Karim Khan
Karim Khan, ICC prosecutor Image Credit: REUTERS

Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, the world’s intergovernmental tribunal seated in The Hague, sought to have warrants issued for the arrest of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and its defence minister, Yoav Gallant, as well as of three Hamas leaders, Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh, accusing them of war crimes and crimes against humanity — another deep, albeit symbolic blow to Israel’s image.

The US government condemned the decision. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called it “shameful” and President Biden, the most unyielding pro-Israel chief executive since Harry S. Truman, was miffed, saying, “There is no equivalence, non, between Hamas and Israel”.

On the other hand, European countries, including France, Belgium and Germany, supported it. (Elsewhere, South Africa, which had brought similar charges against Israel in a different international body, the International Court of Justice, predictably gave its full backing.)

And talking about images, Israel has gone a long way — away from the image the West had of it in the 1950s and mid-60s as a state inhabited by a goodly people imbued with the cool ruggedness of pioneers turning the desert into orchard, who made no mistake and committed no aggression. And when they did, it was uncharacteristic of “the Jewish state”, justified given that it was committed because of the malignance of others — Arab hordes surrounding its borders, out to “drive it into the sea”.

Read more by Fawaz Turki

Radical ethno-nationalism

This dewy-eyed look, effusive, that peoples in Europe and North America gave Israel shifted soon after Israel became, in the wake of the 1967 June War, an occupying military power with an army of violent, serial settlers employed in furthering its expansionist ambitions in the Palestinian territories, a state progressively descending into radical ethno-nationalism.

Look, if Israel were a person instead of a polity, its journey since then would’ve been the classic case of an individual hell-bent on self-harm, a journey that for Israel began, one may plausibly argue, in 1977 with the election of former Urgun Gang leader and diehard reactionary politician Menachem Begin as the state’s sixth prime minister, which ended three decades of Labour Party dominance. Ever since, Israel never really looked back, never once reconsidering its evolution as a committed ethno-nationalist state guided by an expansionist policy.

Today Israel is a place, critics far and wide seem to agree, where the lunatic fringe is the ascendant centre, the lawless is the law and the settlers are the state. At what stage in its political, social, cultural and, yes, moral evolution would you say a state has arrived after it passes a jingoistic and racist law such as the 2018 Nation-State Law”; and after its leaders deliberately and calculatedly use starvation as a weapon of war? Try this: the state reaches nadir.

Put an end to the madness

I haven’t heard any friends of Israel pleading with it to put an end to the madness.

Grafted on Palestine in 1948, Israel has obsessively talked and talked, and then talked some more, about its enemies’ putative determination to destroy it.

World-renowned historian Arnold Toynbee, whose 12-volume “A Study of History”, describing the rise and fall of 23 civilisations, wrote in his work that “Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder”, maintaining that polities start to decay and finally break down when they lose their moral fibre and their political elites become driven by “the sins” of arrogance, hubris, overweening pride and self-confidence, which are manifested in such things as nationalism, militarism and “the tyranny of a dominant minority”.

Toynbee never advanced himself as a latter-day Nostrodamus but he sure as heck sounds as if he were writing about the likes of Benjamin Netanyahu, Bezalel Smotrich, Itamar Givir, et. al., folks determined to have Israel become not only a global pariah but also a decaying state.

At the end of the day, states can go against neither the laws of an International Criminal Court nor against those of history itself.

— Fawaz Turki is a noted academic, journalist and author based in Washington DC. He is the author of The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile