This week the Russell Tribunal on Palestine ruled in Barcelona, Spain on
questions concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Tribunal’s
are not judicially binding but are meant to examine the complicity of the
European Union in perpetuating what the Tribunal called Israel’s “policy
occupation, and colonization for 60 years.” The jurists were assembled
around the globe and issued their conclusions on Wednesday, March 3rd.
Among the conclusions, the jury stipulated that Israel practices a form of
apartheid. The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky attended the Barcelona
and spoke to jurists and participants.
LIA TARACHANSKY, PRODUCER, TRNN: This is Lia Tarachansky with The Real News, in Barcelona, Spain, where this week the Russell Tribunal in Palestine took place. The purpose was to examine the complicity of the European Union and what the tribunal referred to as Israel’s policy of war, occupation, and colonization for 60 years. Although the ruling of the judges here is nonbinding, its participants included EU parliamentarians, ambassadors, and supreme court judges from all over Europe, Africa, the United States, Israel, and Palestine.
PIERRE GALAND, ORGANIZING COMMITTEE, RUSSELL TRIBUNAL: I am Pierre Galand, and I am a member of the organizing committee of the [Russell Tribunal] on Palestine. The original purpose is that we believe today that what is doing by Israel in Palestine, everybody know that. Everybody know what happened after the Gaza War with the blockade. And also the UN have take all the resolution that you can believe need, or they exist.
MICHAEL MANSFIELD, BARRISTER, MICHAEL MANSFIELD QC: The object of the tribunal was to examine particularly the violations that have been committed by Israel. They are very well known, they are very well documented by the United Nations, resolution after resolution, and most recently the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. It’s called the Wall Opinion, dealing with the building the wall and the ramifications of the wall. That was in 2004. And then, of course, last year there was the Goldstone Report on the invasion of Gaza. So the violations are very well known.
LEILA SHAHID, PA ENVOY, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: I’m Leila Shahid. I’m the Palestinian ambassador to the EU, working in Brussels, representing the Palestinians at the European Union.
TARACHANSKY: Now, one of the biggest criticisms of the European Union from Palestine is that it fills in the holes that are created by the Israeli occupation by funding aid that basically makes breaches of the occupation function.
TARACHANSKY: Can you talk a little bit about that?
SHAHID: Yes, it’s true that, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, any occupying power has the responsibility of ensuring the social, the economic, the daily services that a civilian population needs.
MANSFIELD: We have found that the European Union has failed, has dismally failed to implement its own provisions. For example, there was a resolution passed by the European Parliament to suspend an agreement, trade agreement, between Europe and Israel, in a sense as a sanction, because the trade agreement has a clause which is obligatory, that if you’re a partner in trade, you as a trading partner have to respect the laws of human rights and humanitarian precepts. Well, Israel plainly hasn’t. I think there are many people who feel we’ve had enough of waiting for the law to be complied with. So the question now is: what are we going to do?
TARACHANSKY: The tribunal focused on six questions, about which the jury passed judgment. To do so, it held two days of hearings from experts and legal advisers. The questions it set out to answer are: One, have the European Union and its member states breached their obligation to promote and ensure respect for the Palestinian people’s right of self-determination? Two, has the EU breached its obligation to ensure respect for international humanitarian law vis-ï¿½-vis the Palestinian people in the case of the blockade of the Gaza Strip and the Cast Lead military operation? Three, the sovereignty of the Palestinian people to their natural resources in the context of Israel’s settlements. Four, the annexation of East Jerusalem. Five, construction of the wall by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories. And six, in the light of the foregoing, have the European Union and its member states breached their obligation to ensure respect for international law and European law in the context of the agreements signed between the EU and the state of Israel?
ARCADI OLIVERES, ECONOMIST, AUTON. UNIV. OF BARCELONA: In Vietnam’s war, during Nicaragua’s actions, during Iraq’s invasion, there have been also this kind of tribunal. We are completely conscious that they are not effectivity in the point of view of [judicial] consequences. But, you know, the analysis, it’s very important for the public opinion to have this kind, and especially good to have this kind of reflection one year after the conflict.
TARACHANSKY: Do you think public opinion can change what’s going on in Israel-Palestine?
OLIVERES: Not changeï¿½perhaps in Spain, I think, that cannot changeï¿½but to have conscience about the results of this action, of this wild action.
SHAHID: It was very important for the Palestinians that this initiative was taken, because we can see that not much is done by states in terms of implementing international law or international humanitarian law. I think that the initiative of convening this tribunal and to make the first chapter on the very specific subject of third-party responsibilities and obligationsï¿½and this, in this case, EU (European Union) obligation is very important, first and foremost because the EU is the first partner of Israel in trade and economic relations. Even if the States is the first supporter of Israel, the real economic partner is the EU.
TARACHANSKY: The jury found that Israel violated international law it itself signed up to in all the questions it set out to answer. It also stated other Israeli practices, such as targeted killings, are violations and concluded that the EU is complicit.
MAIREAD CORRIGAN-MAGUIRE, 1976 NOBEL PEACE PRIZE LAUREATE: While the EU and its member states are not the direct perpetrators of these acts, they nevertheless violate international law and the internal legal order of the EU, as set down by the EU Treaty, either by failing to take the measures that Israel’s conduct requires them to take or by contributing directly or indirectly to such conduct.
RONALD KASRILS, JURIST, RUSSELL TRIBUNAL ON PALESTINE: The Russell Tribunal on Palestine calls on the European Union and on each of its member states to impose the necessary sanctions on its partner Israel through diplomatic, trade, and cultural measures in order to end the impunity that Israel has enjoyed for decades.
TARACHANSKY: The Barcelona session is only the first of three more to come. The next one will be held in London towards the end of 2010. Its purpose will be to deliberate the complicity of corporations in assisting Israeli violations of international law.