Solicitors’ group accused of hosting ‘kangaroo court'

By JONNY PAUL JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
November 21, 2010 02:53

Law Society of England and Wales denies connection to event "putting those complicit with Israel on trial."




The Law Society of England and Wales

law society 58. (photo credit: courtesy)

LONDON – The Law Society of England and Wales has distanced itself from a self-styled tribunal taking place at its offices which puts organizations and companies on trial for complicity in “Israeli war crimes.”

Taking place at its central London offices on Saturday and Sunday, the “Russell Tribunal on Palestine” is a symbolic citizens’ initiative with no legal standing that claims to reaffirm the importance of international law in conflict resolution. The Law Society said the building was merely being hired out, but admitted the tribunal was “objectionable to some.”

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A number of senior lawyers have expressed their concerns about this “kangaroo court” to the society, which represents all solicitors in England and Wales; the society, for its part, said it had received a huge number of complaints and calls to cancel the event.

Jonathan Morris, a partner at Berwin Leighton Paisner and vice chairman of the British Israel Law Association, called for the society to not allow its property to be used to conduct a one-sided event denigrating Israel.

“We have written to the Law Society to express our dismay that this event will be held on its premises,” Morris said. “While we appreciate that it is not formally hosting the tribunal, the fact that it has hired out a room to this organization is deeply regrettable.

“Given its stated aims and the roster of speakers, it is abundantly clear that the tribunal will not be seeking to conduct an impartial legal enquiry. Instead, it will be used as a basis for providing a one-sided platform to those who wish to denigrate the State of Israel,” Morris said.

The Law Society’s chief executive, Desmond Hudson, responded by saying that the event had been organized externally.

“The booking came as a result of our external letting agency having received an order to rent space available on the open market over a weekend where the offices would otherwise be closed,” he said.

Hudson admitted that the tribunal was controversial and objectionable to some.

But, he added, the participation of Jews for Justice for Palestinians – a radical fringe group of anti-Zionist Jews – suggests that “opinion in Israel and among the Jewish community are not monolithic.

“Although I have no wish to be drawn into substance, it is inevitable that any such organization dealing with such difficult questions will arouse controversy,” Hudson added.

Alluding to one of the complaints he had received, Hudson said it was not right to censor subjects just because they are contentious.

“One correspondent wrote that it is offensive for the Law Society to host the tribunal, which demonizes Israel, ‘a cradle of jurisprudence and bastion of democracy in the Middle East.’ “Israel’s record on jurisprudence and democracy is not disputed,” said Hudson. “But equally, our country has a long and proud tradition of freedom of expression and opinion.”

“The tribunal may or may not be biased, but not proscribed. It is a sad day when subjects are censored just because they are contentious. That said, we have not the least intention of causing offense among our members.

“I would like to personally assure you that holding this event emphatically does not mean the Society endorses, sponsors or associates itself in any way with the tribunal. We will and do make that absolutely clear,” Hudson added.

The two-day event at the Law Society will continue on for a third day – Monday – at the offices of Amnesty International in London.

Organizers said the “tribunal” would examine “international corporate complicity in Israel’s violations of international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and war crimes.”

A number of Israeli academics and activists are set to join anti-Israel counterparts to castigate Israel and the organizations and companies that trade with it – with a host of Israeli and international companies accused of complicity not represented or able to defend themselves.

“After establishing the responsibilities and obligations of corporations under international law, the Russell Tribunal will assess the conduct of a series of companies regarding different aspects of Israel’s violations of the rights of the Palestinian people. The tribunal will also seek to uncover the system that allows corporations to act in such unlawful ways, and to show in what ways states and international organizations could be held accountable for this,” the remit of the tribunal states.

“The jury will announce its conclusions which, we are persuaded, will attract widespread international public and political support, thereby contributing to a just and durable peace in the Middle East,” the tribunal statement said.

On Saturday, the University of Haifa’s Dr. Dalit Baum and Hugh Lanning, from the radical fringe group Palestine Solidarity Campaign, were scheduled to speak about business practices in relation to settlements and the settlement industry.

On Sunday, Tel Aviv University’s Merav Amir is to speak on the connection of Israeli and international finance companies “to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”

 Shir Hever, from Jerusalem’s Alternative Information Center, a pro-Palestinian campaign group, who said that Israeli mechanisms are used by other countries after being tested on Palestinians, will speak about the Elbit Systems defense manufacturer and “its role in [Israeli] security practices.”

Said Jonathan Lux, a partner at the Ince and Company law firm: “As a member of the Law Society, I deplore the fact that they have agreed to hire their rooms to an organization whose obvious intent is to demonize and delegitimize Israel. It’s entirely predictable that the organization will thereafter represent that it has the endorsement of the Law Society, and it would be entirely naive if the Society were to pretend that this danger does not exist.”

“It is deplorable that the Law Society has agreed to host this kangaroo pseudocourt,” London barrister Jonathan Turner said. “I urge everyone who is concerned to ensure that the Law Society remains an independent and respected body to contact its officers to express concern... I can only hope that this episode will help to galvanize members of the Jewish community in Britain into establishing an effective organization which will expose the true situation in the Middle East and the agenda of those behind propaganda stunts such as this.”


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