May 23rd, 2024

(For the SoundCloud audio, scroll down)

I have always tried to live my life by the ‘Hanlon’s Razor’ rule: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” This pithy observation, attributed to Professor Robert J. Hanlon of Thompson Rivers University, is a modern, tongue-in-cheek derivative of its more famous predecessor, Occam’s Razor. The latter, a philosophical rule proposed by 14th-century English monk William of Ockham, states: “If an event has two possible explanations, the one that requires the fewest assumptions is usually correct.”

The problem is that this week, I find myself caught between the two. The seemingly stupid decision by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to propose arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, for war crimes, alongside Yihya Sinwar and two other Hamas leaders, is far too malicious to be adequately explained by stupidity.

While the simplest assumption should be that someone representing international law is solely interested in upholding justice, this decision by Karim Asad Ahmad Khan KC to tarnish the reputation of the leader of a democratic country – a country with a robust judiciary that has previously convicted both a prime minister and a president – suggests motivations other than justice. It certainly demands more than a blind assumption that Khan is fair-minded.

Is it simply a coincidence that just last week Khan faced strong criticism at a UN Security Council meeting from Libya for not issuing arrest warrants for those responsible for alleged “massacres” in the Gaza Strip? Denouncing Khan for his inaction, Libyan envoy Taher M. El-Sonni said, “The world wants you to discover those involved in the mass graves, mass crimes against children, the genocide, the ethnic cleansing perpetrated in the ‘holocaust’ of the 21st century, the Gaza holocaust.”

Just to be clear: Libya is a country where war crimes are perpetrated daily, and where tens of thousands have died in the endless and brutal civil war that has raged since 2011 – and now this country has become the impetus for an international legal body to issue spurious, unfounded accusations against Israel?

Does it make any sense that criticism from a country mired in its own atrocities has seemingly pressured the ICC prosecutor into targeting a democratic nation with a strong judiciary that is in the middle of a defensive war against self-declared genocidal terrorists?

And then, in an interview with Piers Morgan a day after the ICC prosecutor announced the arrest warrants, the ever-urbane President of Israel, Isaac Herzog, revealed that on the very day that Khan made his announcement, ICC representatives had been slated to arrive in Israel – with Israel’s ready agreement, despite not being part of the 1998 Rome Statute which binds countries to the ICC. But just hours before Khan publicized the warrants, Israel was informed that the ICC delegation wasn’t coming to Israel.

“It shocked all of us, because we act in good faith,” Herzog told Morgan. “We are willing to have a dialogue with any international body that is relevant, honest, and can have a dialogue.” But it would appear that Khan and the ICC fail on all three counts.

In early December, Khan issued a statement at the conclusion of his visit to the scenes of devastation in Southern Israel and meetings with the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. His opening sentence should have forewarned the world of his political position, and of where he was headed with his investigations: “I have just concluded my first visit to Israel and the State of Palestine.”

I beg your pardon? Surely Khan knows that there is no ‘State of Palestine’? For him to use an official statement as the platform to promote a nonexistent entity, particularly during a conflict initiated by terrorists seeking exactly such concessions, was unconscionable.

So, notwithstanding Khan’s declaration that his visit had been “to ensure that the protection of the law is felt by all,” his sneaky inclusion of politically loaded terminology in the opening words of his statement said it all.

What is particularly galling is that Khan had been invited to Israel by family members and friends of Israeli citizens who were either killed or taken hostage by Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups on October 7th. In his statement, Khan said that in both Kibbutz Beeri and Kibbutz Kfar Azza, as well as at the site of the Nova Music Festival in Re’im, he “witnessed scenes of calculated cruelty” and that it was clear that the terrorists who perpetrated these atrocities were guilty of “some of the most serious international crimes that shock the conscience of humanity, crimes which the ICC was established to address.”

Khan continued: “In my meeting with the families of the victims of these attacks, my message was clear: we stand ready to work in partnership with them as part of our ongoing work to hold those responsible to account.” But with his decision to issue arrest warrants for Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Gallant, Khan has betrayed those families, along with the memory of every victim who died or was kidnapped at the sites he visited.  

In the Haftarah for Parshat Behar, the prophet Jeremiah is confined within King Zedekiah’s royal compound, prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the Jewish people. Yet, even amidst these dire circumstances, God reveals to Jeremiah that his cousin Hanamel will offer him ancestral land, and instructs him to purchase it. Jeremiah follows God’s directive, transferring money and documenting the purchase in the presence of witnesses – even as he continues to predict doom and gloom.

Jeremiah’s transaction is laden with symbolism. Through Jeremiah, God proclaims that “houses and fields and vineyards shall be purchased again in this land” (Jer. 32:15) – a message of hope and redemption even as prevailing circumstances seemed dire. Despite the hardship, the Jewish people were assured that their land is and will remain theirs, and that no enemy could ever sever the irrevocable bond between the Jews and Eretz Yisrael.

Today, in the face of bias from prosecutor Khan and the ICC, and the relentless efforts of those who wish to undo any Jewish connection ‘from the River to the Sea’, we find strength in our proud heritage and in the powerful prophecies of Hebrew Scripture. Just as Jeremiah’s purchase symbolized hope amidst despair, so too does our presence in Israel as a Jewish sovereign state after two millennia of bitter exile represent a fulfillment of ancient prophecies and the unbreakable bond with our land.

Despite the challenges and the malign intentions of detractors and haters, our future—both short term and long term—is firmly rooted in the country of our heritage. In the darkest of times, the promise remains: “Houses and fields and vineyards shall be purchased again in this land.” Kfar Aza, Beeri, Re’im, and Sderot – as well as the many empty towns on the northern border that have been evacuated to avoid Hezbollah rockets raining down from Lebanon – will flourish again soon, fully free of the terrorist threat that has caused and is causing so much suffering.

The Jewish story is one of resilience and unyielding hope, and it is this unwavering faith that will continue to guide us through the pain of unfounded accusations and unforgivable attacks, towards a future where our connection to our ancestral homeland remains unbroken and triumphant. This is not just hope; it is reality.

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