How B’Tselem is Helping the ICC Target Israel
JNS.org – The announcement on Friday that the International Criminal Court is considering prosecuting Israel for war crimes was predicated on two assumptions: first, that Israel perpetrates war crimes, and second, that Israel’s legal system cannot be trusted to handle the issue. Both are the fruit of an international campaign waged by the Palestinian Authority and a network of NGOs in Israel (primarily B’Tselem) funded by Europe.
For example, a €250,000 ($280,000) grant to B’Tselem from the government of the Netherlands in 2018 includes a clause specifying that in the second half of 2018 B’Tselem was to “produce a report about the functioning of the Supreme Court on the matter of expulsion of Palestinian communities.”
The document stated that B’Tselem sees the Supreme Court of Israel as the main mechanism behind the “ongoing occupation” and the “violation of human rights,” as it grants legitimacy to Israeli policy.
In 2019, B’Tselem received an NIS 87,000 ($25,000) grant from the Swedish Diakonia organization that was earmarked for an “examination of the court’s rulings about violations of Palestinian human rights.” This was after the organization received NIS 70,000 ($20,000) in 2018 for a project to review “Supreme Court rulings about home demolitions.”
According to a probe conducted by the watchdog group NGO Monitor, some of the grants were specifically issued to be used for activity involving the ICC.
Another major player against Israel in the ICC is the non-profit Adamir, which was recently the focus of media attention thanks to two of its employees being involved in the murder of Israeli teen Rina Shnerb, 17, in a roadside bombing in August. In 2018, Adamir received $120,000-$150,000 from the Swiss government, after it committed to continuing to work to bring Israel to the ICC.
Yet another organization involved in anti-Israel efforts at The Hague is the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which received the following grants: 270,000 Swiss francs ($275,000) in 2018, €340,000 ($370,000) from the government of Germany and €70,000 ($77,000) from the government of Ireland in 2017. The PCHR’s contract with the Swiss government stipulated that the organization was to supply the office of the ICC’s chief prosecutor with information. The contract also stated that the success of the organization would be measured by “the number of people who manage to access the international mechanism of justice as a result of the organization’s activity.”
The complementarity principle, upon which the ICC is based, determines that the ICC has no legal mandate over nations with functioning legal systems, which is what has kept Israel from being prosecuted at The Hague until now. But if one tracks activity by B’Tselem, it appears that the organization has been ceaselessly attacking the legitimacy of Israel’s legal system. This past February, for instance, B’Tselem put out a report attacking the legitimacy of Israel’s Supreme Court. The report examines “the responsibility of the Supreme Court justices for demolitions of Palestinian homes and their [Palestinians’] expulsion.”
According to NGO Monitor President professor Gerald Steinberg, “Some of the organization tried to damage the independence of the Israeli legal system in order to present it as ineffective in the eyes of the international community. The main question is how we can make it clear to the Europeans that their money cannot continue to be part of the ongoing campaign against Israel.”
In response to these allegations, B’Tselem issued a statement saying: “The Israeli legal system is one of the mechanisms of the occupation. If the Israeli legal system were to do its job in the pursuit of justice and defending human rights—rather than comprising a central mechanism of allowing the occupation—the reality here might be markedly different.”
The principle of complementarity, said the organization, does not apply in Israel’s case because the Israeli legal system serves only to “uphold a system of whitewashing.”
“Our efforts are not to ‘attack,’ but rather to expose the truth, according to [what] the facts and figures that we have been publishing for years clearly state it to be. The truth is that because Israel does not conduct real investigations, but rather upholds a system of whitewashing, the ‘principle of complementarity’ does not defend it, and there is nothing to defend. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, especially in his former role as chief IDF prosecutor, certainly understands that very well.
The statement concluded with some “legal advice:”
“In conclusion, some legal advice: Anyone who doesn’t want to stand trial for war crimes would do well to avoid committing such crimes [and] not move the population of an occupying state into occupied territory, not bomb homes with their inhabitants inside, not shoot unarmed protesters, not demolish homes, and expel their residents. Don’t commit crimes. Please.”