Gaza’s Right to Resist Israel’s Terror

This article originally appeared in Socialist Worker, Nov. 20, 2012.

Residents of Gaza City carry the victims of the Israeli assault on Palestinians

Residents of Gaza City carry the victims of the Israeli assault on Palestinians

OF THE 1.7 million people currently living under Israel’s terror in Gaza, 44 percent–or around 730,000 people–are under the age of 14. The 140-square-mile Gaza Strip, about the size of Philadelphia, is surrounded by the most heavily militarized border anywhere in the world on three sides, and by the Mediterranean Sea, patrolled by Israeli naval vessels, on the fourth.

By any objective measure, the Gaza Strip is an open-air prison.

So there was more than a whiff of 1984, George Orwell’s famous novel about Big Brother, when President Barack Obama declared: “[T]here is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. So we are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes.”

In other words: Nuclear-armed Israel, with one of the most powerful militaries in the world, has the right to resist. But the inmates of the Gaza prison, apparently, do not. Obama’s argument flips justice on its head.

It is not simply the fact that Israel provoked the current war with the assassination of Ahmed al-Jabari, a leader of Hamas, which won elections to lead the Palestinian government–nor that Israeli leaders pulled the trigger on the brink of a negotiated ceasefire with Hamas. Nor is it Israel’s phony timeline of events in the weeks leading up to the current massacre, which conveniently eliminates “details” such as the November 8 killing of 13-year-old Ahmad Abu Daqqa while he was playing soccer.

Even if no ceasefire were on offer and even if Israel hadn’t made repeated violent incursions into Gaza, the right of Palestinians to resist the terror of the Israeli military machine must be defended on principle by anyone who stands with the oppressed.

As American University of Beirut professor Rami Khouri pointedly argued in a recent column:

As long as the crime of dispossession and refugeehood that was committed against the Palestinian people in 1947-48 is not redressed through a peaceful and just negotiation that satisfies the legitimate rights of both sides, we will continue to see enhancements in both the determination and the capabilities of Palestinian fighters–as has been the case since the 1930s, in fact. Only stupid or ideologically maniacal Zionists fail to come to terms with this fact.

Professor Khouri is right. People living under military occupation not only will resist, but they have every right to do so–and solidarity activists should defend that right unequivocally.

Some Westerners who are horrified by Israel’s assault on Gaza are nonetheless queasy about defending Hamas’ right to fire rockets into Israel. Yet whether solidarity activists agree with Hamas’ tactics or not is irrelevant–we are not the ones who must suffer under Israel’s bombs and occupation.

Asserting one’s horror at the occupier’s aggression, yet denying the occupied their right to use whatever means available to rebel isn’t solidarity–it’s pity.

Gazans living for years in a prison without access to sufficient food, medicine, infrastructure and any semblance of a decent life do not need our pity. They need our active support with their fight for self-determination.

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IN THE media, Hamas is depicted as an organization of crazed Islamists who oppose all modernity, aim to destroy Israel, and are misogynistic and homophobic to the core. In fact, since its founding in 1987 at the start of the first Intifada, Hamas has combined the aspirations of a national liberation movement with the tenets of modern Islamism. It does hold positions that are socially reactionary, as do orthodox Jewish and evangelical Christian groups–though unlike evangelical Christians, Hamas is not anti-science.

But the truth is that Hamas is the democratically elected leadership of Gaza–it won elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006 in a vote that international observers judged to be fair and proper. Israel and its U.S. backers didn’t like the results of a democratic election–and so they imposed the crippling embargo on Gaza and continue to inflict collective punishment on its population for the “crime” of voting for the wrong party.

In these circumstances, Hamas’ military resistance to Israeli occupation is a source of tremendous pride. Hamas forces may not be able to match up to the murderous Israeli military, armed to the teeth with the most advanced weaponry by the U.S. military-industrial complex. But they remain a symbol of the determination of Palestinians not to surrender to oppression and violence.

Any meaningful defense of the right of Palestinians to self-determination must include the right to select their own leadership and the right to organize a response to the Israeli military’s slaughter.

