The price of this human suffering in Palestine is too great - The Irish News view

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Amir Cohen/Pool Photo via AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Amir Cohen/Pool Photo via AP) (Amir Cohen/AP)

CALLS by the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court that leaders of Israel and Hamas be arrested was a theatrical move but his words can’t be dismissed as meaningless.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said he believes Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defence minister Yoav Gallant, as well as three Hamas leaders — Yehia Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh — are responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

With fateful timing, almost as soon as Mr Khan’s announcement came, Mr Gallant said the military would expand its operations in the southern Gaza city of Rafah in its efforts to crush Hamas.

And so, the cycle of violence continued in the region yesterday, with an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank killing at least seven Palestinians, including a local doctor on his way to work, according to Palestinian health officials.

Mr Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders have predictably condemned the prosecutor’s move as disgraceful and antisemitic. And yesterday, right on cue, US President Joe Biden also lambasted the prosecutor and supported Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas.

Mr Netanyahu said the request for an arrest warrant was “absurd” and accused the prosecution of antisemitism.

In reality, the possibility of an arrest warrant could give Mr Netanyahu’s conflicted ratings a boost as Israelis rally behind the flag. Conversely, his opponents could instead blame him for bringing a diplomatic catastrophe on the country.

Mr Khan’s statement has been applauded in some quarters with France, Belgium and Slovenia among the nations to say they back the move. This alone exposes divisions in the West’s approach to Israel and deepens the country’s global isolation over its conduct in the war in Gaza.

It is for a panel of three judges to decide whether to formally issue the arrest warrants and allow a case to proceed. And given the judges typically take two months to make such decisions, the fall-out and ill feeling is likely to rumble on.

But what shouldn’t be lost sight of is the sheer horror that is unfolding before our eyes, on a daily basis.

More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, which does not distinguish between non-combatants and fighters in its count. Moreover, the war has sparked a humanitarian crisis that has displaced much of the coastal enclave’s population and driven parts of it to starvation.

Mr Khan said Israel has used this as a “method of warfare”.

Regardless of who’s right and who’s wrong, there can be no justification for slaughter on this scale so anything that brings it to a halt, even temporarily, should be embraced because the price of this human suffering really is too great.