Israel and the Failure of International Law

Protesters hold signs and flags during a demonstration calling for a hostages deal and against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the government on May 20, 2024 in Jerusalem.
Amir Levy/Getty Images

Israel and the Failure of International Law

The International Court of Justice (icj) is investigating Israel for war crimes, including genocide. And this week, a prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (icc) requested an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing him of “causing extermination, causing starvation as a method of war, including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies, deliberately targeting civilians in conflict” and more.

These are ridiculous and demonstrably false accusations. But they’re doing real damage to more than just Israel.

These courts were founded with a noble aim: to bring peace through upholding law. By twisting the law to attack Israel, they’re making the world a more dangerous place.

Israel is plainly not committing genocide, nor deliberately targeting civilians. The United Nations quietly halved its estimate for the number of women and children killed in Gaza earlier this month. It had said 14,500 children were killed, but it reduced that number to 7,797. It had claimed 9,500 women were killed; now it says 4,959. These latest figures mean Israel is estimated to have killed one civilian for every combatant.

This is an incredibly low civilian casualty rate, unprecedented in the history of urban warfare. And this is against an enemy that targets civilians, currently has hundreds of civilian hostages (if they are still alive), and tries to get its own civilians killed to make Israel look evil in the propaganda war.

“Israel has implemented more precautions to prevent civilian harm than any military in history,” wrote John Spencer, chair of urban warfare studies at the Modern War Institute at West Point.

The icc prosecutor accused Israel of “the imposition of a total siege.” People can argue about whether Israel is doing “enough” to get aid through, but accusing Israel of imposing a “total siege” is a total lie. Israel has allowed in more than 18,000 trucks and 400,000 tons of food. Meanwhile, Egypt has not allowed aid in but has not been indicted by the court. And Hamas is estimated to have made half a billion dollars by stealing the supplies and selling them on the black market.

The case is supported by “multiple witnesses … including local and international medical doctors,” wrote the prosecutor. These would be the same medical doctors repeatedly exposed working hand-in-glove with Hamas.

The court states that is “intended to complement, not to replace, national criminal systems; it prosecutes cases only when states … are unwilling or unable to do so genuinely.” As such, it only steps in when national judicial systems fail—except apparently when Israel is involved.

Israel has a robust system for dealing with accusations of war crimes. And the Israeli prime minister is not above the law—former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was jailed for taking bribes. Its judicial system is independent of the prime minister; the showdown between the two was front-page news before October 7. By the court’s own rules, Israel’s court system should be allowed to investigate the charges first.

So a major international body is biased against Israel. That’s not exactly rare or new. Why does this matter?

Both the icc and the icj aim to further the cause of peace by upholding international law. The icc goes after individuals who commit grave crimes against the international community. The icj upholds international law between nations.

Herbert W. Armstrong—founder of the Plain Truth, the Trumpet’s predecessor—was a great supporter of the icj—so much so that in 1973, many members of the court held a banquet in his honor. He called it “man’s ultimate machinery to produce world peace.” He explained the thinking:

So our advocates of international law reason this way: Within nations, laws have been created to preserve the social order in peace and stability. These laws establish norms of conduct for persons within the nations. Police enforce them, and courts interpret them and try violators. …

This has led many to ask, “Why couldn’t we create such a system in the international sphere to preserve world peace and stability? Why couldn’t laws be established setting norms of conduct for nations? Why couldn’t nations bring their controversies to a world court for resolution rather than going to war over them?”

The trouble is, who implements the law? There is no international police force to compel nations to comply with court rulings.

One of the court justices, Nagindra Singh, visited Mr. Armstrong’s Ambassador College campus in California. Mr. Armstrong wrote:

He and I are in agreement, in principle, on what it will take to bring world peace. In his lectures he said two ingredients are basic—law and authority. Law without authority would be flouted and produce anarchy. Authority without law would be despotism and tyranny.

The court’s decisions on Israel are a total failure by mankind to implement basic conditions for peace on their own.

The International Criminal Court has not sought arrest warrants for Bashar al-Assad, whose fight to stay in office has killed half a million people. It has not gone after Xi Jinping, who has locked 2 million of his own people in concentration camps. At this point, the court is clearly enforcing political opinions, not law.

As well as discrediting the idea of international law, it is also making that law harder to enforce. Adolf Hitler was of course one of the greatest violators of international law in the 20th century. To stop him, the allies were “causing starvation as a method of war,” as accusations against Netanyahu put it, blockading Germany’s food supplies. Half a million German civilians died in Allied bombing campaigns—around seven times the number of British and American civilian deaths. Is that disproportionate and genocidal? These courts today are run by people who believe war is always morally wrong—and some may even believe Western values are not worth defending. International law was meant to stop bad guys, like the Nazis, from rising again. Instead it’s being used to stop the good guys from fighting back. If these courts were around in the 1940s, they would have protected Hitler from the Allies.

The result is that these supposed guardians of international law have become bastions of lawlessness. They’re protecting lawbreakers from the consequences of their own actions.

“It’s time we quit kidding ourselves,” Mr. Armstrong wrote. He continued:

The nations are not going to act contrary to human nature. As long as we have human nature, the [Soviet Union] is not going to turn its sovereignty over to the United Nations or the World Court. It would never have joined the UN without its veto power, which renders the UN powerless (except as a sounding board for Communist propaganda).

The United States will not surrender its sovereignty to the UN or the World Court. It, like the ussr, would never have gone into the UN without its veto power, which renders the UN powerless!

We’re too selfish to allow the world to be governed by impartial law. Instead, that law has been twisted by national self-interest or individual prejudice.

But if peace requires law, how can we have peace? In a world with enough nuclear weapons to wipe out the planet many times over, this should be a pressing question. But by now we’re used to a world with nukes. There’s been no nuclear war in the last eight decades, so most no longer worry about it. But that’s a pretty cavalier view of something so important.

“Some rule of international law in the world is necessary if we are not to perish,” former British Prime Minister Clement Attlee said. Winston Churchill warned, “Unless some effective world super-government can be brought quickly into action, the proposals for peace and human progress are dark and doubtful.”

Yet our best attempts to make this happen have failed.

The only solution is found in the Bible. “The Bible reveals that what many scientists are saying is our only hope will come, not by man’s initiative, but by God’s,” wrote Mr. Armstrong. “And that the world soon will be ruled by international law, but not through the efforts of mortal man.”

The solutions to problems of war and peace get back to things like law and selfishness. How do you prevent people and nations from putting their interests and desires ahead of what is good for the world—and even twisting the law to go along with their own point of view?

They are questions of religion and morality, questions the Bible has answers to. For more on what Jesus Christ said about the solution to world peace, read our free booklet Nuclear Armageddon Is ‘At the Door.’