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The Russell Tribunal on Palestine | 26 mars 2013 |

At its fifth (concluding) session on Palestine, the Russell Tribunal continued to pursue its historic mission which consists, at a time when the international community is faced with enormous challenges, in building a citizen-based protest structure and denouncing intolerable situations. The United Nations Charter begins with the words “We the peoples of the United Nations”. Hence it was not created solely for the purpose of protecting State power.

At this final session, the Russell Tribunal has summarised the findings of the four preceding sessions. The findings address in succession:

I. The particular violations of international law committed by Israel

II. Overarching features of Israel’s regime vis-à-vis the Palestinians – apartheid and sociocide

III. The responsibility of States and in particular the United States of America, which assists Israel in its violations of international law

IV. The responsibility of international organisations (the UN and the EU), which assist Israel in its violations of international law

V. The responsibility of private corporations that assist Israel in its violations of international law

VI. Future action and the ways forward

Important events subsequent to the New York session

The jury first of all notes a number of events that have occurred subsequent to the New York session which confirm:

Israel’s violations of international law; and
the support of the United States for these violations ; and
the failure of the United Nations to respond meaningfully to Israel’s violations of international law.

First, there was Israel’s attack on Gaza from 14 to 21 November 2012 in Operation Pillar of Defence. Although an Israeli ground offensive was avoided Israel caused considerable loss of life (158 Palestinians were killed compared with six Israelis) and damage to property. War crimes were committed in this offensive. In one attack twelve persons were killed – two men, six women and four children. The Security Council failed to take any decision on this offensive. Although the US government played an important role in securing a ceasefire the US Congress gave support and encouragement to Israel.

On 29 November 2012 Palestine was accorded the status of “non- member observer status” in a resolution of the General Assembly adopted by 138 votes to 9 and 41 abstentions. This constitutes recognition of the statehood of Palestine but falls short of UN membership. The United States joined Israel in voting against the resolution.

In response to the UN decision, Israel announced that it had approved plans for the construction of 3,000 settlement units in the controversial E1 corridor between East Jerusalem and the settlement of Maale Adumim, which will destroy the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian State. While the EU has taken a strong position against this decision the United States has failed to do so. The Security Council has not adopted any resolution on this subject.

In January 2013 the Independent Fact-Finding Mission to Investigate the Implications of Israeli Settlements established by the Human Rights Council concluded that the establishments of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem had produced a dual legal system of segregation in which settlers enjoyed superior rights to Palestinians, and which invaded the human rights of Palestinians in social, political and cultural areas. Although the Mission did not use the word apartheid to describe the regime there can be no doubt that the system of unequal segregation it described is a form of apartheid. The Security Council has failed to respond to this important report.

Further, in an unprecedented move, on 29 January 2013 Israel has failed to attend its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the UN Human Rights Council. Israel’s decision to boycott the UPR was yet another demonstration of its contempt for international human rights norms, and was made possible by the complacency of the international community.[2]

The Tribunal also notes with concern developments within Israel, including violent police raids of Bedouin villages[3] and revelations concerning forced contraceptive injections of Ethiopian Jewish women.[4]

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[1] The full text of the findings is available on the website of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.