The Russell Tribunal on Palestine opened its session in South Africa yesterday. Here are Desmond Tutu and Michael Mansfield writing in the Guardian on the applicability of the word apartheid:
We have visited Israel/Palestine on a number of occasions and every time have been struck by the similarities with the South African apartheid regime. The separate roads and areas for Palestinians, the humiliation at roadblocks and checkpoints, the evictions and house demolitions. Parts of East Jerusalem resemble what was District Six in Cape Town. It is a cause for abiding sadness and anguish. It revolves around the way in which the arrogance of power brings about a desensitisation. Once this has occurred it permits atrocious acts and attitudes to be visited on those over whom power and control are exercised. What such people are doing to themselves just as much as their victims should also be of concern.
As part of a South African religious delegation to Israel in the 1980s, Michael Nuttall, the bishop of Natal, pointed out that there were things happening in Israel that did not even happen in South Africa – forms of collective punishment. This has special resonance in the light of Richard Goldstone's attempt to pre-empt the tribunal in the New York Times this week by an assertion that nothing in Israel comes close. His analysis is simplistic. No one is suggesting the two situations are identical.
These are all matters the tribunal will be assessing in order to ascertain what parallels and comparisons can be drawn. Whatever they may be, the ultimate objective is to consider the Israel-Palestine situation on its own facts and apply the norms of international law to identify three major issues. Have there been violations? If so, what are they and who is responsible? And thirdly, what are the legal ramifications and processes which should ensue?