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Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) has consistently made clear that international law must be the framework within which we judge acts of violence and their legitimacy. International law makes it clear that the deliberate killing of civilians, hostage-taking and collective punishment are war crimes. International law also enshrines the right of a people to resist oppression and military occupation. 

On Monday 20 May 2024, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor, Karim A.A. Khan KC, applied for arrest warrants to be issued for three senior Hamas leaders and two senior Israeli government ministers – the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Yoav Gallant, the Minister of Defence.  

In his statement, Kahn makes clear that the investigation is continuing. These applications for arrest warrants must only be the start. It is notable and disappointing that there is no mention of the occupation or other aspects of Israel’s system of apartheid such as the abundant evidence of torture of Palestinian prisoners by Israel. These omissions speak to the political context in which the ICC operates. Nonetheless, this decision is seismic and carries significant implications for the British government. 

Whereas Hamas is proscribed as a terrorist organisation in Britain, the British government actively supports the Israeli government in various ways including through the ongoing export of weapons. This groundbreaking action by the ICC Prosecutor must finally trigger a fundamental shift in the British government’s attitude towards Israel. 

It is already a disgrace that Britain continues to export weapons to Israel at a time when Israel is on trial for genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). To refuse to halt arms sales now, when that means putting weapons into the hands of senior Israeli government leaders who stand personally accused of directing war crimes including murder and extermination, intentional attacks against a civilian population, starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, and other crimes against humanity, would be utterly obscene.  

The British government must give its full support and cooperation to the ICC and ICJ to carry out their work. 

Moreover, last month 1100 lawyers, academics and retired judges, including the former President of the Supreme Court Baroness Hale, signed an open letter and legal opinion to remind the British government of its obligations under international law, which require it to take, amongst others, the following five actions: 

  1. to work actively and effectively to secure a permanent ceasefire in Gaza;
  2. to take all available measures to ensure safe access to and delivery of the essentials of existence and medical assistance to Palestinians in Gaza, including confirmation that UK funding to UNRWA will continue with immediate effect;
  3. to impose sanctions upon individuals and entities who have made statements inciting genocide against Palestinians;
  4. to suspend the provision of weapons and weapons systems to the Government of Israel; and 
  5. to suspend the 2030 Road Map for UK-Israel bilateral relations and negotiations towards an enhanced trade agreement and to initiate a review into the suspension of the UK’s bilateral trade agreement with Israel and consider the imposition of sanctions. 

It is long past time for the government to take these steps. If it fails to act it will make clear that it does not support international law and is happy to aid and abet its violators. Meanwhile, we will continue all our actions to demand an immediate and permanent ceasefire, an end to the arms trade with Israel, and justice for the Palestinian people. 

Palestine Solidarity Campaign