Global gangsters

Published June 3, 2024
The writer is a journalist
The writer is a journalist

REMEMBER the letter written by six judges of the Islamabad High Court alleging interference by intelligence agencies and state actors? The list of complaints included allegations of illegal surveillance of the judges and their families — presumably in the hopes of uncovering compromising material — all the way to direct and indirect threats. None of this came as a huge surprise to those who know how the system works, nor is the subsequent campaign waged against those judges unexpected. Most of us, I presume, simply shook our heads and said something to the effect of ‘this is Pakistan, this is just how things are’, and moved on with a lingering sense of shame at how impure our land is and how embarrassing it must be for the world to see all this. What would they think?

If you’re one of those people, I have some good news for you: we are not alone. No, sir! The fact is that the entire world is rotten to the core. In fact, we’re amateurs; the smallest of fries when compared to the truly global gangsters who play on a much wider international stage. Literally. In the sense that the court they tried to compromise is no less than the International Criminal Court (ICC) itself.

A detailed investigation by The Guardian and Israel’s 972 magazine has unveiled a decade-long operation by Israel to undermine, intimidate and compromise the ICC itself; the operation was led by then Mossad chief Yossi Cohen with the full personal approval of Benjamin Netanyahu and the complete support of “the highest branches of Israel’s government, the intelligence community, and both the civilian and military legal systems”.

The mission was to derail a possible war crimes investigation into Israel by the ICC, and then chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda was a prime target. The mission was to enlist Bensouda and, if that failed, to compromise her. The first few contacts were ‘friendly’ but when Bensouda apparently rebuffed the advances, the tone changed. Cohen began calling Bensouda numerous times on her personal number with veiled blandishments and not-so-veiled threats, and when she asked how he had obtained her contacts he replied: “Did you forget what I do for a living?”

The harassment and surveillance stepped up when, in December 2019, Bensouda announced that she had grounds to open a full criminal investigation into alleged war crimes in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. At this point Cohen told Bensouda: “You should help us and let us take care of you. You don’t want to be getting into things that could compromise your security or that of your family.” He also showed Bensouda surveillance photographs of an unknown nature of her husband in an effort to get her to play ball and leaked those photos to other diplomats.

The entire world is rotten to the core; we’re just amateurs.

At this point Israel’s global godfather — the United States of America — also did its part: the Trump administration — acting in tandem with its most allied of allies — placed visa restrictions and sanctions on Bensouda, with then US secretary of State Mike Pompeo clearly saying that it was due to the Palestine case. Later, in a very familiar echo to Pakistan, he also accused her of corruption.

Such thuggery is par for the course for the US. In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, when America was building a fake casus belli for attacking Iraq, it turned out that José Bustani, then head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, wasn’t playing ball, and America wanted him to step down. Bustani refused, and that’s when US official John Bolton threatened him, saying: “We have ways to retaliate against you … we know where your kids live. You have two sons in New York.”

Over at the ICC, Be­­n­souda was repla­ced by Karim Khan, whose appointment Israel in­­itially welcomed. Karim also seemed to be playing ball with the Empire by ensuring that a war crimes inv­estigation in Afgha­ni­stan did not focus on American actions. But then he went and completed the task Bensouda had begun despite the pressure the likes of which we can only imagine; in a recent interview he alluded to that pressure saying that he had been told by a Western diplomat that the ICC was for Africa and “thugs like Putin”, and not, naturally, for the sainted leaders of the ‘Free World’.

Consider that this is just what we know, and imagine the kind of tactics these states and leaders have and continue to use to further their blood-soaked imperial interests.

Also consider that, after the investigation was published, a Haaretz journalist came forward to say he had all these details in 2022 but was warned not to publish them by Israel’s authorities. He was told that if he were to publish he would “suffer the consequences and get to know the interrogation rooms of the Israeli security authorities from the inside”. Sound familiar?

The writer is a journalist.

X: @zarrarkhuhro

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2024

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