Russell Tribunal on Palestine Calls for Pressure on Israeli Government

NEWS, 21 Nov 2011

TMS Editor

Press release – Nov 16, 2011

Annette Groth, spokesperson on human rights for Germany’s Left Party, relates her experience at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, 5-7 November 2011 in Cape Town, South Africa.

From 5 to 7 November 2011 the third session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, which I attended, took place in Cape Town, South Africa.

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine was established in March 2009 following the Gaza war, and its procedures and aims were modelled on the Tribunal on Vietnam, held in London in 1966. The third session of the Russell Tribunal focused on the question of whether the Israeli state’s treatment of the Palestinian population meets the international definitions of apartheid. The Tribunal’s website was hacked during the session, disrupting the flow of information.

Following introductory remarks by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Tribunal heard evidence from witnesses who included victims of apartheid in South Africa. For the Palestinian side, testimony was given by Jeff Halper from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and Jamal Jumaa, a Stop the Wall activist, amongst others.

During the testimony of Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset, we learned that a complaint had been filed with the Knesset Ethics Committee calling for her citizenship to be revoked because of her participation in the Tribunal. We must protest against this.

Experts in international law such as John Dugard from the United Kingdom, Raji Sourani from Gaza and Lea Tsemel from Israel gave their legal views on the discrimination against the Palestinian population. On 7 November the jury presented its conclusions: it found that the treatment of the Palestinian population by the Israeli state meets the definition of the crime of apartheid under Article 2 of the UN Convention on Apartheid and Article 7 (2) (h) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

The jury took the view that the Jewish and Palestinian populations are two distinct ‘racial’ groups in a sociological sense. The policy of ‘targeted killings’, torture and deprivation of liberty through policies of arbitrary arrest and administrative detention were among the inhuman acts of apartheid cited by the jury. The jury also found that the systematic human rights violations that prevent the full and equal participation of the Palestinian population in political, economic, social and cultural life constitute acts of apartheid, as does the continuous violation of civil and political rights, such as rights to movement, residence, free opinion and association. These violations are systematic and in some respects also institutionalised, the jury found.

Some laws in the Israeli legal system, such as the law on citizenship, afford the Jewish population preferential status over the Palestinian population, the jury stated. In the West Bank, all Palestinians are subject to Israeli military law, while Jewish settlers in the West Bank are subject to civil law and civil courts.

Freedom of expression has been infringed by the Nakba Law, for example, which prohibits public remembrance of the forcible expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948. According to Nurit Peled-Elhanan, an Israeli co-initiator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, in 2011 alone the Knesset has already discussed and in some cases adopted 16 racist bills which discriminate against the Palestinian population.

In its recommendations, the Tribunal urges the international community to cooperate in exerting pressure, within the framework of international organisations and multilateral and bilateral treaties, to ensure the Israeli policy of apartheid is ended. The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is urged to accept jurisdiction for the complaint submitted by the Palestinian Authority in January 2009 concerning alleged war crimes committed during the Gaza War.

Annette Groth is a member of the Bundestag, Berlin.


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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 21 Nov 2011.

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