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Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE CHAIRMAN OF THE RUSSELL TRIBUNAL

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About Maurice Ostroff
The letter below was sent to Mr. Terry Crawford-Browne, organising secretary of the Russell Trubunal, with a request that he forwarsd it to the chairman and members of the "jury".
 
His resonse is reproduced in te right hand column below
 
 

An open letter to the chairman of the Russell Tribunal
and members of the "Jury"


From Maurice Ostroff
November 3, 2011
Sir,

I am writing this letter because I am familiar with both the Israeli and South African views on the forthcoming session of the Russell Tribunal Are Israels practices against the Palestinian People in breach of the prohibition on Apartheid under International Law.

I presently live in Israel and in my earlier years I was an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa. Among my activities I participated in the WW2 ex-servicemens Springbok Legion. With nearly 60,000 members including a large number of Jews, the legion was probably the first mass movement of whites promoting the liberation of Blacks.

 

As the tribunal bears the imprimatur of that great philosopher and peace activist Bertrand Russell, one expects the panelists to take seriously the principles of moral integrity he exhorted. Indeed, if the delegates meticulously heed the advice Russell offered in a last message to our descendants one could look forward to a refreshingly balanced and even-handed report.


During an extensive interview on the BBC , Russell advised When you are studying any matter or considering any philosophy ask yourself only what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out. Never let yourself be diverted either by what you wish to believe or by what you think will have beneficial social effects if it were believed. Look only and solely at what are the facts.


Sadly, contrary to Russell’s advice, the Tribunal appears to be reinforcing preconceived opinions and avoiding inconvenient facts. How else can one explain the careful selection of a jury comprising only prominent persons who have publicly voiced strongly anti-Israel statements and preconceived opinions? And how does one explain the fact that jurists and members of the public who attend will not be allowed to question speakers?
In this climate, unlike in a democratic debate or court of law where both sides are heard, even the most misleading statements will go unchallenged and the totally unjustified anti-Israel apartheid canard will be propagated, without the benefit of honest intellectual examination.


This outstandingly undemocratic attitude flies directly in the face of Russell’s exhortation to seek the facts and avoid being diverted either by preconceived opinions or what we wish to believe.


The large amount of money spent in organizing this elaborate theatre to examine whether Israel practices South African style apartheid will be a complete waste if, contrary to Russells advice, FACTS like the honest examination by many authoritative experts are deliberately ignored. For example, former US Ambassador to the UN, Daniel Patrick Moynihan declared categorically that the situation in Israel is not apartheid. He added that racism under apartheid was skin color. Applied to Israel that's a joke: for proof just look at a crowd of Israeli Jews and their gradations in skin-color from the blackest to the whitest.


Benjamin Pogrund, who lives in Israel and who frequently criticizes Israel government policies was deputy editor of the Rand Daily Mail in the dark days of South African apartheid. He was chief author of a 1965 series on beatings and torture of black prisoners and was considered a threat to the state by security police, jailed at one time and had his passport revoked. With his background, Pogrund’s views cannot be ignored by anyone purporting to conscientiously investigate the Israeli apartheid allegation.


In an October 30, 2011, article in the Johannesburg sunday Times "Lies told about Israel are beyond belief " Pogrund wrote: Yelling slogans to the effect that Israel is apartheid and Zionism is racism doesn't make any of it true...The accusations are simply not true.


While recently spending some time as a Visiting Fellow at the Kaplan Centre of the University of Cape Town, Pogrund was astonished by the lack of knowledge which leads even well-meaning people into unjustified and cockeyed attitudes. The widespread ignorance also opens the way to manipulation: There are people who, for reasons best known to them, are malevolent and hate-filled towards Israel; it's depressing to read their lies and distortions, and even more to find that they are believed.

 

Many more authoritative voices have declared the Israel apartheid allegation to be maliciously unjustified. And now, even the most die-hard believers in the fiction of Israeli apartheid must at last be convinced by a man who served as chairman of the Commission Concerning the Prevention of Public Violence and Intimidation in apartheid South Africa in 1993 which investigated everything from township massacres to arms smuggling and the dirty secrets of apartheid South Africa's military intelligence. I refer to Judge Richard Goldstone, a severe critic of Israel who was described in a NY times article of March 8, 1993 as perhaps the most trusted man, certainly the most trusted member of the white establishment, in a land of corrosive suspicion.


It would be an outrageous display of inconsistency and a travesty of rational thinking if Goldstone's former admirers reject his now inconvenient view, expressed in the above oped that In Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute.. The situation in the West Bank is more complex. But here too there is no intent to maintain an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group.