At the height of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, antiwar activists in the U.S. expressed similar hesitations about the nature of the resistance in Iraq as well. A clear response to such doubts came from Arundhati Roy, the famous Indian author and activist. Her words are equally relevant now:

Like most resistance movements, [the Iraqis] combine a motley range of assorted factions. Former Baathists, liberals, Islamists, fed-up collaborationists, communists, etc. Of course, it is riddled with opportunism, local rivalry, demagoguery and criminality. But if we were to only support pristine movements, then no resistance will be worthy of our purity.

Before we prescribe how a pristine Iraqi resistance must conduct their secular, feminist, democratic, nonviolent battle, we should shore up our end of the resistance by forcing the U.S. and its allied governments to withdraw from Iraq.

Likewise, Palestinians living under the brutality of occupation–and now an all-out war in Gaza–have not asked for global ideological approval. Instead, they have asked that we do whatever is in our power to help end their misery and stop the bombings, years-long siege and occupation.

To heed their call for solidarity means defending Palestinians’ right to resist Israel’s terror.


Do-It-Yourself Disaster Relief

Ordinary people can be extraordinary in a crisis.

During a mammoth storm, they can risk their own lives to pull others from harm’s way.

Within hours, they can load up cars and vans with those stranded by floods, whisk them away to makeshift shelters and return to pick up more.

And in just a couple of days, they can coordinate themselves into a network of thousands to work with community groups, houses of worship, schools and YMCAs to prepare and deliver food, water, clean clothes and emergency provisions to thousands without power and whose homes have been destroyed.

The mass volunteer effort in New York City in the wake of Hurricane Sandy is a marvel of human empathy and ingenuity. Participating in and witnessing it firsthand is a sure antidote to cynicism about our society’s potential for unity and collaboration. But it is not a sufficient means to orchestrate disaster relief for a city of millions.

If you watch national television, you get the notion that the state and federal governments are coordinating a colossal relief effort throughout the tristate area. But whatever efforts are being coordinated by FEMA in cahoots with the states, there is little to no evidence of them four days after the storm in the hardest-hit areas where poor and working class people live and work.

Kyle Brown, a North Brooklyn resident who worked as a volunteer on Friday, says he saw no signs of any government relief efforts in the Lower East Side’s housing projects along the flooded East River:

Problem is, we were out of everything (especially water) within minutes. It became clear really fast that what we could physically carry with us, while important, would barely make a dent in what was actually needed. Gary and I looked toward the skyline and saw high-rise buildings 10 times the size all around us. There’s just no way these ragtag operations can even touch the enormity of the situation.

The financial capital of the US Empire is limping through its greatest crisis in decades. And yet, in a borough like Manhattan where income inequality before the storm rivaled that of sub-Saharan Africa, almost all visible disaster relief efforts are being coordinated by community activists, teachers and students whose schools are closed, unemployed people and workers of every stripe.

Global warming has combined with decades of privatization and gutted public services to create the perfect neoliberal storm of do-it-yourself disaster relief.

Occupy Wall Street’s legacy of participatory democracy kicked in immediately with activists forming Occupy Sandy relief efforts coordinated through with many thousands signing up to volunteer. Grassroots activists in Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAV) have been coordinating impressive efforts among Chinatown’s immigrants and in the Lower East Side housing projects.

CAAV’s executive director Helena Wong sent out an urgent message to volunteers two days after the storm describing the situation in lower Manhattan where hundreds of thousands are without power for days and government efforts are nowhere to be found:

We had folks from the City-run evacuation center at Seward Park come to us asking for supplies. The 7th precinct had our sign on their front door and their front desk were directing people to us. At the same time other officers from the 7th precinct TRIED TO SHUT US DOWN.

Where is the leadership of this City?  Where is FEMA? We were told on Wall Street the lights are on in all the buildings, and Christmas lights are on in the streets. It was clear where the priority is when the community next door has not been prioritized. Today was another day where there was no information given out and City officials were nowhere to be seen.

