Jewish Canadians call on Canada to support ICC seeking arrest warrants

As the Israeli campaign of genocidal violence against the civilian population of Gaza reaches the 8 month mark, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, has requested arrest warrants against three Hamas officials and two Israeli officials, Benjamin Netanyahu and Yaov Gallant, respectively the Israeli prime minister and defense minister.  

The decision by Khan to issue these requests, despite the enormous political pressure put on the court by the United States and Israel, is a positive step forward towards implementing a system of international law that holds all parties accountable for crimes against humanity regardless of who commits them. 

The fact that the chief prosecutor decided to issue warrants against three Hamas officials on eight accounts and only two Israeli officials and on seven accounts shows a distorted reality, as many more Israeli officials have made comments approving and calling for collective punishment and violence against civilians in Gaza. The accusations brought forth against Benjamin Nentayahu and Yaov Gallant will not suffice to bring justice for the Palestinian people. 

For too long, a double standard has prevailed in the prosecution of crimes against humanity, exempting Western powers and their allies from accountability. In this case as well, the fact that the court has requested warrants against three Hamas officials on eight accounts and only two Israeli officials and on seven accounts is indicative that this bias by the Court remains present. But the simple fact that it has requested arrest warrants for Western-backed leaders is significant.

The Canadian government and foreign minister Melanie Joly have made numerous statements calling for the respect of the principles that underpin international humanitarian law and the United Nations system. The government has also agreed, through an NDP motion passed in parliament earlier this year, to support the work of the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice in relation to Israel-Palestine. We call on the Canadian government to respect these commitments and to put their words into action. 

Canada must support the ICC Chief Prosecutor’s request for warrants. The Canadian government and the Attorney General must also take the necessary steps to ensure that Canadian law and provisions are upheld, notably the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act. Under this act it is the Canadian government’s obligation to ensure that Canadian or foreign nationals residing in Canada be prosecuted for their complicity in the genocidal campaign of violence unleashed by Israeli forces in Gaza. 

Finally, while we welcome the developments brought forth by the ICC, we recognize that Palestinian freedom and liberation are unlikely to come through the courts. We also recognize that while legal procedures are lengthy, we do not have the luxury of time whilst a genocide is occuring and intensifying in Gaza, we must continue to flood the streets, show-up in solidarity with the student encampments across the country and apply pressure through boycotts, divestment and sanctions. 

The fact that the ICC is finally acknowledging the horrendous crimes committed against the Palestinian people and willing to prosecute them is because of the massive popular movement in solidarity with Palestine throughout the world. We must continue to push these institutions until all Israeli crimes are brought to justice.