update deskIsrael at War

ICC prosecutor Khan accuses Israel of collective punishment in Gaza

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Khan's allegations were “fallacious.”

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, in New York City. Credit: Bumble Dee/Shutterstock.
Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, in New York City. Credit: Bumble Dee/Shutterstock.

International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan defended his decision to seek arrest warrants for Israeli leaders in an interview with the Sunday Times published online Saturday night.

The 54-year-old British barrister applied for warrants against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant over their conduct during the war in Gaza against Hamas, while also calling for the arrest of the terrorist group’s leaders. Hamas started the war on Oct. 7 when it invaded the northwestern Negev, murdering, wounding and kidnapping thousands while committing widespread atrocities.

In the interview with Times Chief Foreign Correspondent Christina Lamb, Khan rejected accusations that he was drawing a moral equivalence between Israel and the Hamas terrorist organization, calling it “nonsense.”

“I am not saying that Israel with its democracy and its supreme court is akin to Hamas, of course not. I couldn’t be clearer, Israel has every right to protect its population and to get the hostages back. But nobody has a licence to commit war crimes or crimes against humanity. The means define us,” the prosecutor said.

Next in the interview, he tried to compare Britain’s fight against the Irish Republican Army with Israel’s against Hamas, as an example of disproportionate use of force.

“There were attempts to kill [Prime Minister] Margaret Thatcher, [Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland] Airey Neave was blown up, [former Chief of the Defence Staff] Lord Mountbatten was blown up, there was the Enniskillen attack, we had kneecappings. … But the British didn’t decide to say, ‘Well, on the Falls Road [the heart of Catholic Belfast] there undoubtedly may be some IRA members and Republican sympathisers, so therefore let’s drop a 2,000lb bomb on the Falls Road.’ You can’t do that,” Khan said.

Khan said he was surprised at the shock to his announcement, since, according to him, Israel has not allowed aid into Gaza, a charge that Jerusalem vehemently disputes.

“I’ve been saying continuously since October 7, ‘Comply now, don’t complain later.’ I said it in Rafah when I wasn’t allowed in by Israel. I said it in Cairo, said it in public statements and said it directly to the Israelis and Palestinians. So I just don’t know why anyone is surprised,” Khan said.

He accused Israel of targeting bakeries, turning off the water, not allowing water purification tablets in, targeting wells, and other accusations, which some have called modern-day antisemitic blood libels.

Jerusalem says it has provided ample aid to Gaza but upwards of 60% is stolen by Hamas. A paper published last week by Israeli public health officials and academics found that the amount of food delivered to Gaza over the first four months of the war was enough for a daily per person calorie intake of 140% of the minimum daily amount required during a crisis.

Khan also appeared to accuse Israel of deliberately targeting civilians while dismissing as a “red herring” the dispute over the civilian casualty numbers in Gaza, which military analysts say are historically low and the United Nations recently revised downward by 10,000, saying that those bodies have not been identified.

“It’s another thing for civilians to be deliberately targeted. You can’t have as a common plan collective punishment. It’s absolutely legitimate for Israel to have the objective to defeat Hamas and to get hostages out, I support that. But the way you engage must be compliant with law,” he said.

A hit job

On Tuesday, Netanyahu said that Khan’s allegations were “fallacious.”

“He said that we deny water? He is making a totally false accusation, here and everywhere else. We are supplying now nearly half of the water of Gaza. We supplied only 7% before the war. This is completely opposite of what he’s saying,” Netanyahu told ABC‘s ​​George Stephanopoulos.

“He’s saying we’re starving people? We have supplied half a million tons of food and medicine with 20,000 trucks. This guy is out to demonize Israel. He’s doing a hit job,” continued the premier.

Netanyahu attacked Khan’s decision to demand the arrest of Hamas terror leaders Yahya SinwarIsmail Haniyeh and Mohammed Deif as part of the case, stating, “That’s like saying, after 9/11: ‘Well, I’m issuing arrest warrants for George Bush, but also for bin Laden. Or after World War II: ‘Well, I’m issuing arrest warrants for FDR, but also for Hitler.”

The British-Pakistani prosecutor is “pouring gasoline on the fires of antisemitism that are spreading around the world,” Netanyahu charged.

“He is attacking the one and only Jewish state and trying to handcuff us,” he continued, adding that Khan is “creating false symmetry, false facts, and he’s doing a grave injustice to the international court.”

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