ICC Takes on Israel & US Congressional Mafia

Medea Benjamin on the pro-Israel forces in Washington trying to derail Karim Khan’s request for Israeli and Hamas arrest warrants.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, left, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a flight to the Golan Heights in March 2019 for a military briefing. (Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem)

By Medea Benjamin

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham was bursting with contempt for the International Criminal Court (ICC) when he grilled U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a May 21 congressional hearing.

Wagging his finger, he warned that, if the ICC gets away with issuing arrest warrants for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, “we are next.” 

The audience at the hearing, stacked with CODEPINK pro-Palestine supporters, burst out in applause at the notion of the U.S. being hauled before the world’s highest court. “You can clap all you want,” an angry Graham retorted, “but they tried to come after our soldiers in Afghanistan.” 

Graham was thankful that in the Afghan case “reason prevailed” when the case was dropped, adding that the U.S. must level sanctions against the ICC “not only to protect our friends in Israel but to protect ourselves.” 

Graham was referring to the 2019 efforts of former ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to hold both the Taliban and the U.S. accountable for war crimes in Afghanistan. When Graham said “reason prevailed,” he really meant that U.S. thuggery prevailed because the Trump administration brazenly imposed sanctions against ICC officials, denying them visas to the U.S. and freezing their assets in U.S. banks. 

President Joe Biden lifted the sanctions but did so with the tacit understanding that the court would not resume the probe of U.S. crimes in Afghanistan. The message from both Democratic and Republican presidents was clear: Do not dare hold the U.S. to the same standards you use for others.

Benjamin Ferencz during the Nuremberg trials, circa 1947. (U.S. Army, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

The International Criminal Court was founded in 1998 as the result of a lifetime’s work by an American (and Jewish) international lawyer, Benjamin Ferencz, rooted in his experience as an investigator and chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg tribunals after the Second World War. 

Ben passed away in 2023 at the age of 103, but the universal jurisdiction that the court is exercising in this case is the fruition of his life’s work to hold war criminals accountable under international law, no matter what country they are from or who their victims are.

Enter Israel. The ICC has been building a case against Israel for nearly a decade. A recent blockbuster investigation by The Guardian and two Israeli-based news outlets revealed a shocking, almost decade-long secret campaign against the court by Israeli intelligence agencies, which surveilled, hacked, pressured, smeared and threatened ICC officials in an effort to derail the court’s inquiries. 

Despite the pressure, on May 20, ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan made his request for Israeli and Hamas arrest warrants. Among the charges against the Israeli officials are extermination, using starvation as a method of warfare, willfully causing great suffering and intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population.

ICC’s Khan in 2017. (UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Khan’s request has now gone to a panel of three judges who will determine in the coming weeks whether the request is granted. But pro-Israel forces in the U.S. are trying their best to throw sand in the wheels of justice with threats of new sanctions. 

One ultimatum already came from Sen. Tom Cotton and 11 other Republican senators in a toxic April 24 letter. “Target Israel and we will target you,” the senators signaled to the ICC. 

“If you move forward with the measures indicated in the report, we will move to end all American support for the ICC, sanction your employees and associates, and bar you and your families from the United States.” 

The letter concluded with a hair-raising: 

“You have been warned.”

Cotton, center, with then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in July 2018. (U.S. Department of State, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

The Biden administration has responded to the ICC by flip flopping like a fish on dry land. On May 20, the White House put out a statement calling the ICC prosecutor’s application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders “outrageous,” adding, “Whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.  We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security.” 

Blinken called the request “shameful.” At a hearing on May 22, he told Graham that he welcomed working with him on efforts to sanction the ICC. 

But on May 28, National Security Council Communications Advisor John Kirby said at a White House press briefing, “We don’t believe that sanctions against the ICC is the right approach here.” 

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who spoke after Kirby, reiterated that message. She said that legislation against the ICC “is not something the administration is going to support” and that “sanctions on the ICC are not an effective or appropriate tool to address U.S. concerns.”

This new position from the White House will make it easier for more Democrats to say no to the bills that will be introduced as soon as Congress returns from recess on June 3. 

Already, dueling statements are coming out from congressional members. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the ICC appeal “reprehensible” and Democrat Joe Manchin joined with Republicans to call for visa bans for ICC officials and sanctions on the international body. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders, however,  defended the court, saying, “The ICC is doing its job. It’s doing what it is supposed to do. We cannot only apply international law when it is convenient.”

On the House side, progressives voiced support for the ICC.  Rep. Cori Bush said, “Seeking arrest warrants for human rights abuses is an important step towards accountability. It’s shameful for U.S. officials to threaten the ICC while continuing to send weapons that enable war crimes.” 

Rep. Mark Pocan gave a gutsy response, saying, “If Netanyahu comes to address Congress, I would be more than glad to show the ICC the way to the House floor to issue that warrant.”

Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan in 2018. (Charles Edward Miller, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

While most Republicans and pro-Israel hawks in the Democratic Party will likely join hands to hammer the international court, Biden may ultimately feel pressured to adopt the position best articulated by Sen. Van Hollen: 

“It is fine to express opposition to a possible judicial action, but it is absolutely wrong to interfere in a judicial matter by threatening judicial officers, their family members and their employees with retribution. This thuggery is something befitting the mafia, not U.S. senators.” 

It is also not befitting the White House, especially one that has been such a willing partner to Israel’s war crimes.

Medea Benjamin, cofounder of the peace group CODEPINK, is coauthor, with David Swanson, of the forthcoming NATO: What You Need to Know.

Views expressed in this article may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.


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20 comments for “ICC Takes on Israel & US Congressional Mafia

  1. May 31, 2024 at 02:21

    Ms. Benjamin, what mission that should have been accomplished was not accomplished? Explain that banner that your group was carrying, that said “MISSION NOT ACCOMPLISHED”.

  2. anon
    May 30, 2024 at 22:36

    Remember “Dusty Boy” from Aleppo?
    Remember all the BBC and CNN hack stenographers blubbering out oceans of tears over the latest “Last Hospital In Aleppo” right on cue?
    Remember Roth at HRW incessantly bleating out “Barrel Bombs! Barrel Bombs! Barrel Bombs!” like a demented parrot?

    Contrast that with their deafening silence over the crimes of their Zionist paymasters.

  3. Voltaria Voltaire
    May 30, 2024 at 17:09

    I think the reason Lindsay Graham said those horribly critical things about Medea was because he has his own stuff in that particular arena. His rabid criticism of her (sweet, but tough Medea) broadcasts his own guilt. People who care about humanity, and have integrity, are beginning to band toghether and speak out. The ICC means business and the guilty are fearful of their own responsibility in the commission of war crimes. The war criminals are afraid of accountability, but accountability must be had or the situations will just get worse. No one is above the law. When the laws stop protecting people who are doing right and being good, and start protecting criminals, they need to change.

  4. Lucy Brockmeier
    May 30, 2024 at 09:35

    Uh, the headline is backwards.

    “Israel and US Congressional Mafia Takes on ICC” is a better description of the content.
    So, far, the ICC has done nothing to “take on” either “Israel” or “the Congressional Mafia”. IIRC, so far, a prosecutor has recommended an indictment, with no resolution of this from the ICC. At that point, it is possible, that the ICC might issue, in the future, a piece of paper that requests that Netanyahu and Gallant appear in court.

    Then of course, we are highly likely to see that the piece of paper is worth just as much as the other Hague court’s pieces of paper requesting that Israel please not commit genocide and that they should not attack Rafah with American made bombs blowing tent camps of refugees who’ve had to flee their previous refugee camp and likely other camps before becoming the target for American bombs.

    The story is all about thugs taking on the ICC, not the other way around. “Criminals Hate the Courts” is a “Dog Bites Man” category of headline. And not exactly Breaking News since Sen. Joe Biden voted “Yea” on the Hague Invasion Act decades ago in America’s Forever Wars.

  5. May 30, 2024 at 08:11

    Thank You Medea

  6. J Anthony
    May 30, 2024 at 05:56

    The masks are off, the thuggery revealed, the hypocrisy too blatant to ignore. At this point you are either stupid, or willfully ignorant, if you’re still defending the indefensible. Everything going on today makes clear the trajectory of societal collapse the west is on. The psychopathic class are joyfully dragging the world to hell. Steel yourselves.
    I can only hope enough people coalesce in order to sustain a resistance, as they will kill us all if we allow it, but the indoctrination and propaganda runs so deep, I’m not holding my breath. Palestinians (and others) are already paying the highest price for resistance. It won’t be any different on the home front.

  7. Jimm
    May 30, 2024 at 00:57

    This is pure obstruction of justice on an international level, more thuggish terrorism. The Graham – Cotton crowd are simply disgraceful. And Nikki Haley is over in Israel signing bombs to be used by the IDF. Thank you for the information on Benjamin Ferencz. And for some enlightenment on the Zionist / Hamas relationship, read Jerremy Hammond’s “How Israel Supported Hamas Against The PLO” in Antiwar.com from May 8th.

    • Share
      May 31, 2024 at 07:56

      Thank you for the Antiwar.com recommendation. I see there that “Hamtramck becomes first city to boycott Israel.” When I lived in Detroit, Hamtramck was still mostly Polish but apparently now it’s majority Muslim. That’s just a note of interest because people are people and we all descend from Africa. That article says the two California cities that have voted to divest target only certain Israeli companies while Hamtramck pledged to refrain from purchasing from all companies targeted by the BDS campaign.

  8. anon
    May 29, 2024 at 22:43

    Can anyone seriously doubt that the world would be an infinitely better place without Israel?

  9. debi
    May 29, 2024 at 20:32

    “we are next”

    Let’s hope so.
    Finally Graham said something I agree with.

