By Danielle Avel
Cross-posted from Frontpage Magazine
A gaggle of approximately eight-hundred “anti-Israel” activists, anti-Semites rebranded as
“anti-Israel” activists, international socialists, and radical feminists descended upon New York City’s historic Cooper Union on October 6-7, 2012 to attend something called the Russell Tribunal on Palestine or RToP. This RToP circus has been conducted in 4 sessions in 4 cities over the past 2 years. They will meet again to present their final “conclusions” in February 2013. If gavels, white wigs, and black robes were absent, keffiyehs and anti-Israel T-shirts took their place. Other highlights of the event included flowers on the stage worthy of a funeral.
This throng of wild-eyed leftists was intent on conducting a “trial” to consider “US complicity and UN failings in dealing with Israel’s violations of international law towards the Palestinian people.” Note that the session automatically assumed Israel’s guilt for alleged “crimes.” Even so hostile a personage as Judge Richard Goldstone wrote of the conference in 2011: “It is not a ‘tribunal.’ The ‘evidence’ is going to be one-sided and the members of the ‘jury’ are critics whose harsh views of Israel are well known.” NGO Monitor correctly calls the event “a legal farce and a total failure.”
The event derives from an initiative by British philosopher Bertrand Russell who in 1966 decided he had the moral authority to create his own personal knockoff of the Nuremburg Trials, which he dubbed the “International War Crimes Tribunal”. Lord Russell, born into British aristocracy, became a vehement critic of the United States, to the point that fellow philosopher Sidney Hook referred to Russell as possessed by an “almost pathological anti-Americanism.” That tribunal lambasted US military action in Vietnam in a one-sided pseudo-investigation which historian Gunter Lewy dismissed as a “veritable industry publicizing alleged war crimes”.
October 6, 2012: Russell Tribunal Day One—Day of the Grandiose Egos
Day one started very late (as did day two, as well as the press conference near the UN on day three). Pierre Galland, the master of ceremonies, kicked off the “tribunal” by offering introductory remarks in French, leaving the overwhelming majority of the American audience looking bewilderedly at each other, wondering what was going on. Only after completing his remarks did Galland switch to English and inform the audience that translation headsets were available. He went on grandiloquently to demand complete silence from the audience, which he instructed to stand on the arrival and departure of the “jury,” to show it proper respect. And so began the so-called “tribunal,” not with any grand purpose, but with plenty of grandiose egos. Some of those egos:
Writer Ben White gave “testimony” on the topic of “Israeli Policies since 1948.” Not surprisingly for someone known for saying “I am not an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are,” he promoted the Palestinian concept of nakba (“catastrophe”) in referring to the creation of the Jewish State. He expanded on the idea, calling the situation “an ongoing nakba that didn’t finish in ‘49 or ‘50 or even ‘67 but is carried on today. And it carries on in both Israel proper and inside the occupied territories.”
Seems in White’s mind, the very existence of a Jewish State is a catastrophe. Then again, this is same man who just last May, decided that a valid reason to boycott Israeli Jewish actors is because of the face of an English Jewish writer since they have so much in common—being Jewish.
Other highlights of Day 1 included a sighting of actor/singer Harry Belafonte, famous in leftist circles for heading a delegation to meet with Hugo Chavez and for calling George W. Bush “the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world.” His comments on Jews, however, made Belafonte a rich addition to the RToP audience: in 2005 he first stated that “Hitler had a lot of Jews high up in the hierarchy of the Third Reich” and then compounded the insult in his retraction by saying that “Sometimes, the Jewish people have laid claim to such a high and pure morality.”
Actor Wally Shawn turned up in the audience and the mere presence of a celebrity in the building caused RToP fans to gush about his appearance in virtually every write-up of the event. Although he did not address the crowd, his previously-recorded endorsement of the tribunal called it “an investigation of the crimes of the State of Israel against the Palestinian people.” Gee, that sounds like a fair “trial.” His personal writings tout the anti-Israel propaganda that the Jewish State was formed after World War II because, “the world felt it owed the Jews something–but then showed its lack of true regard for the tormented group by ‘giving’ them a piece of land populated and surrounded by another people.” Apparently, Wally is under the Helen Thomas perception that Jews are a European invention whose presence in Israel is just recent, ignoring a continuous Jewish presence since Biblical times.
The star of the show, however, was the dynamic 94-year-old Stéphane Hessel, French “ambassador for life” and author of the best-selling essay Indignez-vouz. In spite of appearing and sounding absolutely adorable, Hessel carries the same venom for Israel as the rest of “tribunal” characters. He perpetuates the idea that Palestinians are consummate victims and completely ignores the terrorism directed at Israel since its inception. He recently told the German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that the Nazi occupation was “relatively harmless” compared to the “Israeli occupation of Palestine.” With his overt contempt for Israel, Hessel as “honorary president” of RToP made a perfect godfather for the clan.
