Why does Israel fear ICC investigation of alleged war crimes in West Bank and Gaza while the Palestinian Authority and Hamas welcome it?

ICC prosecutor Fatima Bensouta announced on March 3 that the International Criminal Court will proceed with an investigation into alleged war crimes carried out in the Occupied Palestinian territories. The investigations will cover actions of all actors, including Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Israel objects strongly, but the PA and Hamas both say “bring it on”. Do you wonder why? Read more…

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has launched a formal inquiry into alleged crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories. Fatou Bensouda said in a statement the inquiry will be conducted “independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favour”.

Suspected Israeli war crimes and abuses in occupied Palestinian territories will now be investigated by the ICC’s prosecutor. These include Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza, its deadly crackdown on the 2018 Great March of Return protests, and its ongoing settlement building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

But Israel is not the only party the ICC has earmarked for the probe. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas, the Palestinian movement that governs Gaza will both be investigated as well.

The different response from the three groups is rather striking. One opposed it, the other two welcomed it. Why?

Hamas reaction – “a step forward to implement justice”

Hamas welcomed the decision and called on the ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to “resist any pressure” that could scuttle the process. Speaking in Gaza City, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said it was “a step forward to implement justice, punish the occupation and do justice to the Palestinian people.” Bensouda said in a statement the probe would look into “crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court that are alleged to have been committed” since June 13, 2014, and that the investigation would be conducted “independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favour.”

Hamas said it was not afraid to be investigated. “Palestinian resistance to the occupation is legitimate and in line with international law,” it said.

Palestinian Authority reaction – “a long awaited step”

The Palestinian Authority (PA) also welcomed the prosecutor’s investigation. It is “a long-awaited step that serves Palestine’s tireless pursuit of justice and accountability, which are indispensable pillars of the peace the Palestinian people seek and deserve”, the PA foreign ministry said in a statement.

Israeli reaction – shock, horror – “pure anti-semitism”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday assailed the International Criminal Court for ruling it has jurisdiction to open a war crimes investigation against Israel, calling such a probe “pure anti-Semitism” 

Israel’s supporters in Canada repeated Israel’s talking points. B’nai Brith Canada has released a 7-page “policy paper” alleging ICC bias against Israel and urging the Canadian government to not only oppose the ICC investigation, and to refuse to comply with any extradition requests that the court might issue.

US reaction – “investigation unfairly targets Israel”

“We will continue to uphold our strong commitment to Israel and its security, including by opposing actions that seek to target Israel unfairly” – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Canadian reaction – “huh?”

On February 7th Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau stated that Canada it was standing with Israel opposing the investigation on the grounds that Palestine is not a state. The government of Canada does not seem very interested in whether the allegations of widespread war crimes have any basis in reality. It has not made further comment now that the ICC has announced it will start investigations.

What can you do?

The ICC has said it will investigate “all” parties. Two of them say “fine”. One claims that such an investigation is illegal, unwarranted, unnecessary and “anti-Semitic”.

The difference in the reactions between those “in favour” of the investigation and those “opposed” was barely mentioned in the Canadian media. Your friends and family probably don’t know who’s afraid of the ICC investigation. Perhaps its time to tell them. They can join the dots…


Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.

Want to learn more about us? Go to http://www.ottawaforumip.org.


  1. Let the discussions begin so the public can become aware of the issues .Thank you CTIP .

  2. So, according to our external affairs minister Canada will stand up and defend your human rights anywhere in the world as long as you are resident of a nation he recognizes.

    This seems somewhat cockeyed given that Canada has become one of the leaders in the Lima group claiming to be standing up for human rights of citizens in Venezuela while also claiming to not recognize the country’s elected government.

    Does Palestine not have recognition as a nation in the United Nations?

  3. Peter Beinart has an apt commentary related to this under the title “American Exceptionalism as Magical Thinking”. https://peterbeinart.substack.com/p/american-exceptionalism-as-magical
    This refers to the (non-)response at a US State Department briefing when a reporter asked “Where should the Palestinians go to get accountability?”
    Perhaps since the United States and Israel claim impunity in all things, Canada also just wants to take this opportunity to proclaim its membership of the impunity club.

  4. The way it looks the ICC is going to investigate Israel re 2014 and 2018 massacres.
    In fact first the Zionists before Israel established and after Israel up to today, committed and committing hundreds if not thousands of war crimes and crimes against humanity, in so many ways that many volumes of indictments need to be written and tried.
    Needless to say that this will drag on for so many years and nothing will come out of it. maybe I’m pessimistic but time will tell.
    Recently an Israeli woman, who is connected to Mossad, in a webinar talking to “Honest reporting” (What of a joke of a name) said that anytime if there’s anything against Israel, we bring dozens of bogus counter law suits and plug the courts or whatever, so they never get anywhere.

  5. The differing reactions (Israel and allies, and the Palestinians) tell us what we need to know.. Canada, sadly and for all our self promotion as supporting justice and international law, reveals ourselves to be part of the problem. No wonder we are so little respected globally.

  6. I was so annoyed at the report of the Canadian stand that I wrote to the Minister. I did not say so, but it seemed to me that were behaving like acolytes rather than champions of the rule of international law. Paul

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