In Brooklyn, where I live, City Councilmember Brad Lander sends out mass e-mail appeals to his constituents to volunteer to feed and supply flooded Red Hook and help out at the Park Slope Armory, which usually serves as a YMCA, but now shelters 600 elderly evacuees from a nursing home along Far Rockaway’s beachfront.

When I arrived at the armory, low-income climate refugees, many suffering dementia, were being tended to by dozens of teachers, unemployed people, an off-duty medical examiner and a couple of freelance writers like me. We did our best to get frail seniors warm clothes, call their loved ones on our cell phones, help feed them and escort them to the bathroom.

The volunteer efforts are heartening and terrifying at the same time. Because no matter how committed people are to helping one another, the power, access and know-how to commandeer vast material and human resources required for comprehensive disaster relief is currently in the hands of the state.

People must ask, why in such a wealthy city is urgent relief being left to individual initiatives days after the storm?

One look at cuts to public-sector jobs and services gives some indication.

The Wall Street Journal reported in July that New York State has shed public-sector workers at a far higher rate than other states since the recession began. More than 83,900 public-sector jobs have been lost in what even the Journal admits is a “significant contraction,” a decline of 5.9 percent since the peak in 2009, compared with a 3.4 percent decline nationally.

For example, the mass transit system that carries more than five million riders every day is largely disabled by the storm and flooding, yet more than 1,800 job cuts recently means there are fewer workers to repair this crucial service without which the city is crippled.

Wall Street’s greed is actually driving many of the service and job losses. The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), a public company which runs the city’s subways and buses, entered into agreements with Wall Street’s biggest banks in hopes of protecting itself against financial instability. Instead, the very banks that engineered the global crisis and were later bailed out by taxpayers, have trapped the MTA “in a web of toxic swaps” that sucks up 16 percent of all revenue, which leads to cuts.

And once again, these are cuts, like the storm, that disproportionately affect the poor and working class. Ridership on the city’s mass transit system is, like the city itself, majority nonwhite and half live in households with incomes of less than $50,000 a year in one of the nation’s most expensive cities.

The fact that it took a mammoth public outcry to stop Mayor Bloomberg, the city’s second-rchest resident, from going ahead with Sunday’s NYC Marathon—whose starting line was to be in devastated Staten Island where bodies are still being pulled from the water—gives some indication of where the city and state’s priorities currently lie. And how we are going to have to force them to confront this crisis.

If the people in power were interested in genuine relief and recovery, all resources and efforts would be turned in that direction. We don’t need Wall Street up and running after only two days down, with their brokers and hedge fund managers clogging city streets and demanding peripheral services.

We need an all-hands-on-deck approach to disaster relief that includes shutting down all nonessential services and gearing all efforts toward helping people and fixing the infrastructure of this crumbling region.

We have 9.5 percent unemployment in New York City. A mass infusion of federal money and political will could employ thousands who are out of work to help clean up, rebuild and get services back up and running.

Public health needs that were urgent before the storm could be attended to and facilities maintained if generators were airlifted  to hospitals and laid off staff were rehired. One of the East River bridges could be dedicated solely for disaster relief to ferry goods and workers around the city, and on and on.

The human and structural damage from Hurricane Sandy is still being calculated. But one casualty is surely the notion that the major metropolitan center of the most powerful and advanced industrial nation in the world will take care of its people in the event of a disaster.

Intrepid volunteers with full backpacks and a few days off work is not a sustainable plan to deal with the scale of this crisis.

Taking Hope and Laughing, Too

Below is my review of a great new eBook, America’s Got Democracy! The Making of the World’s Longest-Running Reality Show. Haymarket Books, 2012, $8.99. This article first appeared in Socialist Worker.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden; Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan

THE NEAR-silent absorption of 40 or so patrons at a Times Square bar during the second presidential debate was striking. It was a multiracial crowd, many of them workers just off their shift from the nearby Port Authority, most clearly affected by the tumultuous economy and desperate to hear something of substance that could positively affect their lives.