The pseudo-trial continued in its unabashed demonization of Israel and the US interrupted only periodically by Pierre Galland’s admonishments against applause. The most platitudinous moment of the day went to Roger Waters, “it’s hard to sit here and ignore the elephant in the room [dramatic pause] this elephant being the unfathomable influence in the corridors of power of the Israeli and Jewish lobbies.”
October 7, 2012: Russell Tribunal Day 2 – Day of the Conspiracy Theory
With “the elephant in the room” exposed, the “jury” members on Day 2 became far more animated, openly conspiratorial, and completely outshined their “witnesses.” Native American leader Dennis Banks asked a bizarre question about some “pledge” he had heard about whereby members of Congress sign to get “cash” or “some financial, something financial” if they agree to support Israel. His question later prompted a four-minute diatribe by former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney who implied Congressional votes are purchased.
Palestinian attorney and “witness” Diana Buttu gave the sense that Israel controls the US and said this of the US-Israel relationship: “Israel is not a democracy, it stands against the principles of what the United States purportedly stands for and it just simply doesn’t make sense.” Propagating conspiracy theories, however, apparently makes perfect sense.
Former Communist party member and onetime Black Panther member Angela Davis demonstrated that even positive aspects of Israel must be condemned: “Particularly when it comes to issues like women’s rights, LGBT rights, there’s this whole ‘pinkwashing’ process that persuades people somehow that this most undemocratic country is so profoundly democratic.” In other words, Davis is promoting the anti-Zionist propaganda that the only reason why Israel has such a great record on gay and women’s rights is to divert attention away from the Palestinians. Because everything is always about the Palestinians when you’re far-left Israel basher — even when the Palestinians living in the Middle East seem more focused on their own corrupt leaders than they are on demonizing Israel.
The most amusing moment of the day went to “witness” Noam Chomsky who appeared as a dark mass in a dark room on a video feed. He politely apologized for his technical incapacities but remained a brooding mass throughout his entire “testimony.”
Day 2 also was the day of Cynthia McKinney, who managed to tie every topic to her failed congressional re-election campaign of 2002, not-so-subtly masking it in statements as, “We know the fate that is visited upon people who take a courageous position in opposition to power and what happens to them.”
During the session on “The US’s Role in Palestine & the Middle East,” McKinney reiterated details of her political downfall, one she blames on – of course – the Israel lobby: The end of her tirade sums up her conspiracy theorist imaginations: “When every vote is counted and processed in a way and monitored so that you can get 29 ovations when Benjamin Netanyahu comes to speak before the Congress, a joint session, more than even the President gets there’s a reason for that and we shouldn’t ignore it.”
On the topic of “Christian Zionism and the Israel Lobby,” it became pretty clear that if it is possible for the far left to loathe a group more than the Israelis, that group would be the Christian Zionists. McKinney let her green-eyed monster peek through in discussing the head of Christians United For Israel: “John Hagee is one of the most prominent Christian Zionists and John Hagee is extremely wealthy. He reaps a reward unlike people who give, like the sisters on this panel who give and give and give.”
“Peace activist” Mairead Maguire pontificated about “the Christian Church hierarchy” and that “at the heart of the Christian faith today there is a lie.” She also offered this gem, “The prophet Muhammad, peace be with him, was a prophet of peace and nonviolence.” It’s not clear how Maguire reached this conclusion, since religious texts indicate Muhammad was a warlord, but hey, this is far-left logic at its best and of course no one at RToP argued with her.
And so concluded Day 2. The “jury” went off to deliberate, and the audience went home eagerly awaiting the “verdict” – needles to say, a total lack of suspense filled the air.
October 8, 2012 — The “Verdict,” Press Conference, and Applause (because clapping is a normal, usual occurrence at press conferences)
On the third day of theatrics, we convened at the United Nations Church Center in order to hear the “verdict.” Surprise—the US is guilty! Recall, Israel was already assumed guilty. Also decided: the UN is guilty for not punishing Israel and the US adequately.
Highlight of the press conference was Cynthia McKinney hijacking a question about “Palestinian leadership” and in doing so, showed her love for Hamas and contempt for the Palestinian Authority without mentioning either group by name. Her billet doux was rewarded with warm applause from the audience.
And so wrapped the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. What with two days of non-stop anti-Israel/anti-US rhetoric the whole “tribunal” theatre could have been foregone and simply replaced with pseudo-impartial “juror” Alice Walker’s 2011 statement, “I think Israel is the greatest terrorist in that part of the world. And I think in general, the United States and Israel are great terrorist organizations themselves.”
What did it all amount to? The far-left creates events like the RToP because it seeks public fora to spread its conspiracy theories, lies, and venom, hoping its message will thereby seep out into the mainstream. Sometimes it succeeds and garners attention as with the provocation flotilla to Hamas-controlled Gaza. But the RToP’s best efforts to gain attention went nowhere, as the “trial” barely registered in the mainstream press. Its most prominent mention in the US was a criticism in the Wall Street Journal by Sohrab Amari. In the end, the usual flock of socialists, über-leftists, radical feminists, “anti-Israel” obsessives, and anti-Semites pretended to be judge, jury and witness, and preached to their own pathetic choir.