US MP Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is making headlines again over a question she posed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing more early this week. Representative Omar asked Blinken about his opposition to the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigation into the US military as well as the IDF. “In both of these cases, if national courts are unable or unwilling to pursue justice and we oppose the ICC, where do we think victims are supposed to seek justice? asked Omar.
“We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity,” she said. tweeted with a video of his question to Blinken. “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the United States, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan and the Taliban.
In response, a number of his fellow Democrats issued a statement condemning Omar and suggesting that she was providing “cover for terrorist groups”. Omar responded by accusing his colleagues of using Islamophobic tropes, and later clarified that she did not want to equate Hamas and the Taliban with the United States and Israel.
Here’s the thing: she’s right. Israel cannot be trusted, like anyone else, to investigate itself. And just as Hamas should be investigated for its potential war crimes by an objective third party, so should Israel.
As a result of the recent escalation of hostilities, thousands of Palestinians have been left homeless, in addition to losing family members in the bombings. With over 200 Palestinians killed – including 67 children and 39 women –medical facilities and offices media outlets were also destroyed in the airstrikes. 800,000 Palestinians in Gaza no longer have access to drinking water.
Many of the victims were civilians and are now seeking justice for the devastation they have suffered. And to achieve this, independent international institutions must investigate alleged crimes committed throughout the conflict.
Blinken’s response to Omar’s question, “that the United States and Israel have the mechanisms to ensure that there is accountability”, is not enough. How can you expect Israel to investigate itself without bias?
Would we allow Iran to conduct its own internal investigations into crimes committed by Iranian-backed militias in Syria or Iraq? Would we allow Serbia to take the initiative to prosecute the Serbian military leader Ratko Mladic who committed the genocide?
But we don’t just know it by analogy. Israel has in the past “outright rejected“UN recommendations for independent investigations. In one case, during the Gaza conflict in 2014, Israeli airstrikes targeted a school used as shelter, killing women, children and UN aid workers. At the time, despite widespread international condemnation, including from the United States, Israeli officials echoed the rhetoric of conducting an internal investigation that has since proven futile to provide real accountability.
Earlier this year, the ICC paved the way for an investigation into Israel’s alleged war crimes in the 2014 conflict. But the investigation has been blocked by both the United States and Israel. The investigation aims to explore alleged crimes committed by both Israel and Hamas, which must also be held accountable for all crimes committed. Israel, which is not a member of the ICC, claimed that the ICC was “acting without authority” and the United States supported Israel, suggesting that because the potential State of Palestine “does not qualify a sovereign State”, they “are therefore not qualified to obtain membership as a State or to participate as a State in international organizations, entities or conferences, including the ICC ”.
But any attempt by Gazans to seek justice based on the existence of a Palestinian state means that will never happen.
If the United States truly believes that Israel has acted righteously in areas of international law, as it has frequently been say again by President Joe Biden, then Secretary Blinken and the administration should have no qualms about supporting a transparent and independent international investigation.
Surely such an investigation would only support Israel’s position?
Ahmed Twaij is a freelance journalist who focuses primarily on US politics, social justice, and the Middle East. He is also a photographer and filmmaker. His Twitter is @twaiji.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.