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Will Palestine's ICC accession pave the way for accountability?

May 4, 2015 11:36 A.M. (Updated: May 4, 2015 6:17 P.M.)
By: Issam Younis
Issam Younis is General Director of the Al MezanCenterfor Human Rights, a non-governmental organization aimed at promoting respect and protection of human rights in the Gaza Strip through research, legal intervention, advocacy and awareness.

Around 2:30 a.m. on Aug. 20, 2014, an Israeli war plane fired eight heavy missiles at the house next to my family's home in Rafah, southern Gaza.

No prior notice was given. My retired father, 80, my kind stepmother, Amal, 60, and my niece, Seba, 4, were all killed. Earlier that day, Seba had told her father about a dream she had, that the war had ended and she was eating ice cream with her friends. They were all asleep in their beds.

Those who ordered and committed this crime killed my loved ones. We did not have time to say goodbye. I will no longer see them nor have great books or articles recommended to me by my father.

This personal tragedy, which is only one of thousands, says something about the situation in occupied Palestine. Since the Oslo Accords in 1993, Palestinians and Israelis have come very far from achieving peace. Indeed, the gap today spans decades of fundamental changes and in several rounds of bloody conflict.

Palestinian victims in particular are further than ever from achieving their right to redress and justice.

In response to its latest bombardment of Gaza, Israel initiated the Fact-Finding Assessment Mechanism, which lacks impartiality and independence, and indicates a continued unwillingness to allow for accountability. Israel has designed an infallible system of impunity.

This reality has encouraged the endurance of Israel's occupation and allowed Israel to disregard the legal and moral obligations emanating from forcing occupation on another people.

The international community has failed to improve this reality. Under its logic, which can be summed up in "give-peace-a-chance," Israel commits serious violations against Palestinians. The international community fails to uphold the rights and protections that are dictated by international law, rather, playing the role of donor in an escalating crisis that is ebbed only slightly by the steady flow of international aid.

The non-arbitration and international law approach has, in effect, resulted in granting the occupier a free hand to increase the number of Jewish settlers seven fold in settlements illegally built on occupied territory since the start of the Oslo process.

More strategically, it has allowed for the occupation to endure as a lucrative project where international funding relieves the occupier from its obligations towards the welfare and safety of the occupied population.

Thus, international intervention did not bring Israel's occupation and the conflict to an end. Nor did it impact settlement expansion and the systematic policy of separating the West bank from the Gaza Strip. While a tight blockade has been imposed over Gaza, Palestinians in the West Bank were pushed to live in enclaves.

Entirely incongruous to the claimed aim of the process, the peaks of Israel's settlement expansions occurred during peaks in negotiations, thus undermining any possibility for two states.

The victory of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Israeli elections in March, and the transparency of his stance in bashing the possibility of a Palestinian state, added new challenges to the approach of the international community. This approach must change now.

Priority must be given to protecting civilians, the ultimate victims of the occupation and conflict. Achieving a just peace demands courageous political capital investment. Peace and justice are not at odds; two parallels that can never meet.

Justice and peace are intrinsically interdependent. To achieve peace, violations of international law must be stopped and deterred. The international community must support an initiative that insists on both. At the moment, backing Palestine's accession to the ICC is a prerogative.

With Israel's domestic system excluding Palestinian victims and shielding those who commit violations, the victims have no other avenue through which to achieve redress and justice. Serious violations such as settlement construction and population transfer can be tackled by the ICC, too.

If the international community still believes in achieving peace by peaceful methods, then we must work to end impunity. Where else could victims seek redress and justice? The ICC is not a conflict resolution body. Nor is it a creator of states. Those must be achieved through meaningful international intervention that is directed at halting a five-decade long illegal occupation.

Palestine's accession to the ICC is an act of deterrence for future grave breaches of international obligations, which have advanced too far. To end impunity is a necessary first step to bring to an end the occupation, which cannot endure without the blanket of impunity.

The international community must be brave enough to change course by challenging violations and preventing a rapidly emerging system of segregation and apartheid within one state. Without the crucial backing of the ICC by the international community, the two state framework - with a Palestinian state on the territories occupied in 1967 - as called for by the community, will be lost forever.

A change in the approach necessarily demands heavy investment in one of two directions.

Either into immediately investing in the two-state solution by combating impunity and violations such as settlements and blockade, or by supporting a one-state solution in a democratic state, which demands compliance with human rights.

Time is a luxury that is not affordable anymore and justice is the one essential good we cannot forego.

The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect Ma'an News Agency's editorial policy.
Tobias / USA
Hamas, and it's unity government partner (the PA), should be held accountable for starting yet another the war, with the war crimes of
- Targeting Israel's Civilians And cities with rockets, and also for
- Using Gaza's Civilians As Human-Shields !!
04/05/2015 16:56
Jon / USA
Hamas in ot even mentioned here, hasbara nonsense having nothing to do with a well written article. Without justice there can be no peace. Israel needs to come to terms with their complicity in human rights violations. 1 state or 2 but end the occupation.
10/05/2015 07:14
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