Real apartheid that the Tribunal cannot in good conscience ignore.
While South African style apartheid, characterized by discrimination enforced by legislation, is not practiced in Israel, it is sadly prevalent elsewhere. To ensure that the effort and expense of organizing this event not be completely wasted, the Tribunal should therefore examine apartheid wherever it occurs as would be demanded of any intellectually honest body.


For example, even the new South Africa has been criticized for apartheid by none other than Al Jazeera . In a TV program entitled South Africa's new apartheid, Riz Khan asked, Is class-based discrimination South Africa's new apartheid?


And in Lebanon, it is strange that the Tribunal conveners seem unaware that South African styled apart continues to be enforced by strict legislation against the very Palestinians whom the Tribunal seeks to assist. In the Guardian of June 24, 2010, American Palestinian writer Ahmed Moor wrote that the vast majority of the 400,000 Palestinian refugees born and raised in Lebanon dont have anything approaching the privilege that he enjoys in the US.


He said Lebanon is the most hostile country to Palestinian refugees after Israel. They are second-class citizens here. Racism is so widespread that African and Asian guest workers are openly barred from attending the beaches where Lebanese people frolic. And that's saying nothing of the often inhumane working conditions they are subjected to on a daily basis.


For more details see http://www.2nd-thoughts.org/id289.html
and 
http://www.2nd-thoughts.org/id32.html


And Saudi Arabia. In an article in Majlisul Ulama of South Africa, Voice of Islam, and in the Huffington Post, Law Professsor Ziyad Motala wrote  "Conspicuously absent are protests among Muslims about racism, racial discrimination, gender discrimination xenophobia and related intolerance prevalent in so many Muslim countries starting with the cradle of Islam, Saudi Arabia. Each year, thousands of female workers seek protection at foreign embassies from abuse and rape.


Legislated discrimination against women which is prevalent in many Islamic countries is a common form of apartheid. In Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to drive a car. But more horrifying are honor killings and grossly unequal treatment of women by the courts. According to a CBS/AP report of February 11, 2009, a Saudi court recently sentenced a woman who had been gang raped to six months in jail and 200 lashes - more than doubling her initial penalty for being in the car of a man who was not a relative.


Even Britain. It should also be of very serious concern to this Tribunal that is focused on the horrors of apartheid that Britain is seriously threatened by the imposition of a form of apartheid. According to the British Daily Mail Online of July 28, 2011, women in parts of East London, including Tower Hamlets, have been threatened with violence and even death by Islamic extremists if they do not wear headscarves. Islamic extremists have launched a poster campaign across the UK proclaiming areas where Sharia law enforcement zones have been set up. Communities have been bombarded with the posters, which read: You are entering a Sharia-controlled zone.


Sir, I trust you will agree that only if the Russell Tribunal sets a high intellectually honest standard, allowing open debate with thorough examination of all evidence of apartheid wherever it occurs in the world, without fear or favor, and allowing cross examination of witnesses, will it serve a valuable purpose in promoting universal human rights.


This open letter will be widely circulated as will the considered response I hope to receive from you.


Sincerely
Maurice Ostroff


 

 
 
From: "Terry Crawford-Browne"
To: "'Maurice Ostroff'" <maurice@trendline.co.il>

Dear Mr Ostroff
 
I write to acknowledge receipt of your letter to which I will reply next week.
 
Meanwhile, let me assure you, the Russell Tribunal is not an Israel-bashing or anti-Semitic kangaroo court, as Benjamin Pogrund, Richard Goldstone and others have so perniciously broadcast.  We are nonetheless delighted to have the publicity in the New York Times and elsewhere, and hope that the Israeli citizenry will also take note of the disastrous situation to which the present Israeli government is leading not only Israel but the entire international community.
 
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine was established in 2009 after Operation Cast Lead.  It is led by Stephane Hessel, a German-born Jew who fled Nazi Germany during the 1930s, fought in the French Resistance and was imprisoned at Buchenwald.  The night before his execution, his bunkmate died of typhus so he assumed his bunkmate's identify and thus escaped execution.  At 94 years old, Hessel is the last surviving drafter of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Thus to declare that Hessel and the other Russell Tribunal jurists are maliciously anti-Semitic and that the Tribunal is a kangaroo court, frankly only discredits the critics who have a clue what it is about and, more pertinently, who don�t even want to know.
 
Yours sincerely
 
 
Terry Crawford-Browne
 
 
 

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