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Special Session of Russell Tribunal on Palestine

Special Session of Russell Tribunal on Palestine

By Lois Griffiths
2 October 2014

The original Russell Tribunal, established in 1966 by Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre, was created to expose to the public the war crimes being committed in Vietnam. It was a 'people's tribunal' of distinguished international legal experts, writers, artists..with no legal binding, but with a burning desire to “ end this crime of silence” that allowed atrocities to be perpetrated.

Since then, the Bertrand Russell Foundation has approved other Tribunals. The Russell Tribunal on Palestine held 5 sessions , the first in New York in Novemer 2010, the final in Brussels in March 2013, exploring such questions as, does Israel practice apartheid as the term is legally understood and what role do multinational corporations play in enabling Israel to oppress Palestinians.

Now, in September of this year, an intense 2 day Special Session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine has been held in Brussels, to expose what the people of Gaza were subjected to during the 51 days of so-called Operation Protective Edge. You can find on the Tribunal's website the list of distinguished members of the Tribunal jury, including: Michael Mansfield QC Professor of Law, practising Human Rights Lawyer for 45 years, John Dugard, Professor of International Law, former Special Rapporteur for UN Commission on Human Rights, Richard Falk Professor of International Law Emeritus , UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur for Palestine 2008-2014, Ronald Kasrils, writer activist and former government minister South Africa, Vandana Shiva, Ken Loach and Roger Waters.

Thirteen witnesses spoke to the tribunal. Their testimonies can be followed on the Russell Tribunal website. Journalist David Sheen focused on incitements to violence and even potential genocide by state-paid Rabbis and by high-ranking politicians. Norwegian Surgeon Mads Gilbert spoke passionately of the heroism of medical personel as they tried to cope with an overwhelming number of casualties while hospitals were being deliberately targeted. Dr Gilbert pointed out that Gazan children under 8 have been subject to four waves of vicious assaults. His colleague, Surgeon Mohammad Abou-Arab described deliberate attcks on ambulances, and emergency first-responders. Ivan Karakashian of Defence of Children International discussed the use of Palestinian children by Israelis as human shields. Eran Efanti , former IDF soldier, described first-hand testimonies from IDF soldiers who invaded Gaza, broke into houses, shot unarmed civilians.

Michael Mansfield explained that Israel should not be allowed to justify its violence by claiming a 'right to self-defence', as Israel does not recognize Gaza as a State. Instead, Israel calls Gaza a 'hostile entity', a term that Mansfield says does not exist in international law.

The overall feeling of everyone present, jury members, witnesses, audience members was that Israel's impunity must be challenged at last. As Ronald Kasrils has said, “What we saw in Gaza 2014 can and will happen again, if the world remains silent. The world must stand by the people of Gaza, of the West Bank, and the Palestinian refugees. This is for the sake of peace and justice for all living in the entire land of Israel/Palestine. “

I have a question for NZ media. Why have we not heard about the Russell Tribunal?

Is it not fair to accuse our own media of “the crime of silence”?

And I have a question for Mr McCully. You have just spoken at the Security Council , claiming that NZ, if it were a Council member, would be unafaid to advocate for justice. Does that mean that NZ would take up the cause of justice, at last, for the Palestinians?

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