Anti-Israel protestors in South Africa 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko)
Early this year the so-called Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RTP) concluded in
Brussels four years of regular meetings around the world. The declared goal of
the non-profit organization was “the promotion of peace and justice in the
Middle East.” The sole focus of every single session of this “trial” was the
State of Israel.
The RTP is in its form and content symptomatic of the
global BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) displaying itself as a
critical counter-movement to an imagined pro-Israeli mainstream. Many of today’s
leading anti-Israel activists supported the tribunal or appeared as witnesses
for this kangaroo court that sought to put Israel and its allies on trial in
order to promote anti-Israel boycotts.
The leading question of the RTP’s
Cape Town session was designed under the motto: South Africa has suffered a
period of apartheid, so South Africans know best what apartheid is. The leading
question for the jury assembled, of South African and international judges, read
as follows: “Are Israeli practices against the Palestinian people in breach of
the prohibition on apartheid under international law?” In South Africa the RTP
staged a show trial against Israel accusing the country of an especially evil
form of apartheid: “Israel’s rule over the Palestinian people, wherever they
reside, collectively amounts to a single integrated regime of apartheid [...]
The Palestinians living under colonial military rule in the Occupied Palestinian
Territory are subject to a particularly aggravated form of
Exactly two years have passed since I addressed an op-ed in
the South African daily Cape Times to the jury of that tribunal’s session in
Cape Town. In that letter I demanded an answer to a question I was prevented
from asking during the international press conference of the
The question was: Hamas is not only responsible for murder,
torture and human rights violations among their own people, but also for
terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens.
What official position does
the Russell Tribunal jury take toward the Islamist regime of Hamas ruling the
people of Gaza? This RTP-gathering in Cape Town was organized by the same crowd
of the BDS movement that recently attracted global attention by chanting slogans
such as “Shoot the Jew” during a concert by an Israeli jazz band in
Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu headed the “international
people’s tribunal” together with Stephane Hessel, a French Resistance member and
concentration camp survivor who recently passed away. Hessel’s “Time for
outrage!” essay sold worldwide as a booklet and was an inspiration for the
The list of declared RTP supporters reads like a who’s
who of global anti-Zionist academia: Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler, Ilan Pappe,
Jean Ziegler, Norman Fineklstein, Jose Saramango, Harold Pinter and the former
Secretary-General of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
supporters of the tribunal were honestly concerned with the lives of
Palestinians, why then was there not a single word mentioned about the abuse of
Palestinians by Arab regimes such as Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Kuwait, who keep
them stateless, refuse them access to higher education and do not allow them the
vote? If championing human rights, integrity and an objective hearing were the
tribunal’s values – why then was it collectively silent when human rights abuses
are perpetrated against Palestinians? Is it solely because Israel is not
involved? In the course of this concluding press conference I was astonished by
the lack of restrained professionalism that finally led to the public exposure
of the RTP’s agenda, namely trying to sell itself as the spearhead of human
rights, morality and a somehow critical truth.
When these BDS activists
were reminded of the fact that applying a moral standard has a different quality
than dissing the Jews, fury became their language of choice.
immediate thuggish response to my question was pavlovian – any question that did
not fit in with their agenda of demonizing Israel was assumed to be from the
mouth a “Zionist heckler” or “Zionist activist.”
I was not only prevented
from asking the question, but three security personnel were sent in to violently
remove me from the hall.
Their labeling of me as a “Zionist activist” was
their attempt to delegitimize my argument and demonize me as a
Not only was I not allowed to ask any questions, but in
attempting to raise issues of concern, I was thrown to the floor, dragged out of
the conference and threatened with more violence.
international press conference was a sham, displaying a total disregard and
disrespect for the principles and procedure of jurisprudence.
championing human rights, morality and “the quest for the truth” was their
intention, the way they handled my straightforward question achieved quite the
This incident was typical of today’s numerous “Palestine
solidarity” campaigns: While accusing Israel of “apartheid”, a relatively modest
question that could disturb their cohesion – in this case a question about the
jury’s stance towards the Islamist Hamas, was prohibited and resulted in my
It would seem that my mere presence there constituted a threat
so serious I had to be removed by any means. What they were afraid of was not
that I would disturb their session, but that I would expose their biased and
While I laid a charge against the organizers of the
tribunal for the physical assault and the threats against me, the CPT police
department closed the proceedings two weeks later without any
While failing to answer or apologize, the organizers of South
Africa’s high-profile Russel Tribunal were exposed for their transparently
one-sided agenda, and vicious implementation thereof, to demonize and
de-legitamise the State of Israel, irrespective of the truth.The author
is a German freelance journalist with an MA degree in International Relations
from the universities of Cape Town and Freiburg. He focuses on the Middle East,
terrorism and conflict.