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Netanyahu, an accused criminal at the Hague, becomes an invited guest in Washington

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(RNS) — The fiction of a post-World War II Western rules-based, values-based world order is now dead.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been invited to deliver a joint address to Congress on June 13. The invitation comes not as a flagrant partisan move, but “On behalf of the bipartisan leadership of the House of Representatives and the Senate,” according to the message sent last week.

The tone-deaf invitation, a flashback to the verbiage of the Bush-era war on terror, is a love letter from the financiers of a genocide to the executioners. It praises the Netanyahu-led Israeli government for defending democracy, combating terror and establishing peace. The international community has outed this language as farce, since while Netanyahu will come to  Washington, D.C., as an honored guest, he is a war criminal at the Hague. 

Late last month, the International Criminal Court filed applications for arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant, as well as for leaders of Hamas. In the application, the prosecutor holds Netanyahu and Gallant responsible for a long list of war crimes: starvation of civilians, willful killing, intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population, extermination and murder, persecution, and other inhumane acts as crimes against humanity.



Outrage followed from members of Congress such as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who called for sanctions on the ICC in late May, while on his fifth trip to Tel Aviv since October. “The same model they’re using to come after Israel and the IDF, they will use against us,” Graham said.

Us? What do Graham and his peers have to hide?

On June 4, the House pushed through the Illegitimate Court Counteraction Act, a play on the acronym of the International Criminal Court, the ICC. The bill passed 247 to 155, with 42 Democrats voting in favor. The bill would impose sanctions on officials involved in ICC prosecutions of Americans, as well as citizens of U.S. allies that are not ICC members, including Israel. It would go as far as blocking these officials from entry to the U.S. and revoking their visas.

The bill is not expected to make it to the Senate floor, but it reflects Congress’ willingness to not only defend itself and its partners from objective accountability, but also to engage in criminalizing internationally respected bodies such as the ICC. 

Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli strike where displaced people were staying in Rafah, Gaza Strip, May 27, 2024. Palestinian health workers said Israeli airstrikes killed at least 35 people in the area. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)

Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli strike where displaced people were staying in Rafah, Gaza Strip, May 27, 2024. Palestinian health workers said Israeli airstrikes killed at least 35 people in the area. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)

Netanyahu also faces numerous corruption charges in Israeli courts. In three ongoing trials put on hold since October, accusations against him include fraud, bribery and breach of trust. As the genocide in Gaza carries on, hundreds of thousands continue to protest against him. Protesters are furious at Netanyahu’s continuation of the onslaught on Gaza despite offers the Israeli government has received to release all hostages. On June 3, an estimated 120,000 rallied in Tel Aviv, calling for his immediate resignation. 

In late April, a former spokesperson for the families of the Israeli hostages, Haim Rubinstein, said that he had “no doubt” Netanyahu was preventing a cease-fire deal. “(He) knows that if he goes to elections at this time, he won’t be able to form a new government, and he is motivated by cold political considerations.”

Rubinstein resigned from his role as spokesperson, saying, “We later found out that Hamas had offered on October 9 or 10 to release all the civilian hostages in exchange for the IDF not entering the Strip, but the government rejected the offer.”

This dichotomy, in which Netanyahu can be a defender of freedom and democracy in the eyes of congressional leadership, while simultaneously persona non grata in Tel Aviv and charged with crimes against humanity at the ICC, has exposed the lie behind the postwar Western international regime. With more than 35,000 Palestinians killed, there is no return to normalcy after the genocide of Gaza, no restoring of the previous status quo. Support and enabling of Netanyahu’s genocide has now isolated the Biden administration from the international community and the American voter alike. 



In this twisted context, there is hope. After seven decades of occupation in the Palestinian territories, the last eight months have done more to fast-track decolonization — and ultimately Palestinian sovereignty — than anything over the past few decades. Israeli diplomacy is crumbling. Its leaders are being pursued by the International Criminal Court, its name is now synonymous with genocide, student protests and university encampments have created a movement against its occupation and public sentiment in the West is shifting in favor of the Palestinian struggle every day. 

The Israeli PM’s office boasted on X that Netanyahu “will be the first leader of a country to address both Houses of Congress for a fourth time.” Each of Netanyahu’s visits have left a stain on the history of the Congress. I have no doubt that American history will mark each one with great remorse. 



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