Russell Tribunal on Palestine

In previous blog postings I have written about the hardships faced by people I have met in the West Bank.  Many of their problems are directly related to the Israeli Occupation of Palestine, an occupation that has been going on since 1967.

This past week, as part of our Mid Term Orienation, we traveled into Israel and  attempted to hear the Israeli perspective.  This included a visit to an Israeli settlement. Some of the Israeli’s we met, including a former soldier,  are courageously  challenging the occupation.  It is a difficult and complex situation.  As Ecumenical Accompaniers working for the World Council of Churches, we are clear that we do not take sides in the conflict.  We are neither for or against either Israel or Palestine.  We are for peace.  We are for justice.  We are supportive of international humanitarian law and are against abuses of those laws. We support human rights.  We believe that injustice must be addressed.

In a July 17, 2011 column in the Charlotte Observer, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote:

“I, for one, never tire of speaking out against these injustices, because they remind me only too well of what we in South Africa experienced under the racist system of apartheid. I have witnessed firsthand the racially segregated roads and housing in the Occupied Palestinian territories. I have seen the humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children at the checkpoints and roadblocks. I have met Palestinians who were evicted and replaced by Jewish Israeli settlers; Palestinians whose homes were destroyed even as new, Jewish-only homes were illegally built on confiscated Palestinian land.

This oppression, these indignities and the resulting anger are only too familiar. It is no wonder that so many South African leaders in the anti-apartheid struggle, including Nelson Mandela and numerous Jewish leaders, have found ourselves compelled to speak out on this issue.

Though the situation deteriorates daily, I am not without hope. Before apartheid ended, most South Africans did not believe they would live to see a day of liberation. They did not believe that their children, or even their children’s children, would see it. But we have seen it, and I know that if apartheid can end in South Africa, so too can this occupation.

We could not have won our freedom in South Africa without the solidarity of people around the world who adopted non-violent methods to pressure governments and corporations to end their support for the apartheid regime. “:

South Africans understand the situation in Palestine.  Given their history, they are able and willing to question and challenge the Palestinian occupation in ways that other nations seem incapable of.  In South Africa this weekend, a courageous conference is being held to discuss this troubling issue.

From November 5 – 7 the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will be broadcast live on the internet. Live proceedings will be embedded on the Russell Tribunal on Palestine website.

Here is the programme:

Third International Session of the
Russell Tribunal on Palestine

Are Israel practices
against the Palestinian People in breach of the prohibition on Apartheid under
International Law?

Cape Town, 5-7 November 2011

District Six Museum

Jury Members: Stéphane Hessel, Gisèle Halimi,
Ronnie Kasrils, Mairead Maguire, Michael Mansfield, Antonio Martin Pallin,
Cynthia McKinney, Aminata Traoré, Yasmin Sooka and Alice Walker.

Saturday 5
November – Day One

09.15    Doors open.
10.00     Introduction: Pierre Galand and Stéphane Hessel.
10.30 Opening Remarks: Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. 

Setting the Legal Context:

The Palestinian Right to Self-Determination

10.45  Raji Sourani will explain the content of the
right, the nature of its denial in the Palestinian context, and its relation
to apartheid and persecution.


 Apartheid in South Africa, and
the Prohibition of Apartheid in International Law

11. 15 Max du Plessis will detail the treaty and customary international law status of the
prohibition on apartheid in international law.

11.45 Coffee Break

 The Law and Practice of Apartheid in South Africa and Palestine

12.15 John Dugard will give a reminder of how the apartheid regime operated in law and policy in
South Africa, and provide an overview of Israeli law and policy with respect
to the prohibition on apartheid.

Elements of the Definition of Apartheid: Racial Groups under International Law

12.45 David Keane will explain the broad construction given to the term ‘racial’ in the
context of ‘racial discrimination’ in International Law.

13.05 Lunch

14.35 Ingrid Jaradat will discuss Palestinian identity and
Palestinians as a distinct racial group for the purposes of the definition of

will discuss the
extent to which the legal definition of apartheid, based on the notion of
racial domination, applies to the practices of the oppressing group in

Elements of the Definition of Apartheid: an institutionalized regime of systematic domination

15.05 Joseph Schechla and Emily Schaeffer will go
over discriminatory
elements of the Israeli legal system and the separate legal systems and
courts for Jewish-Israeli settlers and Palestinians in the occupied

Acts of apartheid

15.45 Marianne Blume will discuss whether there is a case
of deliberate imposition on a racial
group or groups of living conditions calculated to cause its or their
physical destruction in whole or in part.

16.00 Coffee Break

16.30 Dr Allan Boesak and Mahmoud Hassan
will give testimonies about extra-judicial killing, torture or
cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and arbitrary arrest and
illegal imprisonment during Apartheid South Africa, and in the West Bank, the
Gaza Strip and in Israel.

Acts of apartheid: Exploitation of labour of members of a racial group or groups

17.00 Rafeef Ziadah will discuss this topic in relation to the facts
that Israel has raised barriers to Palestinian employment inside Israel since
the 1990s, and that Palestinian labour is now used extensively only in the
construction and services sectors of Jewish-Israeli settlements in the
Occupied Palestinian Territories while Zwelinzima Vavi will remind people of the conditions of
employment under Apartheid South Africa.
17.30 Closing remarks

End of Day One

Sunday 6 November – Day Two

09.30 Doors open.
10.30 Opening remarks.

Acts of apartheid (continued)

10.45 Luciana Coconi, Shawan Jabarin and Lea Tsemel
will give   testimonies over the denial of
the right to freedom of movement, of residence, to leave and return to one’s
country, to a nationality, to work, to form recognised trade unions, to
education, to freedom of opinion and expression, and to freedom of peaceful
assembly and association.

11.30 Coffee Break

Acts of apartheid: Measures designed to divide the population along racial lines

12.00 Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Jeff Halper and Jamal Juma’a
will speak of the creation
of separate reserves and ghettoes, the prohibition of mixed marriages, and
the expropriation of landed property in Israel/Palestine as well as in former
Apartheid South Africa.

Acts of apartheid: Persecution of organizations and persons, by depriving them of
fundamental rights and freedoms, because they oppose apartheid

12.45 Haneen Zoabi and Shawqi Issa will testify about the arrest, imprisonment, travel bans and the
targeting of Palestinian parliamentarians, national political leaders and
human rights defenders, the closing down of related organisations, and the
current legislation being enacted to punish those who initiate or promote
boycott measures for opposition to Israeli domination.

13.15 Lunch


14.45 Rafaelle Maison will set out and explain the status
of persecution as a crime against humanity and Raji Surani, Mohammed Khatib
and Jazi Abu Kaf will present evidence pursuant to the above with
regard to the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the
Palestinian citizens of Israel.

16.10 Coffee Break

Presentation by Israeli Government

16.40 Speaker to be confirmed by the
Israeli Government.

Third Party Responsibility and Remedies


17.00 François Dubuisson will elaborate on the third party responsibility and remedies if Israel were to be proved guilty of
17.30 Closing remarks.
 17.45  Jury Retires to Deliberate.

End of Day Two 

Monday 7 November – Day Three

Press Conference Cape Town

The Homecoming Centre

11.00 The   Jury of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will set out its conclusions for
the Third Session of the Tribunal at an International press conference.

As concerned citizens of the world, as brothers and sisters of those who are oppressed, let us applaud those in South Africa who are taking leadership in addressing the Palestinian situation. They are walking where others have feared to tread. They are asking difficult questions.  They are listening.  Let us learn from their courage.  Let us learn from their history.  Let us seek justice.  Let us seek peace.

Peace, Salaam, Shalom,


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