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Biden and the ICC


It’s obvious to anyone who isn’t a hopeless partisan on the issue that the Israeli government is committing systematic war crimes in Gaza, in a manner that’s fairly analogous to the ways the Russian government is committing systematic war crimes in Ukraine.

For example, it’s become Israeli government policy to starve the civilian population of Gaza. Part of that policy includes allowing right wing terrorist groups to block international food aid:

Palestinian lorry drivers delivering aid to Gaza have described “barbaric” scenes after their vehicles were blocked and vandalised by Israeli settlers, preventing humanitarian supplies reaching the territory where much of the population face imminent starvation.

Drivers and contractors who were targeted on Monday at the Tarqumiya checkpoint in the occupied West Bank also said Israeli soldiers escorting the convoy did nothing to stop the attack.

The incident sparked international condemnation after videos emerged on social media that appeared to show Israeli settlers throwing boxes of much-needed supplies on the ground and at least one vehicle being set ablaze.

Yazid al-Zoubi, 26, said between 50 and 60 lorries had set out in the convoy.

“We were carrying oil, sugar and other things and driving from the Tarqumiya crossing,” he said. “We left in a convoy with an army vehicle in front of us and an army vehicle behind us, and we took a special army road that civilians could not cross. Suddenly, after 20 minutes on the road, near the crossing, we were surprised by at least 400 settlers. They attacked us. The rest of the drivers and I escaped from the vehicles after the settlers starting throwing stones at us.’’

Zoubi said the situation escalated when the settlers started breaking the windscreens of the lorries and piercing the tyres, then climbed on to the vehicles and threw packages of food into the road.

Aid agencies have described famine conditions in parts of Gazathat they have said have been caused by Israeli restrictions on aid entering the Palestinian territory. Humanitarian officials say the population of Gaza needs at least 500 daily lorryloads of food, fuel and other essentials but have received a fraction of that amount.

Zoubi said that during Monday’s attack the Israeli soldiers escorting the convoy stood back and watched as the settlers rampaged.

“We are shocked and surprised that the army did not provide us with any kind of protection,” he said. “Even though they were present and watching what was happening. The army was at the service of the settlers.’’

Zoubi said the drivers fled the scene but that when they returned later to retrieve their belongings, they were attacked by the settlers, some of whom were armed.

‘’At that point the army gathered us and ordered us to raise our hands on the walls,” he said. “The settlers were free to terrorise us. I have never been attacked so brutally before.

“The state of terror I experienced is indescribable. Even now I have nightmares at night. My psychological state is broken, I cannot think properly, I can’t sleep. I cannot work. We are not smugglers. We agreed to transport goods legally from the crossing under the watch and supervision of the Israeli authorities.”

Footage of the incident appears to show the Israeli soldiers taking no action against the settlers.

This kind of thing doesn’t happen without government sanction, via either explicit approval or strategic indifference, which, for the purposes of international law, are the same thing.

Speaking of which:

When the ICC and its lead prosecutor, Khan, issued an arrest warrant for Putin over alleged war crimes in Ukraine in 2023, there were hosannas on both sides of the aisle.

Biden declared the ICC arrest warrant for Putin “makes a very strong point,” adding that “he’s clearly committed war crimes.” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina praised the court’s decision, saying, The decision by the ICC to issue an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin is a giant step in the right direction for the international community. It is more than justified by the evidence.”

On the other hand:

The Biden administration is willing to work with Congress to potentially impose sanctions against international criminal court officials over the prosecutor’s request for arrest warrants for Israeli leaders over the Gaza war, Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, said on Tuesday.

At a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing, Republican Lindsey Graham told Blinken he wanted to see renewed US sanctions on the court in response to the move announced by ICC prosecutor Karim Khan on Monday.

“I want to take actions, not just words,” Graham said to Blinken. “Will you support [a] bipartisan effort to sanction the ICC, not only for the outrage against Israel but to protect, in the future, our own interest?”

“I welcome working with you on that,” Blinken said.

Khan said in his announcement that he had reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s defense chief and three Hamas leaders “bear criminal responsibility” for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Biden administration’s reaction to the ICC announcement is another example of how Biden is going out of his way to support Netanyahu’s prosecution of the war in Gaza, with everything that support entails. That is immoral, because the Israeli government’s prosecution of the war has gone far past any legitimate claim to self-defense, and is now systematically committing war crimes, including mass starvation of civilians, as part of an overall strategy to destroy the Palestinian people as a political and cultural entity (There’s a name for that).

It’s also, probably, bad politics. The US voting public as a whole doesn’t care about Gaza, and the Biden administration could readily deal with the issue in way that various European allies of Israel have done, supporting the nation’s continued right to self-defense, while opposing the Israeli government’s current war crimes, by for example not treating the ICC’s investigation as per se illegitimate. This would lead to thunderous denunciations from Bret Stephens and Lindsey Graham, but these people are enemies of the Democratic party, and being denounced by them is almost always evidence that you’re doing the right thing.

Bending over backwards to give aid and comfort to Netanyahu is very demoralizing to the progressive/left wing of the party, going into an election in which enthusiasm-driven turnout is going to be a far more important factor than winning the rapidly shrinking into irrelevance pool that is the genuinely undecided Ariana Grande vote.

And while it’s true that a refusal to fully back Israeli government policy toward Gaza will alienate some Jewish voters who would otherwise vote for Biden, I would imagine the number of such people who are deluded enough to think that this time fascism will be Good for the Jews will ultimately be small.

In any event, at the very least it’s not clear that denouncing the ICC is going to help Biden’s re-election chances — the marginal effect will surely be small either way — so the only justification for doing so is on the merits, and that is precisely what this denunciation lacks.

Related: Spain, Norway, and Ireland recognize a Palestinian state.

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