The Russell Tribunal on Palestine — a standing organization that held two tribunals against Israel last year in Barcelona and London — has been called for Nov . 5-6 in Cape Town “to probe whether the treatment of Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories meets the criteria of the United Nations convention against the crime of apartheid.”
Local zionists aren’t happy and are talking it down:
The South African Zionist Federation has called the event, which is to involve prominent South Africans and already is making national headlines here, “an irrelevant talk shop.”
JTA doesn’t agree:
But because of the attention it is receiving in South Africa, the tribunal is likely to be a damaging public relations exercise against Israel.
Look who’s supporting it:
South Africa’s leading federation of trade unions, the ruling African National Congress party, the South African Communist Party, and Zackie Achmat, the AIDS activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee……
Two Israelis are slated to participate in the tribunal: attorneys Michael Sfard, who has represented Israelis refusing to serve in Israeli army operations in the West Bank and is the legal counsel to Peace Now’s Settlement Watch project, and Leah Tsemel, who represents Palestinians in cases against Israel…..
Nobel Peace laureate and Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu, a frequent critic of the Jewish state, is slated to open the proceedings.
The “jury” will include Ronnie Kasrils, the Jewish former South African minister of intelligence who gained international notoriety some 10 years ago when he promoted several anti-Israel measures in parliament; Alice Walker, the African-American author who tried to take part in this year’s flotilla to Gaza and has defended suicide bombings as “last-ditch resistance”; Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Maguire, who in 2009 was arrested by Israel for sailing on a boat attempting to break Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip; and Spanish Supreme Court judge Jose Antonio Pallin, who has accused Israel of war crimes…..
South African “witnesses” will include Steven Friedman, a Jewish proponent of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign targeting Israel; John Dugard, a former U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Palestine; and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the ex-wife of anti-apartheid activist and former South African President Nelson Mandela.
And for the defence?
While the tribunal said it invited Israel, Dov Segev-Steinberg, the Israeli ambassador to South Africa, denied the claim.“I have not seen any approach by the tribunal to Israel or the embassy,” he told JTA. Segev-Steinberg said Israel views the tribunal as a “kangaroo court without any justification.”
Why South Africa?
“The world expects South Africa to champion the rights of other people,” Kasrils said.
And why the District Six Museum?
The tribunal will meet at the District Six Museum, which was set up to commemorate some of the early forced removals of “Cape Coloreds,” as mixed-race South Africans from a particular ethnic group in Cape Town were known, from their homes and businesses under the apartheid government.
More on District Six here.
More on the Crime of Apartheid here.