Israel’s immunity cracks: The Hague goes after Netanyahu

Tarik Cyril Amar is a historian and expert on international politics. He has a BA in Modern History from Oxford University, an MSc in International History from the LSE, and a PhD in History from Princeton University. He has held scholarships at the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute and directed the Center for Urban History in Lviv, Ukraine. Originally from Germany, he has lived in the UK, Ukraine, Poland, the USA, and Turkey.

His book ‘The Paradox of Ukrainian Lviv: A Borderland City between Stalinists, Nazis, and Nationalists’ was published by Cornell University Press in 2015. A study of the political and cultural history of Cold War television spy stories is about to appear, and he is currently working on a new book on the global response to the war in Ukraine. He has given interviews on various programs, including several on Rania Khlalek Dispatches, Breakthrough News.

His website is; he is on substack under, and tweets under @TarikCyrilAmar.

Article in part:

The challenge of witnessing a historic event in real time isn’t to notice it. That’s the easy part. What’s hard is to understand its meaning for the future, which is what historic events are really all about. Recent news from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague have confirmed that rule.

Its prosecutor, Karim Khan, has applied for arrest warrants that will make history one way or the other. The official application is a long document, but its key points can be summarized quickly. With regard to what Khan describes as “an international armed conflict between Israel and Palestine, and a non-international armed conflict between Israel and Hamas running in parallel,” he accuses the senior Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Al-Masri (aka Deif), and Ismail Haniyeh of a list of crimes against humanity and war crimes: extermination, murder, hostage taking, sexual violence (including rape), torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and other inhumane acts.


Israeli children held hostage by HAMAS
Clockwise from left: Noam Avigdori, 12, Amit Shani, 16, Yuly Konio, 3, Sahar Kalderon, 16, Hila Rotem-Shoshani, 13, Ema Konio, 3, Tal Goldstein-Almog, 9, Agam Goldstein-Almog, 17

Khan also accuses Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Yoav Galant of a similar set of crimes against humanity and war crimes: starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury, cruel treatment, willful killing, intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population, extermination and/or murder, persecution, and other inhumane acts.


With all its flaws, it would still be shortsighted to underestimate the significance of Khan’s applications, for several reasons which cannot all be discussed here. The most important of these, in any case, is that the ICC prosecutor going after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant is a crippling blow to Israel’s most crucial political resource: its impunity.

And “crucial” is to be understood literally here because Israel does not occasionally break the law, as many states do. Rather, Israel cannot possibly exist the way it does without constantly breaking the law. Its formal and de facto annexations and settlements (East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and really most of the West Bank), its nuclear arsenal, its routine attacks (including on diplomatic compounds) and assassinations outside Israel, and, last but not least its apartheid regime to subjugate the Palestinians – all of it brazenly defies international law. (For apartheid is not just the name of a specific, now historic regime and crime in South Africa. Rather, it is a recognized atrocity crime, just like, for instance “extermination,” even if that fact is too little known.) And that is before we even start talking in detail about Israel’s massive record of typically settler-colonial crimes against humanity, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and genocide against the Palestinians that, of course, reaches back decades.

Israel, in short, is not an ordinary country. In reality – expressed in a “liberal” centrist idiom – it is the single most condensed case of a rogue state in the world, and it has enjoyed an extraordinary privilege of impunity. As John Mearsheimer pointed out years ago, there simply “is no accountability” for Israel. It is, literally, a state accustomed to – and dependent on – getting away with murder.

That situation is, again, in Mearsheimer’s words, “outrageous.” But what is more relevant in the context of the recent ICC actions is that this impunity is not a luxury for Israel. It’s a vital necessity. A state that is so akin to an ongoing criminal enterprise is fundamentally threatened by being held up to any international legal standards. Like all genocidaires, Benjamin “Amalek” Netanyahu and Yoav “human animals” Gallant are horrible individuals, but they are dispensable. What the Israeli establishment and the international Israel lobbies are really afraid of is not what may happen to these two, but what the warrants against them signal about the future of Israel’s extraordinary privilege.

Whatever Khan’s intentions, whether he has done so deliberately or, perhaps, even while trying to “soften the blow,” as his critics suspect, his applications mark a catastrophic and irreversible breach in Israel’s hitherto unique armor of impunity.

Gaza children running across demolished high rise building.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *