian camps close to settlements, though the infrastructure planning has ensured they remain on separate roads, essentially, reinforcing apartheid. 

In East Jerusalem, the demolition and forced evictions to do the same, if not entirely occupy all the city. A UN report from earlier this year, quoting the Special Envoy to the area since 1967 reads: “Applications by settler organisations for evictions have intensified, he said, citing reports by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that 877 people, including 391 children, are presently at risk of forced evictions because of such lawsuits. Evictions in East Jerusalem have already affected hundreds of Palestinian families especially in the areas of the Old City, Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.”

Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem

While the ICC investigation, if allowed by the powers that be, is actually conducted, it is safe to say it will be at least a couple of years before anything goes to trial. Meanwhile, more aggressive intervention is needed, and quite literally, today. 

The UN Special Rapporteur says, “These evictions are extremely alarming, and appear to be part of a broader pattern of forcing Jerusalemite Palestinian families from their homes to clear the way for more illegal Israeli settlements. Time is running short for these orders to be reversed. The eviction orders are not random but appear to be strategically focused on an area in East Jerusalem known as the Historic Basin.” 

Adding, “They seem to be aimed at clearing the way for the establishment of more illegal Israeli settlements in the area and physically segregating and fragmenting East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.” As it stands almost the whole of the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood is set to be destroyed. 

It is critical that Jordan must intervene as they are the legal custodians of the area, and in this aspect, and under international law, through agreements signed in 1956 between the Jordanians and Palestininas, must defend the Palestinians of East Jerusalem. Through this initial step, further intervention can then be imagined. Further to this, there must be more done at a grassroots-level internationally. As the Arab world slowly signs normalisation agreements against the wishes of most of their citizens, the citizens of the West must also put pressure on their governments to respond.

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