Australia/Israel Review


Media Microscope: Injustice is Blind 

May 31, 2024 | Allon Lee

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

The decision of the International Criminal Court’s Prosecutor Karim Khan to seek warrants to arrest Israel’s PM Binyamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant for alleged crimes against Palestinian civilians in Gaza, as well as three senior Hamas leaders for the October 7 massacre, generated intense media debate.

The West Australian (May 22) challenged Khan’s inference “that these opposing sides – death cult and democracy – are one and the same… This is not a war Israel wanted to fight. It was left with no choice.”

ABC Radio National “Breakfast” (May 21) interviewed former UN official and anti-Israel activist William Schabas, who praised the Court’s staff as “objective, independent professionals”. On the Nine Newspapers’ website (May 26), high profile barrister Geoffrey Robertson defended the ICC’s bona fides, noting the prosecution must prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

On 2GB Radio (May 22), former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said institutions like the “ICC, the International Court of Justice, the United Nations General Assembly… they are just being used for political purposes.” He noted that the ICC Prosecutor did not include Egypt “which closes its border… into Gaza and stops vehicles going across that border.” 

The question of whether Israel can be trusted to investigate itself was a major issue of discussion. 

In the Guardian Australia (April 30), Ken Roth, the virulently anti-Israel activist and former head of Human Rights Watch, disputed the claim that under the principle of complementarity Israel’s legal system can prosecute its own war criminals, insisting that Israel has “no history of prosecuting senior officials for war crimes.” 

On ABC TV “Afternoon Briefing” (May 21), former Australian Ambassador to Israel and current NSW Liberal Senator Dave Sharma noted Israel had “held people accountable” in the IDF’s accidental killing of Australian aid worker Zomi Frankcom and her fellow World Central Kitchen workers on April 1.

The Australian Financial Review (May 27) also cited the Zomi Frankcom tragedy, saying “Hamas, of course, called no inquiry into the October 7 attacks whose genocidal goal was to kill as many Jews as possible.”

The Times of Israel’s Jeremy Sharon told ABC RN “Breakfast” (May 22) that Israelis were shocked by the charges, explaining that they “see themselves as living in a democratic country with… a fiercely independent judicial system, which recently fought off efforts by the Government to hamper that independence.”

In the Canberra Times (June 27), Zionist Federation of Australia’s Bren Carlill said Khan had previously said Israel’s legal system was fit for purpose and included “‘trained lawyers who advise commanders and a robust system intended to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law’… and yet he still wants to issue warrants.”

Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s Alex Ryvchin in the Daily Telegraph and Courier Mail (May 24) said by issuing warrants simultaneously, Khan “creates a distinct impression that a government forced to go to war to free its citizens and destroy the terror force that just murdered and violated thousands of its people, is no better than the terror force itself. That was, of course, precisely the point.”

The Australian’s Paul Kelly (May 24) quoted former ASIO boss Dennis Richardson’s questioning “whether the prosecutor would have recommended arrest warrants for Hamas leaders if he had not come to this conclusion in relation to Israel.” In the same edition, the paper’s Foreign Editor Greg Sheridan said, “Hamas attacked Israel in the most sickening manner possible, then hid among and underneath Palestinian civilians. The ICC seems to be of the view that this means Israel is forbidden from waging a military campaign against Hamas. The UN itself recently halved its estimate of the number of women and children killed in Gaza, which suggests Israel’s efforts to keep civilian casualties as low as it can have been meaningful.”

In the Australian (May 24), AIJAC Visiting Fellow Prof. Greg Rose traced the back story to the ICC’s creation, arguing that “an integral purpose” of the body “has always been to delegitimise Israel,” given that 57 Muslim countries made their participation contingent on the inclusion of “war crimes” drafted specifically to be used against the Jewish state.

“Like dodgy police setting up false evidence… the ICC prosecutors set up dubious charges against Israel… based largely on evidence assembled by anti-Israel NGOs who solicit Palestinian testimony that is partial and prejudicial. The prosecutors then put forward questionable interpretations of international law rules that novelly apply only to Israel,” Rose wrote.

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