Ra’am says Israel committing ‘unforgivable’ crimes against humanity in Gaza

Party leader Mansour Abbas faces calls for his resignation after evading question on whether Israel carried out war crimes in fight against Hamas

Ra'am party members at the campaign headquarters in the Arab Israeli town of Tamra, as the results of the Israeli elections are announced on November 1, 2022. (Flash90)
Ra'am party members at the campaign headquarters in the Arab Israeli town of Tamra, as the results of the Israeli elections are announced on November 1, 2022. (Flash90)

The Islamist Ra’am Knesset party on Thursday accused Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza, after its leader Mansour Abbas came under fire from some Arab Israelis, including calls for his resignation from within his own party, for refusing to answer a question on the matter during a Hebrew-language interview.

Abbas, who in 2021 made history as the first leader of an Arab Israeli political party to join a governing coalition, said in an interview with Kan radio on Wednesday that he “didn’t have an answer” when asked if he believed Israel to be committing war crimes as it fights to dismantle the Hamas terror group.

“I think Israel is currently contending with this question, I don’t have an answer,” he said. “I think that the correct thing to do is to let the various parties examine these questions and give their answers.”

Chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court Karim Khan announced earlier this week that he was seeking arrest warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for “causing extermination, causing starvation as a method of war including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies, deliberately targeting civilians in conflict.”

In the same announcement, Khan said he was seeking warrants for Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s ruler in Gaza; the terror group’s military chief, Mohammed Deif; and the leader of the organization, Ismail Haniyeh. He said they would be charged with extermination, murder, hostage-taking, rape, and sexual assault.

Israel has strongly rejected the charges, denouncing the court for implicitly comparing Israeli leaders to Hamas terrorists.

Ra’am party head MK Mansour Abbas leads a faction meeting, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on February 19, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Appearing to commend the charges being brought against the Hamas leaders, although not directly addressing the ICC case, Abbas told Kan that Hamas “must pay the price” for the crimes against Israeli civilians that it “unequivocally” committed during the October 7 terror onslaught in southern Israel, which started the war in Gaza.

The Ra’am leader’s comments, however, led to swift condemnation from within his own party, which distanced itself from his statement for not condemning Israel.

In a statement published on its official Facebook page on Wednesday evening, Ra’am stated that from day one, it has warned that “wars cannot bring about any solution” and has advocated for an end to the fighting and a two-state solution as a way to bring about lasting peace.

“The killing of innocent people of any religion anywhere in the world is considered an unforgivable crime,” the statement continued. “What is happening in the Gaza Strip — starving children and women, cutting off humanitarian aid, in addition to the bombing of hospitals and mosques — are war crimes punishable by international law, and they are also unforgivable crimes against humanity.”

This is Ra’am’s official position, the statement stressed, adding that “anything less does not represent our official bodies and institutions.”

Arab Israeli MK Ibrahim Sarsour (Ra’am-Ta’al) addresses the Knesset in Jerusalem, 2014. (Uri Lenz/Flash90)

Ibrahim Sarsour, who chaired the party from 2006 until 2015, called Thursday for the Islamic Movement to oust Abbas, saying he had “done more than enough.”

“Mansour Abbas’s statements are his own, and do not represent the values and fundamental principles of the Islamic Movement and the Ra’am party,” Sarsour wrote on Facebook. “I think it’s time for Abbas to seriously consider resigning from his Knesset position and ending his political career.”

In an attempt to clarify his position in the face of mounting backlash, Abbas released a short statement on Thursday, Kan reported, in which he said that “there are no wars in which crimes aren’t committed against civilians and innocent people.

“It’s happened in the Gaza Strip for seven months, and it happened in the border communities on October 7.”

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