(TMU) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed that any efforts by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to hold Israel accountable for alleged war crimes committed against the Palestinian people is an extension of historic anti-Semitism.
The scandal-ridden Israeli leader made the claim Sunday evening at a Hannukah ceremony in front of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, a holy site for the Jewish religion. Reuters reports that during the ceremony, which was an event for the right-wing Lukud party, Netanyahu claimed the global body simply opposes Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
Describing the ICC’s efforts to investigate Tel Aviv’s alleged crimes against the Palestinians as “pure anti-Semitism,” the prime minister said:
“New edicts are being cast against the Jewish people—anti-Semitic edicts by the International Criminal Court telling us that we, the Jews standing here next to this wall … in this city, in this country, have no right to live here and that by doing so, we are committing a war crime.”
Anti-Semitism typically describes racist bigotry and hatred toward Jews. The hatred of Jews is a central tenet for neo-Nazi, white supremacist, and radical right-wing hate groups, but in recent years there have been attempts by right-wing Zionists and defenders of Israel to conflate any criticism of the Israeli state and its actions with the historic phenomenon of anti-Semitism.
On December 11, U.S. president and Netanyahu ally, Donald Trump, issued an Executive Order on Combating Anti-Semitism that extends the anti-discrimination protections of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to Jews, effectively recasting Jews as a nationality rather than a faith group. The controversial order, which has drawn criticism from many Jewish-Americans also includes numerous provisions that conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitic bigotry.
In a column for Foreign Policy, academic and author Judith Butler wrote:
“The executive order is a cruel exploitation and abuse of the charge of anti-Semitism in a world in which actual xenophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism are on the rise. The solid ground for both knowledge and politics is now slipping as Trump enshrines anti-Semitism, ignorance, and injustice into law.”
Netanyahu’s remarks come only a day after ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced that after a careful preliminary investigation of Israeli military actions in the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip, West Bank, and east Jerusalem, the criteria for opening a war crimes investigation had been met.
In her announcement, the prosecutor noted that “there are no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice.”
Netanyahu, who has overseen numerous bombing campaigns and aggressive actions toward the Palestinian occupied territories and neighboring Arab countries alike, has been plagued by corruption scandals over the past year. The prime minister has been indicted over the charges but is still seeking re-election after he failed to forge a coalition government following inconclusive election results earlier this year.
Israeli human rights group B’Tselem supported the statement by the ICC prosecutor, noting that her finding was “the only possible outcome arising from the facts.”
B’Tselem director and human rights activist Hagai El-Ad told the New York Times:
“Israel’s legal acrobatics in an attempt to whitewash its crimes must not be allowed to stop international legal efforts to, at long last, hold it to account.”
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