On March 3, 2021, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Fatou Bensouda announced the launch of a formal investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israel in the “State of Palestine.”

International, Palestinian, and Israeli NGOs celebrated the decision, demonizing Israel with allegations of “apartheid” and “crimes against humanity.” Confirming the politicized nature of the ICC campaign, these reactions overwhelmingly singled out Israel as targets for prosecution and downplayed or completely ignored Palestinian culpability for international crimes.

NGO Reactions

International NGOs

Human Rights Watch

  • On March 4, 2021, Executive Director Ken Roth tweeted, “The International Criminal Court wouldn’t need to investigate Israeli and Palestinian war crimes if Israeli and Palestinian authorities had been prosecuting their own war criminals. They haven’t been. At all.”
  • Israel and Palestine Country Director Omar Shakir wrote, “Today a crack in decades-long wall of impunity. But road to justice remains long. Eyes will be on the next prosecutor Karim Khan to pick up baton & expeditiously move forward @IntlCrimCourt probe while demonstrating firm independence in holding even the most powerful to account.”

Amnesty International

  • On March 3, 2021 Head of Amnesty International’s Centre for International Justice Matthew Cannock published a statement asserting that “The ICC investigation provides the first genuine prospect for thousands of victims of crimes under international law to gain long overdue access to justice, truth and reparations. It also offers a historic opportunity to finally put an end to the pervasive impunity that has driven serious violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for more than half a century.”

Israeli NGOs

Adalah (Donors include: SwitzerlandEuropean UnionBroederlijk Delen (Belgium), Bread for the World-EED (Germany), Oxfam Novib (Netherlands), Christian Aid (UK), UNDP, and Open Society Foundation.)

  • On March 3, “welcome[d]” the opening of an investigation and stated that “Israel’s shielding of those responsible for crimes, and its refusal to conduct genuine, effective, and independent investigations into cases Adalah brought before Israeli legal system, have culminated in this pivotal moment.”

B’Tselem (Donors include: European UnionNorwaythe NetherlandsFranceUnited KingdomDanChurchAid (Denmark), Trocaire (Ireland), Christian Aid Ireland, Diakonia (Sweden), Bread for the World- EED (Germany), ZIVIK (Germany), the Ford Foundation, the New Israel Fund, UNICEF, and UNDP.)

  • On March 3, B’Tselem applauded the decision to open an investigation as “a critical and necessary move after many years in which Israel committed — and is still committing — crimes without having being held accountable.”

Breaking the Silence (Donors include: SwitzerlandFrance, Norway, AECID (Spain), Trocaire (Ireland), Dan Church Aid (Denmark), Broederlijk Delen (Belgium), Christian Aid (UK), CCFD (France), Medico International (Germany), Misereor (Germany),  EUICCO (Netherlands), Rockefeller Brothers FundOpen Society Institute, and New Israel Fund.)

  • On March 3, Breaking the Silence tweeted “As our Executive Director @AGvaryahu recently wrote, the ICC’s decision shouldn’t come to us as a surprise; we’ve been paving our way there for years now.”

Palestinian NGOs

Al-Dameer (Donors include European UnionSwitzerlandNational Endowment for Democracy (United States), and UNDP) /Al-Haq (Donors include the European UnionNorwayIrelandItalyFrance, and Spain) /Al Mezan (Donors include European UnionNetherlandsDiakoniaAmerican Friends Service Committee (AFSC), and Medico International (Germany)) /Palestinian Center for Human Rights (Donors include European UnionIrelandSpainFrance (Consulate General), Open Society InstituteChristian Aid (UK), DanChurchAid (Denmark), Grassroots International, Kvinna Till Kvinna (Sweden), Trocaire (Ireland), Oxfam Novib (Netherlands), Misereor (Germany), and the United Nations.)

  • In a March 3, 2021 joint statement, Al-Dameer, Al-Haq, Al Mezan, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, “welcome[d]” Bensouda’s decision to launch a formal investigation into “the Situation in Palestine.” According to the NGOs, “This is a historic day in the decades long Palestinian campaign for international justice and accountability for Israel’s apparent atrocity crimes in the Palestinian territory… We urge that there be no undue delay, and that the utmost urgency be brought to bear. Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory has been characterised by the widespread violation of the human rights of Palestinians, and the commission of repeated and ongoing apparent war crimes and crimes against humanity, facilitated by an environment of impunity.”
  • On March 7, the NGOs held a press conference to address the decision. At the conference, Al Mean director Issam Younis stated “Our cause is just, and the ICC is the last refuge for Palestinians. We cannot let the victims pay the price without accountability for those who committed the crimes against them…We are only seeking for ourselves what the whole world except for them and refuse what they do…the absence of accountability promises that worse times will come upon us and that Israel will continue with its settlement expansion, killing and destroying without punishment.”

Al-Haq (Donors include the European UnionNorwayIrelandItalyFrance, and Spain.)

  • On March 6, Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin stated, “I was convinced Bensouda would withstand the tremendous pressures put on her to resist our requests, and I was right. I’m convinced that ultimately arrest warrants and summons will be issued to Israelis suspected of war crimes. When? I don’t know. But it will happen. We’re not seeking revenge but proof that justice can be done.”
  • On March 3, 2021 Al-Haq tweeted, “All states must cooperate with the #ICC in its investigation into international crimes in #Palestine@StateDept @POTUS @JoeBiden must immediately #RescindEO13928 and not stand in the way of justice and accountability.”
  • On March 4, 2021 Al-Haq added, “It is imperative that the #ICC carry out a full, thorough and comprehensive investigation and hold to account those responsible for the commission of international crimes, inclusive of #WarCrimes and #CrimesAgainstHumanity, in #Palestine.”

Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P) (Donors include European UnionItalyNetherlandsBroederlijk Delen (Belgium), Rockefeller Brothers FundSave the Children, and UNICEF.)

Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) (Donors include European Union, Switzerland, and the Norwegian People’s Aid.)

  • On March 4, PNGO “welcomed the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open an official investigation into crimes committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The network considered that this investigation represents a critically important step towards ending impunity and upholding the international rule of law. PNGO called for the necessity of filing issues that fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC including victims of the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip in 2014, the colonial settlement, the prisoners in the Israeli prisons, in addition to other related issues.”

European NGOs

EuroMed Rights (Donors include the European CommissionSwedenSwitzerlandDenmarkFranceNorwayOpen Society FoundationsChurch of SwedenFord Foundation, and Heinrich Boll Stiftung.)

  • On March 3, EuroMed Rights President Wadih Al-Asmar stated “Today is an important day for international justice in the Euro-Mediterranean region. After decades of systematic impunity and international neglect of the thousands of Palestinian victims of the most egregious crimes, the Court has officially embarked on the road to justice, accountability and reparations for victims in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”
  • EuroMed Rights Executive Director Rasmus Alenius Boserup called on the “EU and its Member States to strongly support the ICC’s legitimacy from the escalating threats to its independence and mandate, and provide effective and decisive protection to Israeli and Palestinian human rights defenders and potential witnesses in the face of ongoing cases of smear, harassment and intimidation.”

EuMEP (Donors include: Rockefeller Brothers FundOpen Society FoundationsMedico International, and CCFD – Terre Solidaire.)

  • On March 3, head of EuMEP Martin Konecny tweeted “US sanctions were not exactly an incentive for Bensouda to put off the opening of the investigation and to leave that step to her successor.” He further tweeted “As reported, ‘Israel had asked dozens of allies to convey a “discreet message” to urge Bensouda not to move forward with the probe.’ So either allies didn’t deliver or it had no impact. Either way, victory of ICC’s independence over political pressures.”

Rights Forum (The Rights Forum does not release financial details or donation amounts, reflecting a lack of transparency and accountability.)

  • On March 5, Rights Forum tweeted “The survival of the International Criminal Court would thus be threatened because it does what it is supposed to do: investigate war crimes. Failure to do so would, however, be a failure of the international legal order.”

International Commission of Jurists (Donors include: European CommissionGermanyFinlandIrelandUnited KingdomDenmarkNetherlandsNorwaySwedenSwitzerlandUnited States, United Nations, Medico InternationalMISEREOROpen Society FoundationsOxfamSigrid Rausing Trust, and Trocaire.)

  • On March 4, ICJ’s MENA programme director Said Bearbia stated that “The ICC investigation offers a unique opportunity to begin addressing the structural impunity that prevails over past and ongoing crimes under international law in Palestine… “It’s a crucial initial step in the realization of the victims’ rights to justice, truth and reparations…Israel, the United States and other States must refrain from any efforts undermining the Office of the Prosecutor and the integrity of its investigation…Rather, they should comply with universally recognized norms on the independence and impartiality of judges and prosecutors.”

War on Want (Donors include Open Society Foundation, Christian Aid, and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.)

  • On March 3, War on Want tweeted “The International Criminal Court has opened a formal investigation into war crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory. This investigation is crucial to ensure that Palestinians have access to justice, which they are currently denied.”
  • On March 3, Executive Director Asad Rehman tweeted “For too long Israel has acted with impunity. But for the Palestinian people there may finally be a glimmer of hope that justice will no longer be denied to them.”

American NGOs

Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) (Donors include Ford Foundation, Foundation to Promote Open Society, and the Bertha Foundation.)

  • On March 3, CCR Senior Staff Attorney Katherine Gallagher tweeted#ICC Prosecutor Bensounda announces formal opening of investigation into crimes against humanity & war crimes committed in #Palestine. The Prosecutor now begins gathering evidence for individual cases & 123 ICC Member States obligated to cooperate. Must move quickly #EndImpunity.”

American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) (AMP does not release financial details or donation amounts, reflecting a lack of transparency and accountability)

  • On March 4, AMP tweeted@IntlCrimCourt has finally announced its decision to open an investigation into war crimes in #Palestine. Yet, the Biden admin was quick to condemn the court. How about that for Biden’s “Moral Leadership” claim?!”

Jewish Voice for Peace (Donors include the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Violet Jabara Charitable Trust (an Arab-American foundation that also supports Electronic Intifada), and the Firedoll Foundation.)

  • On March 4, JVP published an article titled “U.S. OPPOSITION TO ICC INVESTIGATION IS ANOTHER ATTEMPT TO SHIELD ISRAEL FROM ACCOUNTABILITY.” According to JVP, “An International Criminal Court investigation is a welcome and necessary step toward holding the Israeli government accountable for its egregious and ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights and international law….We will continue to struggle for an end to Israeli apartheid rule and for a future in which all Palestinians and Israelis live with equality, freedom, and justice.”