Sunday Times - Times Live
Holocaust survivor's dramatic plea to Zuma
Anna Majavu | 08 November, 2011
Death camps survivor and Russel Tribunal jurist Stephane Hessel addresses a press conference yesterday after delivering
a letter to President Jacob Zuma appealing for protection for an Israeli MP who testified at the tribunal in Cape Town
A 94-year-old survivor of Hitler's death camps has made an impassioned plea to President Jacob Zuma to protect an Israeli
MP from being stripped of her citizenship for testifying at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.
After sitting in Cape Town at the weekend, where it heard evidence from a range of witnesses,
the tribunal declared that Israel was
guilty of practising apartheid and called for it to be isolated.
The finding sparked fury from the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and SA Zionist Federation, which denounced
it as "a vehicle for anti-Israel propaganda".
Yesterday, Stephane Hessel, who survived the Nazis' Buchenwald concentration camp and later became part of the team
that wrote the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, delivered a letter at Zuma's home in Cape Town asking him to protect
Haneen Zoabi, an MP for Israel's Balad party.
This came after another Israeli MP, Otniel Schneller of the conservative Kadima party, reportedly asked her country's
parliament's ethics committee to strip Zoabi of her citizenship after she said the Israeli state was "racist".
Hessel and his fellow jurists, including former cabinet minister Ronnie Kasrils, acclaimed author Alice Walker and
Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, told Zuma they were concerned other Israelis and Palestinians who testified
at the tribunal would also be persecuted. They want Zuma to get an assurance from the Israeli government that all witnesses
will be given safe passage home.
Zoabi told The Times: "Any Israeli citizen who talks about full national and civic rights for the Palestinians is normally
targeted. It is more of a political persecution," she said.
Zuma's spokesman, Mac Maharaj, referred inquiries to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, whose
spokesman, Clayson Monyela, did not respond to questions.
After declaring at a press conference in Cape Town yesterday that Israel was guilty of practising apartheid, the tribunal
called on world governments to institute sanctions against it and break off diplomatic ties.
Apartheid is defined under international law as a situation in which two distinct racial groups can be identified and
inhumane acts committed against the subordinate group with state backing, according to the tribunal.
Jurist and veteran British lawyer Michael Mansfield said Palestinian territories consisted of ''a series of separate
reserves with the two groups [Palestinian and Israeli] segregated. He added that Israeli expert witnesses had said this policy
was even called hafrada, Hebrew for "separation".
"There are two entirely separate legal systems. Palestinians are subjected to military law, which falls far short of
... due process and Israelis living in settlements [inside Palestine] are subjected to civil
law," said Mansfield.
"Israel subjects the Palestinian
people to an institutionalised regime of domination amounting to apartheid as defined under international law."
But South African Jewish Board of Deputies chairman Mary Kluk said the tribunal was staged to "depict Israel in the most damning light possible", and that it had
"confirmed predictions that it would be no more than an unbalanced vehicle for anti-Israel propaganda thinly disguised as
a quasi-judicial investigation".
A small group of the board's supporters protested outside the press conference, some dressed as kangaroos.
Kasrils slammed them, saying that a kangaroo court was a situation in which a helpless individual was dragged into
a short trial before being sent "to the gallows".
The tribunal, he said, was only passing moral judgment and had no power to punish Israel.