The decision of Karim Khan, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, to seek arrest warrants for the leaders of Hamas and Israel has caused predictable outrage. Needless to say, Hamas supporters are outraged that, in the terms of one Gazan, the prosecutor was equating “the victim and the slaughterer.” Israeli supporters are equally outraged with Prime Minister Netanyahu calling the warrant against him “a political outrage.” The United States is, as it is wont to do, threatening sanctions against the Court.

Israeli supporters have condemned the prosecutor for drawing a false equivalence between the two parties. But in fact there is no equivalence. A reading of the charges, which have been unanimously backed by a panel of international lawyers, shows this is not the case. Both face allegations of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, but the specific charges are quite distinct. Hamas leaders have been accused of extermination, murder, hostage-taking, rape and torture; the Israelis with starving civilians, willfully causing great suffering and death, and intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population.

Nor is their an equivalence in the magnitude of the crimes. On October 7th Hamas killed 1,139 people—764 civilians—and took 252 hostages. To date, Israel has killed some 35,000 people in Gaza—25,000 of them civilians, including journalists and aid workers. In addition, 479 Palestinians and nine Israelis have been killed in the West Bank. The ratio is roughly 30 Palestinians killed for every Israeli. No equivalence here.

We might also ponder the future of the thousands of Palestinian children who face the future with mutilated bodies or psychological damage from the terror and panic of the relentless bombing.

As for Israeli supporters indignation that Hamas “terrorists” were being charged simultaneously with the leaders of democratic Israel, they appear to be overlooking the Rule of Law, a fundamental principle of our way of life. The Rule of Law says that everyone is equal under the law. We don’t prosecute only people we don’t like. The fact that Israel is a democracy is irrelevant.

In any case, Israel isn’t being accused. Nor is the Israeli army. The warrants were requested for the people at the top—where the buck stops: the prime minister and the defence minister. And it isn’t as if the prime minister of Israel is a stranger to criminal charges.

We have been reminded repeatedly that Israel has a right to defend itself. Of course it does. Everyone does. But defending yourself against an invasion by another country is not quite the same thing as defending yourself against an uprising by a people you are oppressing and whose land you are stealing.

Just as we all have the right to defend ourselves, oppressed people have a right to resist their oppression, and this Hamas did. There are, however, rules for both. You do not have carte blanch.

This quagmire did not begin on October 7th. It began when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were dispossessed from their land and disposed of in refugee camps to suffer in exile for three generations.

As for attribution of guilt in this latest round of savagery, I’ll leave that to the Court, but there is certainly ample probable cause in both cases.

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