OpinionU.S. News

A judgment that erodes trust in the US

To attack Israel, a Biden administration official undermines the credibility of the United States and fails to protect its soldiers.

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, addresses the Security Council Arria-Formula meeting on ensuring accountability for atrocities committed in Ukraine,  April 27, 2022. Credit: Evan Schneider/U.N. Photo.
Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, addresses the Security Council Arria-Formula meeting on ensuring accountability for atrocities committed in Ukraine, April 27, 2022. Credit: Evan Schneider/U.N. Photo.
Sarah N. Stern
Sarah N. Stern
Sarah N. Stern is the founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a think tank that specializes in the Middle East. She is the author of Saudi Arabia and the Global Terrorist Network (2011).  

A malodorous wind has been blowing through our institutions of international jurisdiction. Take, for example, the United Nations. Although erected after World War II upon the loftiest of foundations, an unscrupulous crew of autocracies, tyrannies and unaligned third-world nations—who have long resented the leading role that the United States has taken on the world’s stage—united into a force to be reckoned with, eroding that institution’s eminence.

Among these nations is the 56-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the largest working group within the United Nations. The non-member observer “state of Palestine” wields a tremendous amount of power in this body. For example, in 2023 there were 15 resolutions in the U.N. General Assembly against Israel and only seven against the rest of the world—including Iran, Syria, Sudan, Myanmar, Venezuela, Pakistan, North Korea, Russia and China.

However, not every enemy of the United States and its allies is from an adversary or a third-world nation. Some of them are occupying positions of power within the Biden administration. Such is the case with Maher Bitar. Mr. Bitar is the Senior Director for Intelligence at the National Security Council. While at Georgetown University, he was part of the executive committee for Students for Justice in Palestine and organized its BDS campaign against Israel. In his position, Mr. Bitar coordinates the information seen by President Joe Biden and several intelligence agencies worldwide.

On May 20, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Karim Khan announced he was seeking the prosecution of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant along with three Hamas officials—Ismail Haniyeh, Mohammad Deif and Yahya Sinwar—for the crime of genocide.

The fact that the prime minister and defense minister of a democracy are being targeted along with three of the most egregious Hamas terrorists amounts to the worst sort of moral equivalence imaginable. It also leaves Israel and Jews worldwide vulnerable to more antisemitic and genocidal assaults. As Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad vowed, Hamas will repeat Oct. 7 multiple times until the entire State of Israel is obliterated.

Theoretically, if found guilty of the crime of genocide, every nation that has signed the Rome Statute establishing the ICC can arrest Netanyahu or Gallant. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that the ICC lacks jurisdiction and its prosecution is “extremely wrongheaded.”

What Mr. Khan neglected to mention was that Oct. 7 was an attempt at the genocidal annihilation of Israel. There is a distinction between the arsonist and the firefighter, the aggressor and the victim.

The first charge that Mr. Khan levied against Netanyahu and Gallant was “starvation of civilians as a method of warfare as a war crime contrary to article 8(2)(b)(xxv) of Rome Statute.”

The ludicrous nature of this charge was made clear when, on the very same day, the United Nations released a report by its Famine Review Committee (FRC) rejecting the claim. I stated, “There is not sufficient evidence to confirm the existence of a famine in northern Gaza.” The report also admitted, “Since the FRC review conducted in March 2024, there seems to have been a significant increase in the number of food trucks entering northern Gaza.” In fact, the caloric intake of the average Gazan is 40% above the average accepted humanitarian standard.

We are all aware by now that if there are any food shortages anywhere in Gaza, it is because Hamas has been hijacking the trucks. The Wall Street Journal reported that Hamas is using aid trucks to smuggle cigarettes into Gaza, the price of which has risen dramatically to up to $25 per cigarette.

One may well ask: Why is Karim Khan doing this?

It is important to note that the ICC’s animus is not just directed against Israel. It has also tried to prosecute American soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

According to Professor Avi Bell of the University of San Diego and Bar-Ilan Law School, the ICC is notably ineffective. It originally engaged in prosecutions against politically weak states but recently “has tried to boast its importance by engaging in straight-out politics.”

Bell added, “When you see these sorts of grandstanding charges, and in the Israeli case, they are essentially meritless … we are witnessing an attempt to pervert the international legal system in support of terrorists and against their victims. We are also witnessing threats to commit crimes. Taking somebody into custody without legal authority and confining them is kidnapping.”

Twelve Republican senators signed a letter to Mr. Khan saying, “The ICC is attempting to punish Israel for taking legitimate actions of self-defense against their Iranian-backed aggressors. In fact, in your own words, you witnessed ‘scenes of calculated cruelty’ conducted by Hamas in Israel following the Oct. 7 attacks. These arrest warrants would align the ICC with the largest state sponsor of terrorism and its proxy. To be clear, there is no moral equivalence between Hamas’s terrorism and Israel’s justified response.”

The letter further states, “If you issue a warrant for the arrest of the Israeli leadership, we will interpret this not only as a threat to Israel’s sovereignty but to the sovereignty of the United States. The United States will not tolerate politicized attacks by the ICC on our allies. Target Israel and we will target you. If you move forward with the measures indicated in the report, we will move to end all American support for the ICC, sanction your employees and associates, and bar you and your families from the United States. You have been warned.”

Mr. Khan did not take kindly to that. He tweeted, “When individuals threaten to retaliate against the Court or Court personnel … such threats, even when not acted upon, may also constitute an offense against the administration of justice under Art. 70 of the Rome Statute.”

Shortly thereafter, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and 12 of his Senate colleagues, along with Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) and 76 of his House colleagues introduced legislation to protect the United States and its allies from exactly this sort of extortion.

There is specific language in the bill preventing the prosecution of current or former members of the Armed Forces of the United States or U.S. government employees.

Originally, the bill was bipartisan but several employees of the U.S. Congress have complained to this author that Mr. Bitar personally called Democratic colleagues to force them to refrain from signing on to the legislation. At this point, the bill is entirely Republican.

One must wonder if Mr. Bitar’s extreme antipathy against Israel has reached such a fevered pitch that he doesn’t mind undermining the credibility of the U.S. government and failing to protect our soldiers.

One has learned to expect very little from the U.N. and its related institutions. But we should be outraged when this sort of behavior comes from a very high-ranking U.S. government official.

The question remains: Was Mr. Bitar representing himself or is his behavior prompted by instructions from the Biden administration?

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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