Over 180 Israeli Intellectuals, Scientists Warn ICC: Don’t Rely on Israel to Probe War Crimes


The 185 signatories to a letter to the International Criminal Court, including 10 Israel Prize laureates, suggest that the court rely instead on information from Israeli human rights groups

Palestinians take cover during an Israeli strike on a building in the Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip during the summer 2014 war in the enclave. Credit: AP Photo/Hatem Ali

More than 180 Israeli scientists and intellectuals have called on chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague not to accept Israel’s conclusions arising from its investigation into alleged war crimes.

Instead, the group of Israelis suggested in a letter addressed to Chief ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda that the court obtain the assistance of Israeli human rights organizations to gather evidence of alleged war crimes committed by Israelis.

The letter was signed by 185 Israelis, including 10 Israel Prize recipients and 35 professors, in addition to senior reserve army officers, authors, intellectuals, left-wing activists and researchers. The letter noted the ICC’s practice of approaching countries potentially subject to an investigation to determine whether they plan to launch their own war crimes investigation of their nationals’ conduct.

“We … are writing to the ICC following your request to the Israeli government to clarify whether it intends to investigate complaints of war crimes allegedly committed in the Occupied Territories, including Gaza and east Jerusalem, in general and since 2015 in particular,” the letter states. “We understand that such a request is required in accordance with your procedures in such instances, and we do respect your method of operation.”

But the letter goes on to state, “We wish to assert at this early stage our deep suspicion, based on past experience, that the State of Israel, including its investigative and legal institutions, has no intention to seriously investigate complaints of war crimes. Our suspicion is backed by a very large number of documented cases ostensibly involving war crimes committed by Israel in the Occupied Territories in gross violation of international law. Most of these cases have not been investigated at all, and a few have been concluded with acquittal following a superficial and inadequate investigation,” the letter asserts. The writers go on to list incidents that they allege constitute war crimes.

International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda
International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Fatou BensoudaCredit: Bas Czerwinski / AP

Israel is not a member of the International Criminal Court and has asserted that the court therefore has no jurisdiction to investigate its conduct in the territories. “Israel vehemently rejects the claim that it is committing war crimes and stresses its unequivocal stance that the ICC has no jurisdiction to open a probe against it,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement last month. “This stance has been made clear to the ICC through other countries and world-renowned experts.”

But senior officials in the Israeli justice system have presented Israel’s position to the International Criminal Court in The Hague through intermediaries, despite Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the court’s probe into alleged war crimes in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel has said that the Israeli army investigates every incident in which there is a reasonable suspicion that procedures were violated and, when necessary, puts those responsible on trial.

Thursday’s letter from the group of intellectuals goes on to state: “In our assessment, the many acts of discrimination, severe restrictions upon freedom of movement, appropriation of Palestinian lands for the purpose of Israeli settlement, arbitrary collective punishments (such as curfews and blockades), unwarranted arrests … and the abject failure of the military courts to provide even a semblance of justice – all these and more are eminently worthy of investigation by your Court.”

“Sadly, despite Israel’s image as a state that maintains a proper and professional legal system, the reality paints a different picture – harsh, discriminatory, and outrageous. The law imposed on the Occupied Territories and the manner in which it is applied by the Israeli enforcement and security agencies effectively allow ongoing acts of moral injustice and prima facie war crimes.” the letter asserts.

With reporting by Judy Maltz and Yaniv Kubovich. Published on May 6, 2021.