Russell Tribunal conclusion: U.S. facilitates Israeli immunity and impunity

on 15 Comments

N Corre Photography: RTOPNYC day 2 &emdash; Diana Buttu speaks at the Russell Tribunal (Photo: Nathanaël Corre)

After two long days of expert testimony, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine wrapped up Sunday night (see Ethan Heitner’s reports and sketches of the days here and here). Then yesterday, the tribunal’s jury presented its findings to a United Nations committee–findings that Israel “has achieved a status of immunity and impunity by [its] complete disregard for the norms and standards of international law facilitated by the US.”

The executive summary of these findings has now been published.

The conclusion was essentially preordained, but its importance lies in the fact that the findings were presented by a jury full of luminaries like Angela Davis and Alice Walker to a United Nations body.

Among the other findings, the Russell Tribunal found that “various well-documented acts committed by Israel constitute violations of several basic rules of international law.” These violations include the right of self-determination and violation of various Security Council resolutions. Other Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights noted by the tribunal include: “the establishment of Israeli settlements”; “the expulsions of Palestinians from their territory”; and “military attacks against civilians, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks against Gaza and Palestinian refugees camps.”

The United Nations was also singled out for opprobrium. The UN “cannot simply denounce and condemn Israel’s violations of international law. Since these oft-repeated condemnations have not resulted in the cessation of Israel’s internationally wrongful acts, it follows that the UN must do more,” the Russell Tribunal notes. The executive summary continues:

In conclusion, the UN’s failure to take action proportionate to the duration and severity of Israel’s violations of international law (war crimes, crimes against humanity, crime of Apartheid, genocide), and by not exhausting all peaceful means of pressure available to it, the UN does not comply with the obligations that States have conferred on the UN

The focus on the U.S. enabling of Israel concluded with equally harsh findings. “The Tribunal finds that Israel’s ongoing colonial settlement expansion, its racial separatist policies, as well as its violent militarism would not be possible without the US’s economic, military, and diplomatic support,” the executive summary states.

This echoes what many of the speakers at the tribunal said. Most notably, Diana Buttu, former adviser to Palestinian negotiators, gave a presentation on the U.S.’s record of shielding Israel from any accountability for its violations of international law. Buttu, as usual, was lucid and concise. 

What the US has attempted to do in Palestine is “make what is unjust, just, and what is illegal, legal,” said Buttu. As an example, Buttu pointed to the 83 vetoes the U.S. has exercised as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Of those, half of them were for the benefit of Israel. The most recent example was the Obama administration’s February 2011 veto of a UN resolution that labeled Israeli settlements as “illegal.” 

The conclusions of the executive summary include a call for the “mobilization of international public opinion, especially in the US and Israel, towards a just society based on equality before the law.” The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement was included as a “manifestation of civic society” toward the end of a just society.

Meanwhile, the Russell Tribunal has garnered some media coverage. Watch Al Jazeera English’s The Stream on the tribunal here:

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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15 Responses

  1. talknic
    October 9, 2012, 10:05 pm

    Drip drip … bravo

  2. hophmi
    October 10, 2012, 9:54 am

    YAWN. The only reason the US has had to exercise its veto this often is because Arab states have forced the UNSC to focus on Israel to the exclusion of their own widespread human rights violations. The UN generally does a poor job of addressing human rights issues around the world, and played no role in the Arab Spring.

    Kangaroo courts made up of the usual suspects (referred to here as “luminaries”) will not bring a Palestinian state any closer.

    • chinese box
      October 10, 2012, 12:51 pm

      Kangaroo courts made up of the usual suspects (referred to here as “luminaries”) will not bring a Palestinian state any closer.

      Where does it state in the article that 2ss or more American style peace-processing is the goal of this tribunal?

      For someone who supposedly has legal training, your arguments are consistently weak.

    • pipistro
      October 10, 2012, 12:52 pm

      Both apartheid and settlements won’t bring a Palestinian State any closer. That’s for sure.
      By the way, isn’t that sometimes the usual suspects are guilty?

    • Citizen
      October 10, 2012, 4:55 pm

      @ hophmi

      When a creep is indicted for felonies, does the creep get off scot free because the creep points to other creeps’ crimes? Is Israel the lethal clown, Charlie Brown, singing “Why’s everybody always pickin’ on me?”

