Friday, November 04, 2011

South Africa Hosts Russell Tribunal On Palestine

Posted on Friday, 04 November 2011 18:28

South Africa hosts Russell Tribunal on Palestine

By Crystal Van Wyk

World renowned advocates, a Pulitzer prize winner and several activists including South Africa's Winnie Madikizela Mandela, will gather in Cape Town this weekend for the International Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RToP).

This is the first time that the tribunal is being held on African soil.

RToP, a brainchild of British philosopher, Bertrand Russell, is an international people's forum created by a large group of citizens involved in the promotion of peace and justice in the Middle East and is a public awareness campaign.

The third session, under the theme: "Are Israel's practices against the Palestinian people in breach of the prohibition on apartheid under international law", brings together jurists from around the world.

The jurists include the 94 -year old holocaust survivor, who also helped draft the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, Stephane Hessel, award winning author and poet, Alice Walker and Irish Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire.

Walker said she grew up in the segregated south in the 1960's and has a "natural interest in the Palestinian people".

"I have visited Palestine three times this year and the injustices that are happening there remind me of what I had known as a child growing up in Georgia," she said.

She said that this weekend she will "listen to people who have experienced apartheid in Palestine and Israel and also listen to South Africans who had suffered under apartheid and will compare situations".

The tribunal, expected to convene at the historic District Six Museum in District Six – an area of brutal apartheid era forced removals, will be opened by Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Saturday.

Several Palestinians who have suffered under Israeli occupation, including prominent South Africans like Winne Mandela and Cosatu's Zwelinzima Vavi will talk about their experiences living under apartheid.

Several Jewish bodies have voiced their disapproval ahead of the tribunal with the South African Zionist Federation dismissing it as a kangaroo court.

According to the David Saks, associate director of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies: "It can safely be said that no one is waiting with bated breath to see what the conclusion will be.

"For all that it cloaks itself in a veneer of due legal process, the RToP very obviously intends conducting itself on a 'verdict first, trial afterwards' basis."

Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the Goldstone Report also attacked the tribunal.

The Cape Town session follows sessions in Barcelona and London last year.

The final session will take place in New York later this year.

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