One day last October a brutal murder took place within the premises of the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. It was a murder so grotesque that its aftermath reverberated with revulsion around the globe. Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who had entered the consulate on some business pertaining to the impending marriage to his Turkish fiancee was never to leave the premises alive.
Rogue elements within the Saudi government had intercepted Khashoggi while inside, and though the details are still being investigated, the journalist was subjected to interrogation and treatment that led to his unlawful death. Within minutes of the event, the previously obscure Khashoggi became known to the entire world as details of his encounter began to filter out.
The wave of charges and criticism against Saudi Arabia also began in an unprecedented manner. Governments from the US, Canada and the capitals of Europe were howling for blood, Saudi blood!
And while the Saudi leadership stated at the time that all those involved in this unacceptable act would be brought to justice, it was met with scepticism and there were few takers from the western world.
The crescendo of voices had forced many international businesses to re-evaluate their relationship with the kingdom, with some of them downsizing their investments, while others pulling out altogether.
Saudi has been continually under a malicious attack that has shown no signs of abating. Calls for the murder to be investigated by the UN and the International Criminal Court (ICC) too appeared. The loudest shrills for swift justice were those being heard within the US government. One man, one murder, and the western world reacted.
Now fast forward a few months past that sordid day. Last month US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that the US would deny or revoke entry visas to any members of the International Criminal Court who may try to investigate any war crimes or prosecute the guilty for abuses committed by US personnel in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
His threats also included ICC members who may be doing the same for the criminal acts carried out by Israelis.
He justified his actions by stating, “We are determined to protect the American and allied military and civilian personnel from living in fear of unjust prosecution for actions taken to defend our great nation. These visa restrictions may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursue allied personnel, including Israelis, without allies’ consent.”
He made good on his threat a few days later when the US revoked the visa of the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor because of her attempts to investigate allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan, including any that may have been committed by American forces.
And just last week, the US administration again included Israelis along with Americans as deserving immunity from International Criminal Court prosecution for war crimes.
Commenting on the ICC rejection of a request to investigate US personnel for actions in Afghanistan, the White House released a statement saying, “Since the creation of the ICC, the United States has consistently declined to join the court because of its broad, unaccountable prosecutorial powers; the threat it poses to American national sovereignty; and other deficiencies that render it illegitimate. Any attempt to target American, Israeli, or allied personnel for prosecution will be met with a swift and vigorous response.”
Wait a minute. Something does not add up. One the one hand you are baying for the blood of Saudi Arabia for the death of one man, and on the other, you are callously shielding countries like Israel whose daily count of war crimes against innocent civilians goes largely unnoticed or unreported!
And even it does and a criminal Israeli is caught, he is soon released as was the case of Elor Azaria, the Israel Forces medic who cold bloodedly shot a Palestinian in the head when he was wounded and immobilised on the ground, in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. A medic no less, trained to save lives, but in Israel trained to kill Palestinians. Three months’ detention was all that he had to put up with while the victim’s family will live the rest of their lives mourning their loss.
Such events are an everyday fact in Israel, and with the US throwing a blanket cover, they are bound to increase. While Saudi Arabia has arrested those involved in the murder of Khashoggi, with many of those being prosecuted facing the death penalty, the same cannot be said for the Israeli murderers. Their crimes are no less brutal or grotesque.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena.