Comment | The Russell Tribunal on Palestine: Calling Israeli Apartheid by its name

Early next month, New York will host the fourth and final session of the international Russell Tribunal on Palestine, featuring dozens of eminent panellists including Noam Chomsky, Angela Davis and Alice Walker. Frank Barat, coordinator of the RToP, argues acknowledging the nature of Israel's crimes against the Palestinians is more urgent, and necessary, than ever.

New in Ceasefire, Politics - Posted on Friday, September 14, 2012 18:05 - 1 Comment

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Russel Tribunal on Palestine – Cape Town (photo: Sumaya Hisham)

Is the US really an honest broker when it comes to mediating the ‘Israel/Palestine conflict’? Have the United Nations always been impartial when it comes to the plight of the Palestinian People? Are the Israeli government practices of Occupation, Apartheid and Persecution simply by-products of something much bigger?

From 6th till 8th of October 2012 in New York, a month before the US presidential elections and right in the middle of the reconvening of the UN General Assembly, the Jury panel of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, will have to answer those questions during the 4th session of the tribunal.

While the US general election will be on everyone’s lips, more than 600 people, for 3 days, will show what democracy really means: “The will of the people”.

For its fourth session, we thought that it was crucial to go back to the roots of the Palestine question and to examine what historical events created the problem in the first place and who, today,  is making sure a solution remains further away than ever.

We are not calling it “the Israel/Palestine Conflict”. This implies two parties with equal power, an equal say and equal support from other parties. This is not the case in reality, a reality that most governments and the mainstream media try very hard to obscure.

Israel was created on top of the Palestinian People. Israel is occupying Palestinian territories, Israel practices Apartheid, Colonialism, Israel is in violation of hundreds of UN resolutions (including Security Council ones) and Israel enjoys the unconditional support of most Western countries (including its most powerful ally, the US).

This is reality and this is what the 4th session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will focus on.

Following the tribunal’s three previous sessions, eminent global voices such as Stephane Hessel, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Michael Mansfield, John Dugard, Ronnie Kasrils, Dennis Banks, Mairead Maguire, Miguel Angel Estrella and Cynthia McKinney will once again deconstruct myths and taboos.

Israeli historian and activist Ilan Pappe will give a much needed historical perspective on what happened before and in the early years of the creation of the State of Israel. Mr Pappe will address the ‘elephant in the room’: Zionism. One cannot seriously comprehend the situation now without addressing and understanding what Zionism was, and what it is today.

Peter Hansen, who spent most of his career working as Commissioner General of UNRWA (1996-2005) will give a fascinating overview on the role of the UN in Palestine: the UN as an actor, the UN charter as constitution, the UN system and its function and the UN’s normative role. Mr Hansen, is also familiar with the ‘honest broker’ (understand the USA) that strongly opposed his reappointment in 2005.

For their part, Noam Chomsky, Katie Gallagher, David Wildman and Diana Buttu will all address the role the US has played in the last few decades. Why is it crucial for any US candidate who seriously has any ambition to move to the White House to say: “My support for Israel is unshakable”?

In total, more than 20 speakers (including Huwaida Arraf, Ben White, Vera Gowlland Debas, Phyllis Bennis, Gus Massiah, Gianfranco Fattorini, John Quigley, Raji Sourani and Susan Akram) will enlighten people on what is happening on the ground today, how we got into such a situation, which countries and organisations want the stalemate to continue, and why.

But the tribunal won’t stop there.

On its last day (Sunday 7 October) and for its last panel, the tribunal will open the door to a broader, bigger and visionary discussion. Prof Williams Schabas, Prof Johan Galtung, Birzeit University teacher Saleh Hamayel and the co-founder of the American Indian Movement, Russell Means will, for two hours and with the help of the Jury, try to define, to put a word on, Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians since its inception.

The fact that Israel practises Apartheid, Colonialism and Persecution has been in the past few years made very obvious by plenty of reports from a broad range of human rights organisations (including the Russell Tribunal on Palestine during its 3rd session in Cape Town), aid organisations as well as UN bodies.

Now is the time to understand those actions as massively important by-products of Israeli practices towards the Palestinians under its control. What came first, what has caused Israeli apartheid and persecution to come about and take hold, is an earlier and parallel crime that fits the usual criteria of a crime against humanity, which is persisting, but has never been given a name.

The role of the Jury during its deliberations on Sunday evening will be to find this name and to scream it out loud.

Then it will be down to us, the people, to make sure everyone understands its significance and works towards making sure it will never happen again.

To attend the New York session of the RToP, register here.

Follow us on twitter @russelltribunal

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Frank Barat

Frank Barat is Coordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, and the author of “Gaza in Crisis: Reflections on Israel’s War Against the Palestinians” with Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe. His new book, 'Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement', with Angela Davis, is out now.  He tweets at: @fbarat1

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joe wade
Sep 30, 2012 17:10

it so saddening to see Dennis Banks and Russell Means are to be part of the Russell Tribunal for Palestine, they have used their pr campaigns of lye’s and deception for years about their involvement in the murder of innocents , kind of like how Israel’s pr campaign of lies and deception towards Palestine buries truths. Now they stand at the podium with people such as Alice Walker for Justice? Her and others words will never reflect the same , such disappointment from voices i held such a high degree of regard for. It actually gives me ill feelings in the stomach.

this is such a joke and pathetic

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