Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Russell Tribunal On Palestine

Those who seek justice for Palestinians face a variety of obstacles, and the biggest is that it's not widely known that the Palestinian people even need justice.

People don't know, for example, that the story about Palestine being an uninhabited desert where the few Jews who escaped the horror of the Holocaust created a thriving, plucky little democracy, is just not true.

Alice Walker - photo Bud Korotzer
Most people don't realize that in order for there to be an Israel, half of native Palestinians were forcibly removed from their farms, homes, villages and cities. People don't know that those Palestinians and their descendants, now amounting to millions of people, still live in deplorable conditions in scattered refugee camps. They don't know that the Palestinians who stayed behind are having their land systematically stolen and face daily terror and humiliation from Israeli occupiers who want them, too, to leave. They don't know that the water Israel uses to "make the desert bloom" is diverted from Palestinian aquifers.

It's also not widely known that Israel's ongoing impunity for its treatment of the Palestinians -- which owes primarily to the fact that the treatment is invisible to people who causally follow the news -- has always been made possible by the United States, that the US has always been Israel's most important supporter because it regularly uses its power, including its power and influence at the United Nations, to protect Israel from the consequences of its treatment of the Palestinians.

Harry Belefonte - photo Bud Korotzer

 To counteract the kind of power a force like the US has, with its state apparatus and its access to the news media, those who oppose what it's doing have to somehow get the truth out, after first, of course, establishing what the truth is, in a way that holds up to the kind of misinformation and propaganda a force like the US is capable of.

One way to do it is with a people's tribunal. The peoples, or citizens, tribunal, can establish the need for justice and bring attention to a cause at the same time. It does this by collecting evidence under formal, legally sound conditions, i.e. documentation and sworn testimony, and enlisting noteworthy people to participate.

Citizen tribunals have only moral force, but they are a way for activists to counter their lack of power and mainstream media access. Citizen tribunals looking into such things as South African apartheid and various US military interventions have helped publicize those situations while providing other activists and groups with solid fact based ammunition with which to agitate for changes in policy.

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine, which concluded a session in New York this past weekend, is focusing attention on Israel's violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and its war crimes. It is collecting the testimony of experts and witnesses, and its jurors and participants include well known people like Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Cynthia McKinney, Harry Belafonte, Russell Means of the American Indian Movement, Israeli academic Ilian Pappe, and Pink Floyd guitarist Roger Waters, all whose gravitas and celebrity lend credibility to and draw attention to the Palestinian cause.

Photo Bud Korotzer
The Russell Tribunal On Palestine is one of a number of tribunals over the years initiated by the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, which was formed by famed intellectual Bertrand Russell in 1963. The first Russell Tribunal in 1966 collected evidence against the Vietnam War and was organized by Russell and French intellectual Jean Paul Sartre. Other Russell tribunals have investigated such crimes as the US backed 1973 military coup in Chile and the US war against Iraq.

Previous sessions of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine were held in Barcelona, London and Cape Town and focused on corporate and European Union complicity in Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, and on establishing that Israel's occupation of the remaining Palestinian territories by means of violence, separation and discriminatory laws amounts to a system of apartheid.

Photo Bud Korotze
According to the tribunal's web site a final session will be organized in February, 2013 to announce the tribunal's overall conclusions.

For more:

Russell Tribunal On Palestine

Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation


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