No equivalence between Palestinian victims and Israeli perpetrators

Iqbal Jassat says ICC's arrest warrant for Netanyahu cannot be "balanced" by a witchhunt of Hamas leaders

Widespread suspicion that International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan is biased against Palestinians, is yet again confirmed by his attempt to charge leaders of Hamas for war crimes. 

It is absurd and irrational to indict leaders of Palestine's resistance movement engaged in a  legitimate struggle for freedom and justice. 

A struggle for life, liberty and dignity, necessitated by the occupying regime's decades old systematic oppression, ethnic cleansing and denial of fundamental human rights. 

By defending their civilian population from Israel's repressive racist policies which include land-grabs, home demolitions, arbitrary detention without trial, torture and reprehensible indiscriminate bombings, Hamas has demonstrated levels of morality unmatched by Israel. 

Indeed Hamas’s narrative of the events of October 7 dispels Khan's charge sheet as no more than a rehash of Israeli propaganda. 

To resist against injustice, oppression and mindless violence, is not only allowed by international law, but also a duty encumbent on subjugated people, as is the case in Palestine. 

Karim Khan has committed a grave error by unfairly positioning victims of Zionist colonialism on an equal footing with merciless perpetrators of genocide that has been relentlessly going on for more than seven decades. 

To seek arrest warrants for Hamas’s Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh is an abuse of the power vested in Khan's hands. That he fails to distinguish legitimate resistance from common criminality, is an indication of the bias inherent in his unwise decision. 

One wonders if he has any appreciation for the valour and courage displayed by South Africa's leaders and masses in opposing the repressive apartheid regime, which ultimately led to the dawn of democracy - now in its 30th year. 

Back then, in much the same way Khan has attempted to frame resistance as war crimes, the reprehensible apartheid regime charged and jailed leaders of the liberation movement. Many such as Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada were unjustly imprisoned while many more were brutally murdered. 

Many like Palestinian prisoners who are tortured and killed behind bars, suffered similar fate in South Africa. Heros of the struggle such as Steve Biko, Ahmed Timol, Imam Haroon and countless others, who were murdered by the regime's security forces, are icons of the freedom struggle, not villains as perceived by the regime and the West. 

Having read the statement issued by Khan in which he seeks justification to indict Hamas, it is apparent that he sought to "balance" it against the arrest warrants for Israel’s leaders. 

Is there moral equivalence between the oppressed and the oppressor? Certainly not, but despite this fact borne out by annals of history, Khan has overstepped his mandate by seeking to punish heros of Palestine's freedom movement. 

On the other hand, Khan has dragged his feet in holding Israel’s war lords to account. That it took him close to eight months in which period thousands of innocent Palestinians have been killed in the most barbaric fashion and the entire Gaza Strip devastated, is by itself a crime. 

The adage "justice delayed is justice denied" is applicable in the case of Palestine's long suffering victims held hostage by Israel and its western backers. 

It is entirely appropriate to remind Karim Khan and the ICC that this maxim holds true for Palestinians where justice is absent or at best slow. 

Powerless and aggrieved people will thus be blameless for believing that International institutions such as the United Nations Security Council, the International Court of Justice and the ICC are against them.

The dossier on Israel’s war crimes had been opened by Khan's predecessor Ms Fatou Bensouda years ago, yet shockingly he only now has filed an application seeking indictment of Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant. 

These two Zionist leaders do not make the sum total of all the war criminals in Netanyahu’s war cabinet. Excluding them along with military officials and scores of others responsible for horrific war crimes in Gaza as well as the Occupied Palestinian Territories, particularly in the West Bank, is a dereliction of duty. 

Equally it is disingenuous for Khan to confine his charge sheet against Netanyahu and Gallant post October 8th. Palestinians have been subject to heinous crimes including the weaponisation of starvation, massacres and the inhumane siege of Gaza for decades before. 

Though he has cited article 8(2)(b)(xxv) of the Rome Statute which holds starvation of civilians as a method of warfare as a war crime, surely he would know that this inhumane tool to punish 2.3-million Palestinians, did not commence after October 7th.

The crippling siege and blockade of Gaza has been enforced by Israel since 2006. Incrementally it got worse over the years as Israel not only ignored but defied provisions of the Geneva Convention in regard to its legal and moral responsibility as an  occupying power.

Indeed it is shocking to read that Khan has evaded reference to crimes of genocide and occupation. His adoption of a "soft" charge sheet for Israel may be explained by the aggressive threats he faced from US senators and others who warned him against issuing arrest warrants for Netanyahu. 

What he cannot escape though is that there is no symmetry between anti-colonial struggles by the colonised against the colonisers. To delink Palestinian resistance movements such as Hamas from its courageous struggle against Zionist settler colonialism, is a wilful attempt to obliterate and criminalise it. 

Iqbal Jassat, Executive Member, MEDIA REVIEW NETWORK