Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa met with her Israeli counterpart on November 3 and condemned the “brutal killing and kidnapping by Hamas and others,” while expressing “Japan’s solidarity with the people of Israel.” Kamikawa called for all parties to follow international law. A few hours later, Kamikawa met with her Palestinian counterpart, expressing her “sincerest condolences” and “sympathy” to victims of the hostilities in the Gaza Strip, and said Japan is prepared to increase its humanitarian aid.
The contrast in message was unmistakable. Japan is right to call out the heinous October 7 attack inside Israel by Hamas-led fighters who killed about 1,200 people, including hundreds of civilians, and took more than 200 hostages, including children, according to the Israeli government. These acts are war crimes. But Japan’s government should also explicitly call out war crimes for which Israeli authorities are responsible, including cutting off water and electricity, a form of collective punishment, and blocking all but a trickle of humanitarian aid. As of November 8, the Israeli military campaign has killed more than 11,000 Palestinians, including 4,300 children, in Gaza, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.
United Nations secretary-general António Guterres stated: “We must demand that all parties uphold and respect their obligations under international humanitarian law [and] take constant care in the conduct of military operations to spare civilians.” Israeli authorities have maintained an abusive occupation for decades and have been committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution against Palestinians.
While statements and aid are crucial, as the chair of the Group of Seven (G7) nations and a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Japanese government should do more. Japan can play a particularly important role in supporting the ICC’s mission to ensure accountability for serious crimes by all parties.
Since 2021, the ICC prosecutor’s office has been investigating alleged serious crimes in Palestine, which is an ICC member. On October 10, the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory said there was “clear evidence” of war crimes in Israel and Gaza and that it would be sharing information with relevant judicial authorities, especially the ICC.
The Japanese government should ensure the ICC has the political, diplomatic and financial support it needs to carry out its work on Palestine and across its global mandate. It’s critical that Japan stays true to its public pledge of human rights diplomacy and applies it consistently.