‘No One Is Above the Law’: Rashida Tlaib Rips Biden Admin’s Opposition to ICC War Crimes Probe of Israel

Palestinians rush to aid children injured in an August 2014 Israeli attack on a UNRWA school in Rafah, Gaza that killed 10 people (Ali Hassan - Andalou Agency)

Brett Wilkins

Common Dreams  /  March 4, 2021

The Michigan congresswoman said the ICC “has the authority and duty to independently and impartially investigate and deliver justice to victims of human rights violations and war crimes in Palestine.”

Responding to the Biden administration’s opposition to the International Criminal Court’s investigation of alleged Israeli war crimes in Palestine, Rep. Rashida Tlaib on Wednesday defended the probe while reminding the administration that “no one is above the law.” 

“It isn’t unfair to investigate a country for committing war crimes when it has actually, like, committed war crimes.”
Juan Cole,  Informed Comment

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. “firmly opposes” the ICC investigation while vowing to “continue to uphold our strong commitment to Israel and its security, including by opposing actions that seek to target Israel unfairly.” In addition to alleged Israeli crimes, the probe will also examine war crimes allegedly committed by the militant Palestinian resistance group Hamas. 

State Department spokesperson Ned Price asserted the same day that the ICC—of which neither Israel nor the U.S. are member states—has “no jurisdiction over this matter.” 

However, Tlaib (D-Mich.) issued a scathing rebuke of the administration’s position, tweeting “no one is above the law” and that the ICC “has the authority and duty to independently and impartially investigate and deliver justice to victims of human rights violations and war crimes in Palestine and Israel.”

“The U.S. should not interfere with its ability to do so,” insisted Tlaib, the first Palestinian American elected to Congress. 

On Wednesday, ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda confirmed the decision, announced early last month, to launch a formal investigation of “the situation in Palestine,” including three major wars in Gaza that killed thousands of people—most of them civilians. 

Bensouda said on Wednesday that the court’s decision “followed a painstaking preliminary examination undertaken by my office that lasted close to five years,” while vowing her office “will take the same principled, non-partisan approach that it has adopted in all situations.” 

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s far-right prime minister, called Bensouda’s announcement “absurd” and—in a tactic often employed in attempts to delegitimize criticism of Israeli policies and actions—”undiluted anti-Semitism.” 

Palestine advocates, however, welcomed the ICC probe, while condemning U.S. opposition to it.

“Blinken is flat out wrong on every point he makes,” wrote Middle East expert Juan Cole. “The ICC is not investigating crimes on Israeli soil, but in the Palestinian occupied territories. Since Palestine as a permanent U.N. observer state is a member of the ICC and invited the court into its territory, the International Criminal Court has every right to investigate violations of the Rome Statute that took place in those territories.”

“The ICC is not treating Israel unfairly,” asserted Cole. “It will also look at Hamas violations. Moreover, it isn’t unfair to investigate a country for committing war crimes when it has actually, like, committed war crimes.”

“Blinken already let the crown prince of Saudi Arabia off without sanctions for murdering Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi,” he added. “Now he is running interference for Netanyahu. He is quickly becoming the face of American hypocrisy, which only wants sanctions on Russians and Iranians who are rivals but never on officials from countries that talk nice about the U.S.”

Last year, the ICC also approved a probe of U.S. war crimes, including unlawful killing and torture, in Afghanistan. The Trump administration retaliated by sanctioning ICC prosecutors Bensouda and Phakiso Mochochoko.

Brett Wilkins – staff writer