Cheers in response to Obama’s final dig at Romney’s contemptuous comments about 47 percent of Americans gave way to bar chatter afterward. Most of these working people are disgusted with the inanities of the election season and the tepid political stance of the president–for whom everyone there had apparently voted.

And they were resigned to vote for him again, despite all of Obama’s shortcomings. A version of this scene was no doubt repeated in bars and living rooms across the country.

Acquiescence to the hollowness of U.S. elections and the corporate hucksterism that pervades every campaign season are among the many aspects of American democracy spoofed and dissected in Danny Katch’s searingly witty new eBook America’s Got Democracy! The Making of the World’s Longest-Running Reality Show.

From Cocoa Puffs to melting ice caps, America’s Got Democracy! gets to the heart of how and why our political establishment creates economic, social and environmental crapification–and Katch does it with a flair that even the most disaffected café barista with a PhD will love.

Katch’s plainspoken analysis of the two-party system wrapped in humorous anecdotes and metaphors avoids any whiff of a screed against those who might question or disagree with his socialist viewpoint. His political patience with progressives who see no other option than the two-party system, at least for now, is marked by a self-effacing humility that seems to be an effective tool at reaching the unconvinced.

At his New York City eBook launch on October 21, Katch’s hilarious stand-up routine won the admiration of even Obama button-wearing liberals. This is a crucial aspect of his writing that many on the left can learn from. Frustration with others who “don’t get it” can often lead to impatient verbal attacks on the majority of left-leaning liberals and radicals who don’t have hope that an alternative to the Democrats is on offer.

Katch grasps that attacking leftists who vote for the Democrats is a dead end. Instead, he respects his audience of radicals and liberals alike, and identifies with people’s horror at the right wing and confusion with the unraveling state of the nation. Katch writes:

Instead, by the fall of 2011, America appeared to the world like a mad king, less the inbred kind than a figure from the end of a Shakespearean tragedy: arrogant yet bewildered at what has gone wrong, still covered in the blood of Falluja and Kandahar, instinctively firing off drones to new lands, even as the economic realm lay in ruins…

Shakespeare might have attributed these disasters to divine retribution. Michele Bachmann said the same thing, which proves that the difference between a genius and an idiot is about four hundred years.

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KATCH’S CASUAL approach shouldn’t be dismissed as politically lightweight. His point is to engage readers in an understanding of not just this election cycle, but the guts of the system–how it functions, what its inner contradictions are, and how imbeciles and titans have come to dominate our world.

America’s Got Democracy! pulls in readers with political explanations tied to real-world experiences, especially those of adults who are, like Katch, parents of young children:

The state and business complement each other because they are different. Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto: “The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.” In other words, the state is the grown-up to the corporation’s child. The state pushes the shopping cart while the corporation sits in the front, grabbing whatever it wants, leaving it up to the state to clean up its spills and occasionally put a tasty but unhealthy item back on the shelf.

As any exposé about how U.S. democracy actually functions must, America’s Got Democracy! takes apart institutionalized racism. It counterposes structural discrimination to the common-sense notion that racism results from “some dumb yokels who learned it from dumb yokel parents.”

Instead, Katch argues, “From the moment the Declaration of Independence declared all men to be equal, racism has been the fingers crossed behind the national back. (Obviously, sexism didn’t even need to be hidden.)”

From there, he goes on to unveil the way exalted institutions like the Supreme Court and Congress have collaborated with big business to build racial discrimination into the fabric of U.S. society. And the book is chock-full of anecdotes and analyses of the limitations of radical protest movements that remain tethered to the Democratic Party.

Thankfully, this eBook wasn’t written in a vacuum, but reflects the hopes and vacillations of upheavals from Egypt to Occupy Wall Street. As an active participant in the Occupy movement, Katch is well-placed to surmise that “[m]ost of us grew up with the assumption that capitalism and democracy are partners, but now we’re finding that they’re rivals.”

The momentous social and economic convulsions of our era stand in stark contrast to the Lilliputian sights of the political class. At times, it is enough to make a radical weep and fall into despair.