      Americans, please note that the US does enable Saudi Arabia and Gulf states’ oppression of their own people (like it did for 30 yrs in Egypt until the Arab Spring), for example, right now in Bahrain. As an American it’s your job as a citizen to protest this conduct, which is allowed by US solely because the US gets to control oil access/distribution by doing so, in a world that runs on oil. No US politician brags that Saudi Arabia or the Gulf states share American values, as they do when they say there’s “no sky between US and Israel” as Mitt just did. Arab relations with the US are purely at arms length, with the Arab states paying hard cash for US weapons, along with preferential treatment re their oil. In immense contrast, Israel gives the US nothing at all except a bad international reputation as bigoted, while simultaneously, the US-Israel “special relationship” amounts to a US taxpayer blank check, the biggest in US foreign aid history despite Israel being the size of NJ (with interest & borrowed from China) to Israel, an avowed racist state.

      Time to trot out Mooser’s summary of hasbara talking points, which take care of hophmi as a hasbarabot for any newbies to this blog.

  3. Annie Robbins
    October 10, 2012, 10:49 am

    the stream was excellent. Lina Al-Sharif, Laila el-Haddad

  4. kalki
    October 10, 2012, 10:58 am

    My comments on the link on Facebook:
    Well, the obvious is being stated again, but will it make a difference this time? I remember Russell’s tribunal on Vietnam, which Jean Paul Sartre chaired and Bertie said something to the effect that of course he didn’t share Sartre’s opinion on Marxism, but it was his integrity that made him choose the man. Let’s hope people of varied opinions see the integrity of the panelists and also see the truth that desperately needs universal acknowledgement and attention. It had been committed that the post World War world be free of colonialism. That this has not happened is largely the reason that we live in a fragmented world.

  5. giladg
    October 10, 2012, 12:24 pm

    I counted the number of times Palestinians were questioned or criticized for past mistakes and missed opportunities for making peace. The grand total is exactly 0 (zero).

    • Exiled At Home
      October 10, 2012, 2:04 pm

      Then you must not have been present at the hearings. I was taken aback, actually, by the number of speakers who, while condemning the failed framework of the established international community (UN), criticized Palestinians for not effectively utilizing this ineffective tool.

    • Dexter
      October 10, 2012, 3:31 pm

      You sound like someone who would blame Jews for their own Holocaust. Shame, shame…

    • Citizen
      October 10, 2012, 5:53 pm

      @ giladg
      Now count the myriad ways Israel is never called to account for anything negative it does by the US mainstream press, and count the US politicians telling us Americans the US and Israel are the same in values, so there’s “no sky” between them. And, while you are at it, count up and compare Israel’s nuclear and regular arms versus those of the Palestinians. Also do the same in terms of US SC vetos in behalf of Israel v those in behalf of Palestinian rights. And don’t forget the many ways the US underwrites Israeli debt v the zero ways it gives monetary/fiscal strength to the Palestinians. Finally, count the pro-Israel speech on the US mainstream media versus the dirth of Pro-Palestinian speech. The grand total in all these areas is exactly 0 (zero) in behalf the Palestinians.

  6. Exiled At Home
    October 10, 2012, 2:11 pm


    I think 90%+ of Americans would disagree with your description of Angela Davis and Alice Walker as “luminaries.”

    One of my largest complaints with the Tribunal is that they packed the jury panel with individuals who can so easily be dismissed by the Lobby as biased leftists.

    Are CodePink, Blank Panther and Communist Party members really the best candidates to bring this issue to the American people?

    Alison Wier was not invited, nor was anyone from the Council for the National Interest, why? Because this was an event more about attacking American imperialism than it was Palestinian suffering. CNI’s emphasis on America’s best interests doesn’t really resonate with a panel of socialist, communist, progressive radicals (I don’t mean that as a pejorative) that, I believe, essentially has co-opted the Palestinian narrative as a vehicle to critique the United States. This is the Chomskyite strategy, and it doesn’t appeal to Americans. CNI could appeal, if only it were given a voice; instead it was marginalized. A CNI volunteer handing out literature outside the Tribunal was told that Alison Wier wasn’t welcome.

    It’s not a very sincere tribunal if it doesn’t seek to actually address the power of the lobby, or the speak to the American people.

    • Citizen
      October 10, 2012, 5:55 pm

      Alison Weir is a great asset; anybody know why she was not there?

      • Exiled At Home
        October 11, 2012, 9:17 am

        I can’t speak to her absence, but I confirmed she was not invited as either a jury member or speaker.

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