Russell Tribunal on Palestine Part I - Background & Introductions
October 8, 2012
It seemed like many people I spoke to at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine were waking up to the reality of the horrible conditions that the people of Palestine are subjected to. Many of the panelists too, seemed to only come to their realization recently after visiting the occupied territories and seeing the conditions that Palestinians live in, and after talking to activists who have been involved in the struggle for decades. A shifting consciousness around Israel and Palestine is underfoot and this tribunal represented a new international commitment to something more than just “peace talks” (a term that misleadingly conjures the imagery of war, and not of ethnic-based oppression, genocide, sociocide, politicide and apartheid). This commitment comes in the form of a demand to Israel to stop their human rights violations, a demand for basic human dignity for the Palestinian people and the promise of a future for the children of Palestine. For the people of Israel, for the people of Palestine and for humans everywhere, Israel’s actions against the people of Palestine must end.
The tribunal sought to examine details surrounding the situation in Palestine and to make recommendations on how to move forward based on the details and testimonies presented. One of the most important things that can come from this tribunal is a complete social media blitz, which could create a long-term effect on the way people view, understand, and speak about the situation in Palestine, adding power to the social currents building against human rights violations committed by Israel and supported by the United States.
When Israel colonized the lands of the Palestinian people in the 20th century, they, with the help of the powers in the west (mainly the United States), were able to dominate the conversation with narratives that justified disturbing and horrific acts against the people of Palestine. The occupation was spun as an “ancient unending conflict” between two groups, dating back thousands of years. The indigenous people of Palestine in the 20th century, who had not been alive thousands of years before, whose grandparents and great-great-grandparents had not been alive in such a time, understood that this was rhetoric used to justify colonization of their lands. We now live in the age of free and verifiable information. Propaganda campaigns that support the destruction of one group for the benefit of another cannot run rampantly unchecked any longer. The international community is beginning to stir around this issue, and a movement to end the human rights violations in Israel is beginning to emerge. As they have in other cases of extreme human rights violations, the Russell Tribunal will certainly have played a significant role in this growing movement.
The Russell Tribunal is also known as the International War Crimes Tribunal and has tackled war crimes committed by the United States in Vietnam and Iraq and war crimes & human rights violations in Brazil, Chile, and other parts of Latin America.
This was the fourth meeting of the tribunal on Palestine, this time meeting in New York City. The tribunal on Palestine has met previously in Barcelona, London and Cape Town successively, in order to tackle various aspects of the human rights violations taking place against the Palestinian people.
The undeniably credible panel of tribunal jurors included the following: Dennis Banks, Angela Davis, John Dugard, Miguel Angel Estrella, Stephane Hessel, Ronnie Kasrils, Mairead Maguire, Cynthia McKinney, Michael Mansfield, Alice Walker, Roger Waters.
There were also many notably prominent expert witnesses including Noam Chomsky. It was an incredibly thoughtful and responsible collection of individuals who have spent their lives devoted to human rights and the fact that they came together to denounce what Israel is doing to the Palestinian people is significant.
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