The ICC and the ICJ Manage to Make Things Worse

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Intervening last week against Israel’s self-defense actions toward Iran and Hamas, the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice made resolving the war harder.

The courts’ actions are fundamentally illegitimate, and their meddling portends further involvement, which could be even more unhelpful. Despite the troubles the ICC and ICJ are causing, Israel and its allies should not be dissuaded from destroying Hamas’s politico-military capabilities.

The United States is not a party to the ICC’s foundational treaty, having unsigned it in 2002. And over time, Washington has renounced the ICJ’s major jurisdictions, leaving only treaties where the court has never been invoked. Similarly, Israel never joined the ICC and has rejected ICJ jurisdiction on Gaza and West Bank matters. One immediate lesson for both countries is to withdraw completely from any remaining ICJ jurisdictions.

Although Israel is bearing the ICC and ICJ’s wrath for now, Jerusalem has long served as a canary in the coal mine for Washington, giving advance warning of pending threats America may experience later. Faced with Iran’s “ring of fire” strategy, implemented through attacks by Tehran’s terrorist proxies, Israel is acting in self-defense to eliminate Hamas as a fighting force.

Hamas’s barbaric policy of using Gaza’s civilian population as human shields, hoping to spare itself, has incalculably increased the inherent difficulties of urban combat. The terrorists believe that by sacrificing enough civilians, they can mobilize international pressure to stop Israel from achieving its objectives. Provoking investigations by the ICC’s rogue prosecutor and inducing international allies like South Africa to initiate ICJ cases, Hamas aims to increase the political pressure under ostensibly legal guises. Iran and its terrorist allies thereby seek to make Israelis feel increasingly isolated internationally and thereby pressure Jerusalem to back down.

Israelis should not fear being isolated for defending themselves. Who else will defend them if they do not? Jerusalem need not comply with political decrees by courts so illusory they cannot enforce their decisions. Indeed, scrutinizing the ICJ’s May 24 decision and its obtuse, international-legalese wording, Israel concluded it need not change its Gaza military operations. Although widely reported as ordering Israel to cease the Gaza offensive, the ICJ’s operative language actually demands only that Israel “halt its military offensive … which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” Since Israel’s operations target Hamas, not all Palestinians, Israel sees its current approach as legitimate even by ICJ standards. That interpretation may sound Jesuitical, but it also demonstrates yet again why judicial intervention in wars is fanciful at best.

Unfortunately, however, the propaganda consequences look far different. Immediately after the ICC prosecutor announced he sought an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reporters asked German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s press spokesman if Germany would execute the warrant. The aide replied, “Of course. Yes, we abide by the law.” While Scholz himself later tried to soften the blow, the point had been made.

Propaganda by Iran, its terrorist surrogates, and its leftist supporters worldwide has outmatched Israel’s during this conflict, except for the weeks immediately after Hamas’s Oct. 7 barbarities. Undoubtedly, ICC and ICJ actions will now take center stage in that propaganda, fueled by each new utterance from The Hague.

But the problems are far deeper than mere public relations failures. In America, for example, university protests and surprising polling results show astounding support for Hamas, especially among younger voters. Faculty prejudices have obviously grown worse over time, even as baby boomer professors reach retirement age. Reform of faculty selection and tenure decisions, among other things, is essential in public and private universities alike. This means little near-term, but could be dispositive for the U.S.-Israel special relationship in the long term. In Europe, if anything, anti-Israeli sentiment and outright antisemitism are even worse.

In a perfect world, Israel’s information statecraft and that of its allies would have been more effective from the outset. Surprise attacks, however, do not give targets time to prepare in advance. Media coverage of the ICC and the ICJ has proven the urgent need to explain why their actions are illegitimate. The broader imperative is to explain more effectively, and with greater resources, why Israel is exercising its legitimate right of self-defense against Hamas and Iran.

This article was first published in the Washington Examiner on May 29, 2024. Click here to read the original article.