The Russell Tribunal on Palestine's New York session kicked off this morning at Cooper Union (watch the live stream above). Hundreds of people have arrived to hear an expert cast of scholars on Israel's violations of international law.
The theme for this session, the fourth Russell Tribunal on Palestine event, is "US Complicity and UN Failings in Dealing with Israel’s Violations of International Law Toward the Palestinian People." Speakers include former adviser to Palestinian negotiators Diana Buttu, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, author and activist Ben White, the Palestinian Center for Human Right's Raji Sourani and more.
The end result will see the jury, which includes luminaries such as Alice Walker, Angela Davis and Mairead Corrigan Maguire, present their findings on Monday.
Here's more on the Russell Tribunal on Palestine:
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RToP) is an International People’s Tribunal created by a large group of citizens involved in the promotion of peace and justice in the Middle East. These past years, following, inter alia: the international community’s failure to implement the International Court of Justice’s 2004 Advisory Opinion on the construction of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory ; the lack of implementation of the resolution ES-10/15 confirming the ICJ Opinion, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 20 July 2004 ; and the Israeli offensive on Gaza in December 2008 – January 2009, committees have been created in different countries to promote and sustain a citizen’s initiative in support of the rights of the Palestinian people, with public international law as a legal frame of reference.
The RToP is imbued with the same spirit and espouses the same rigorous rules as those inherited from the Tribunal on Vietnam created by the eminent scholar and philosopher Bertrand Russell (1966-1967) and the Russell Tribunal II on Latin America (1974-1976) organized by the Lelio Basso International Foundation for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples.
Members of the International Support Committee of the RToP include Nobel Prize laureates, a former United Nations Secretary-General, two former heads of state, other persons who held high political office and many representatives of civil society, writers, journalists, poets, actors, film directors, scientists, professors, lawyers and judges.
The RToP proceedings comprise a number of sessions which deal with different aspects of complicities and omissions by states, international organisations and corporations in the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel and the perpetuation of the violations of international law committed by Israel.
Jadaliyya's Noura Erakat explains why it's important to focus on U.S. complicity in the denial of Palestinian rights:
By neutering the UN and shielding Israel from any form of accountability, the United States has also engendered more intolerance and hatred among Israelis towards Palestinians. In late August, a group of Jewish-Israeli children attempted to lynch a Palestinian boy in East Jerusalem because he "made passes at Jewish girls." How is it that we as a nation have overcome this same bitter and dangerous racism amongst whites towards blacks, and yet sanction it by our "closest and unique ally" whom we deem the only democracy in the Middle East?
This is not new. In 1985, as Black South Africans together with their allies globally rallied against Apartheid, President Reagan continued to sing the praises of our unique ally in Africa. The US categorized Nelson Mandela as a terrorist and did not remove him from its terrorist watch list until 2008. Like the destructive role it plays today, the US at the time used its veto to stonewall an international resolution to the conflict. In response, ordinary people in the US and across the globe united in a campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Apartheid South Africa until its dismantlement in the early nineties.
In the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the US has demonstrated itself as unable and unwilling to broker peace and has become central to the problem. Alice Walker, a Pulitzer-Prize winning author and a jurist for the Russell Tribunal, explains "…the United States is complicit because it backs Israel no matter what. And I think this is corrupting, I think for our young people especially, to see that…justice in this case is never even thought about."
The purpose of the Tribunal is to collectively think about justice as a civic community and to take the lead where our governments have proven inept and counterproductive. This final session of the Tribunal, with an emphasis on US complicity, is particularly apt, since it points the finger at the conflict's financier and enabler and inwards at the US taxpayers and voters who have the agency to do something about it. President Obama may have the microphone at the UN, but it is an American constituency that has the choice to lead where the government has failed.