The United Nations announced this week that the State of Palestine will join the International Criminal Court on April 1, 2015. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced on Tuesday that the UN approved the documents submitted by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to join the ICC. Israel's immediate response was to freeze millions of dollars of tax funds to the Palestinians and to threaten other sanctions. Not surprising.
What was surprising was the response from the United States to Palestine's membership to the ICC. U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee, is leading the way to defund U.S. aid to Palestine. Sen. Rand Paul has even introduced new legislation to cut all funding to the Palestinian Authority. The State Department calls Palestine's move to join the ICC "counterproductive," the go-to phrase typical from that agency.
Many Palestinians and supporters of the State of Palestine are curious about the U.S. applying such financial pressure to the P.A. After all, the U.S. has been selling a narrative of democracy-building in the Middle East as part of official foreign policy for the past two decades. What is more democratic than a state exercising its right to join international organizations and grow its influence? Why should Palestine be punished for wishing to be a self-determined and independent member of world bodies such as the UN, the ICC, signing on to the Rome Statute, etc.
It is no secret that the U.S. has a record of double standards when it comes to its policies toward Palestine compared to how it protects Israel at all expense. A current example would be the soft touch applied toward Israel for freezing Palestinian tax funds, a violation of Israel's responsibilities according to the Paris Protocol. The European Union chief, Federica Mogherini, issued a statement holding Israel accountable for this violation. The U.S. followed with a statement opposing actions that would raise tensions. While the State Dept. spokesperson, Jen Psaki, was condemning the tax freeze on Monday, U.S. legislators were filing documents to cut funding to Palestine.
The accession of Palestine into the ICC is primarily symbolic since Israel is not a member of the Court and the ICC has no jurisdiction to police a non-member country. The U.S. is also outside of ICC jurisdiction, which is ironic but not surprising. Those who lobby for Israel inside the U.S. legislative chambers claim that Palestinian membership to the ICC is a move to isolate Israel and marginalize the Israelis. I find that to be an interesting motive for defunding Palestine when the present Israeli government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu and under corruption investigations within Israel, has already done that.
While the U.S. has moved on from the deadly Israeli attack on Gaza over the summer, and the numerous military operations before that, the Palestinians have not. There are still many thousands of Palestinian refugees who are homeless from Israel's irresponsible and inhumane bombings of entire neighborhoods in the Gaza Strip between early July and late August of 2014. Despite a ceasefire negotiated between Israel and Hamas, Israel has violated it over ninety times. If the U.S. truly appreciated and supported democratic resolutions to conflicts such as that between Israel and the Palestinians, then it would support the full self-governance of the State of Palestine without condemning it for working toward being a democracy.