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.”
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.
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
“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
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
“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
“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
“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.”
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.
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.”