Thanks to Katch, we can take hope and get some laughs from a slim volume that sweeps aside the electoral madness and invites us to remember that democracy isn’t something that can happen without our participation.

Civil Rights Icons to Palestine: We’re with You

Russell Tribunal on Palestine-NYC Jury

Cooper Union’s Great Hall was the stage for a milestone in the global Palestine solidarity movement October 6–7, 2012.

Black civil rights icon Angela Davis joined Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, French resistance fighter and co-author of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights Stéphane Hessel, African National Congress leader Ronnie Kasrils, American Indian Movement co-founder Dennis Banks, human rights legal powerhouses John Dugard and Michael Mansfield and several other luminaries on the jury of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

Gathered before a packed audience of nearly 1,000 people, including actors Harry Belafonte and Wallace Shawn, this people’s tribunal dealt a blow to one of the most serious crimes against the people of Palestine: silence.

For two days they listened to and questioned experts and historians such as Noam Chomsky, Diana Buttu and Ilan Pappé. Jurors would have heard more Palestinian voices had the US State Department not denied visas to the Gaza Strip’s foremost human rights attorney Raji Sourani and the envoy of the Palestinian Authority to the European Commission in Brussels, Leila Shahid.

In the midst of a media frenzy around a presidential election that has drowned out other news, the tribunal succeeded in garnering coverage from TIME magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera English and Arabic, Le Monde, Le Monde Diplomatique, Foreign Policy, Democracy Now!, radio and press throughout the US and from Johannesburg to Geneva. Naturally, online and print publications of the broad left covered the hearings, including the Nation, Jadaliyya, the Progressive, Mondoweiss, Electronic Intifada, Socialist Worker and many others.

It is unfortunate but hardly surprising that the mouthpiece of the US 1%, the Wall Street Journal, chose to ignore the content of the tribunal and instead attacked it by using a ten-year-old quote from a witness, snagged out of context. As one of the organizers of the NYC hearings and its press officer, I personally would like to thank their tin-eared journalist for having educated his readers of the tribunal’s storied legacy of trying US crimes in Vietnam in the 1960s with the twentieth century’s leading philosophers and historians: Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Isaac Deutscher and Bertrand Russell.

Debates should and will rage in the blogosphere regarding both legitimate and irrelevant critiques of what is essentially the highest profile event to have ever taken place in the United States regarding US and UN complicity in Israel’s violations of international law.

But the central, indisputable point that the Russell Tribunal has driven home with this fourth and final session in New York City is that Palestine is no longer the third rail of American politics. Black civil rights icons now stand alongside cultural and legal figures of note to speak out in solidarity with Palestinians and in defiance of Israel’s human rights abuses and third parties’ complicity in those crimes.

Those who challenge the lack of “balance” at these hearings ignore the fact that Israeli and US officials refused to have any participation in the tribunal or issue any response at all to invitations. What’s more, Americans must ask themselves why the “debate” about Israel we most hear largely consists of how strongly each presidential candidate stands with the perpetrators of Israel’s long-recognized crimes against humanity.

The crimes themselves, condemned in the Hague by the International Court of Justice, are rarely if ever even acknowledged in the US media. Demanding that the oppressed never discuss the crimes of their oppressors unless and until their oppressors come to the table amounts to a rather tortured notion of justice.

The venue itself was a marker of the stature of the rising civil rights movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel that aims to gain most immediately from this event. It was held in the very hall where Frederick Douglass—a slave who became the leading abolitionist and orator of the nineteenth century—read out the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

Sandwiched between the United Nations and Wall Street, the centers of international diplomacy and finance, the Great Hall physically placed Palestine in the middle of imperial concerns. Now it is up to activists to take the momentum from these hearings and mobilize civil society around BDS in order to win an end to occupation and apartheid.

The hearings were concluded with a gesture of historical poetic justice. The general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, Zwelinzima Vavi, mesmerized the crowd with his brief account of his own impoverished life under apartheid. In the end he called for a revival of the solidarity actions and civil rights spirit that transformed South Africa less than twenty years ago.

