An open letter to the
chairman of the Russell Tribunal
and members of the "Jury"
From Maurice Ostroff
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.