  10. Guy St Hilaire
    May 29, 2024 at 20:20

    Blackmail in broad daylight for all to see .

  11. Paula
    May 29, 2024 at 17:59

    I haven’t read this yet, but I love pictures because I find it so true that a picture is worth a thousand words. Of course some can be staged and deceiving, but the pic, not here, but elsewhere of Yahoo with his head slated down, gaze direct at Biden, looks like a threat and no proof, but my guess is Yahoo has dirt on US politics that go back to 9/11 and perhaps before, that should the American public know . . .

    I know that gaze and experienced it, but too long of a story to explain.

    I applaud those who dug deep, found an Israeli/Zionist owned demolition company in California, and should ever their records of where employees might have been prior to 9/11 or if they were employed elsewhere prior to 9/11 and the unexplored dancing Israelis on a New York rooftop parking garage as the towers went down, and a fellow employee’s comment on what one Israeli employee said to him about owning America . . .

    All arrows point to deep corruption in US government for years, actually. When profits and power are all that matter, humans will matter little more than cattle or chickens or the microscopic gems of the oceans or healthy soils that keep our planet and us living.

    USA leaders came from the same EU continent as the Zionists populating and occupying Palestine, a colonialist, imperialist mindset that thinks they possess the only garden that matters. If the world is a jungle beyond their perspective, it’s because they had a hand in destabilizing and making it so. That shared history has never been abandoned or sacrificed for the greater good of the world, but instead turned clandestine, secretly operated to keep the American people and others thinking they live in the greatest nation in the world spreading not mayhem and blood and robbing countries of their resources with 800 or more military bases around the world, oh no, USA does not do that, even though the record shows that every darn country that elected a democratic leadership that wanted their resources to benefit their own people, was couped, assassinated or other wise dispensed with, and a dictator was established that answered to the USA and its corporations who wanted their resources so damn bad and still do, they are quite willing, like the rest of the collective West, to kill babies, children, women, men, agree with genocide in a strange turn around from WWII where we were told the war was about preventing genocide of a people. But now we are being told it is okay. And so we beat, maim, suppress any and all who stand in the way of unfettered genocide, even US police will stand aside while factions for Israel and its genocide, beat the hell out of peaceful USA students who have ethics and morals to make me more proud of them than my own children. I hope this government and who is running it falls and fails hard. And I hope there are enough decent Americans left in our country who are willing to stand up with those students and for what we once had and make the sacrifices necessary to make it so again and even better.

    I am sick of my government and all its lies and shenanigans, its deceits and propaganda and I hope if we have to take a bomb, nuclear or otherwise, it targets Washington DC first. Second, some primo targets in the Virginia’s. Bullying and violence is all they seem to understand. I understand it too as the only way to deal with assholes lacking diplomatic intelligence and hell bent on controlling the world, and unable to adapt to a multipolar world order in which nations will be treated more fairly than by these Western vampire blood sucking western nations and their corporations and their banking systems that make slaves of everyone.

    • J Anthony
      May 30, 2024 at 05:47

      I feel your frustration. There is no chance of a stable world in a world run by psychopaths. We all need to understand that that’s what they are, and continuously refer to them as such.

  12. Michael McNulty
    May 29, 2024 at 17:29

    Injustices continue not because later politicians didn’t learn the lessons but because the politicians who committed them weren’t prosecuted.

  13. bardamu
    May 29, 2024 at 16:47

    Well, Blinken is right about one thing so far. US potentates are apt to be “next.”

    The world is moving off the dollar standard about as fast as it can work out how to do so. It is not like the loss-in-progress in Ukraine will reach any solution that is apt to help that. If Washington keeps doubling down, Russia will share a border with Hungary.

    I imagine that Washington must think about consequences in some way, but it has become awfully hard to imagine just how.

  14. susan
    May 29, 2024 at 16:42

    I hope the ICC will lock ’em all up and throw away the key! These people are bad to the bone – including Lindsey butthead Graham!

  15. Drew Hunkins
    May 29, 2024 at 16:41

    Careful ICC, the Mossad might rub out your children.

  16. Eric
    May 29, 2024 at 15:36

    ‘The White House’ is correct in saying “there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.”

    One is a state that has ethnically cleansed, occupied and dispossessed an indigenous people for three-quarters of a century,
    and is now conducting a genocidal campaign of butchery, immiseration and environmental devastation.

    The other is a movement exercising its legal right to armed resistance against its military occupiers
    (thought it doesn’t have the right to attack civilians).

    • hamas are heroes
      May 29, 2024 at 22:09

      hamas didnt attack civilians on oct 7, it attacked a kibbutz, a military site, all civilians were killed by friendly fire, hamas does not have the weapons to cause the destruction that resulted in the loss of civilian life. This is just a myth.

  17. Chris N
    May 29, 2024 at 14:53

    But Putin is the thug (eyeroll)

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