The Israeli press is on a feverish overdrive against the International Criminal Court and its Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, for the recent announcement of the decision to fully investigate Israeli war crimes. The Times of Israel covers this wave of hostility:
Israel has many detractors, real and imagined, but since Friday the country has a brand new public enemy number one: Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Since announcing her intention to open an investigation into the “situation in Palestine” because she believes war crimes “have been or are being committed” there, the 58-year-old Gambia native has endured a massive wave of criticism. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly accused her of “pure anti-Semitism,” comparing the legalistic argumentation she put forward to the anti-Jewish decrees by the villains of the Hanukkah story. Bensouda, however, has also faced remarkable hostility from some unexpected corners of the Israeli media. This is not because the press is suddenly supportive of Netanyahu, but instead may have more to do with the fact that her war crime accusations are directed at Israeli soldiers. Since most Israelis have either served in the army or have close family members who served, many here feel personally attacked.
This wave has reached new heights, with the Sheldon Adelson-funded daily Israel Hayom, the country’s largest paper in circulation, inciting cyber attacks against the ICC.
In his article “Tiptoeing around the ICC” the paper’s Diplomatic Correspondent Ariel Kahana writes, “Israel has only one option left when it comes to the ICC, which is threatening its most vital self-defense interests” and continues:
It must move from the language of law to the language of power. The court in The Hague does not dare tangle with powerful nations that everyone agrees attack human rights, like Russia or China. Rather than Israel’s legal squirming, perhaps Bensouda should be put in the position of having to explain to her staff why their computers crashed one morning or where their archives vanished. These are only a few of Israel’s options” (my emphasis).
Four years ago, I reported how the smaller right-wing daily Makor Rishon (owned by Israel Hayom), in a Hebrew-only article, suggested giving the Swedish Foreign Minister at the time, Margot Wallström, the ‘Bernadotte treatment’ (murder), for her suggestion that Israel may be enacting a policy of extrajudicial executions against suspected Palestinian assailants (which it undoubtedly was).
Since then, in 2016, now Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz (then Minister of Transport and Intelligence) called for “targeted civil eliminations” against BDS leaders during an anti-BDS conference sponsored by the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot. The term was a play in Hebrew on “targeted elimination”, which means assassination, and the focus on BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti left many worrying for his safety.
Ariel Kahana says that there’s no point in playing nice with the ICC – that would just be more “tiptoeing” – a losing strategy. No – he suggests to be “shrewd”:
Back when [Avichai] Mendelblit [now Attorney General] was Netanyahu’s cabinet secretary, the two adopted a policy of “dealing shrewdly with them,” as Exodus 1:10 says. Israel argued that the court was biased, but tried to persuade it by “sending messages.”
The quote from Exodus is actually addressed to the Egyptian Pharaoh, speaking against the Israelites (Exodus 1, 8-10):
Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”
The irony is probably lost on Kahana. Or maybe not, maybe he thinks this is a biblical eye-for-an-eye, as it were.
Maybe it’s a hint to some Israeli hacker, maybe even to some military cyber-unit like the Intelligence 8200 unit, to save Israel from its oppressors at the Hague. Who knows what they’ll come up with next.
H/t Ofer Neiman