One notable absence was the usual op-ed page attacks and letters of denunciation by prominent Zionists. They generally slander all discussion of Israel’s crimes as “anti-Semitism” or illegitimate by virtue of the repetition of the charge of illegitimacy. One can only conjecture as to why, but it appears that recent attacks on conferences on Palestine at Columbia, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania have blown back on uncritical Zionists, as greater numbers hear about these gatherings and are won over to standing up for the rights of Palestinians.

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine posed a formidable challenge to the blinkered ideologues who shill for the status quo in Israel. How do you attack a room full of civil rights icons listening to expert testimony without outing your movement as a cover for racist segregation and colonial occupation?

Juror Angela Davis explained a simple truth:

It’s clear that if this information were widely circulated there would be universal condemnation of the policies of the state of Israel that have led to the continued oppression of the Palestinian people.

Time will tell how significant a contribution the Russell Tribunal on Palestine-NYC has made to the movement for Palestinian human rights.

To me, standing at the back of the packed hall with its dramatic nineteenth-century columns and faces of men and women known and respected by literally hundreds of millions around the world it seems that Palestine’s Rosa Parks moment has finally arrived.

Video Interview: Chicago Teachers Draw a Line

Stanley Heller of The Struggle Video News interviewed me at the Sept. 10, 2012, NYC rally in solidarity with striking Chicago teachers of the Chicago Teachers Union. Here it is. Please make a donation to the Chicago Teachers Solidarity Fund.

On Trial: The Crimes Behind Israel’s Crimes

Last Friday, Palestinian activist Mohammed Khatib, dubbed “a modern-day Gandhi” by the LA Times, was beaten by Israeli armed forces at a peaceful protest. A leader of popular resistance in the West Bank town of Bil’in, Khatib lives by the credo: “Nonviolence is our most powerful weapon.”

That perhaps, along with global exposure of the documented human rights abuses and recognized violations of international law by the state of Israel and its collaborators.

In 2009, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine was founded to do exactly that. First in Barcelona, then London, Cape Town, and now coming to New York City in early October, the tribunal gathers legal experts, scholars, activists, and other people of note to help shed light on the reality of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and demands accountability from Israel’s corporate and international enablers.

Coming to the doorstep of the United Nations in the financial capital of the United States is a bold move for the Russell Tribunal. Amidst the pre-election campaign buzz in which both major parties unequivocally support Israel’s actions, these non-binding hearings will place UN and US policies vis-à-vis Israel on trial.

Among the renowned figures who will publicly offer and weigh testimony in New York City are Noam Chomsky, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Russell Means, Saleh Hamayel, Dennis Banks, and a Who’s Who of others on the international human rights front.

Khatib himself was a witness at the Cape Town hearings, testifying to the fact that Israel is in breach of the prohibition on apartheid under international law. New York’s tribunal aims to go back to the root of the conflict and focus on UN and US responsibility in the denial of the Palestinian right to self-determination.

Walker, Davis, Means, and Banks—all of whom are Black or Native American—are among the Russell Tribunal participants to issue an “urgent call to others who share our commitment to racial justice, equality, and freedom.” They invite people to attend the hearings in New York City on October 6 and 7, writing, “Each and every one of us—particularly those of us and our fellow jury members who grew up in the Jim Crow South, in apartheid South Africa, and on Indian reservations in the United States—is shocked by what Israel is doing to the Palestinians.” They continue:

Not since Operation Wetback and Operation Gatekeeper have so many families been torn apart; not since Jim Crow have so many rights been denied; not since reservations and internment camps has the United States invested in so many apartheid walls, fences, and cages.

There is no pretense about these hearings. Its participants understand that institutions held in high esteem, such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, have documented Israel’s crimes in the past. The ICJ, in a 1,067-page dossier, has already delineated many violations of international law concerning the “separation barrier” or “apartheid wall,” the 470-mile-long barrier guarded by soldiers with high-powered weapons and checkpoints.

With sessions concerning the legal responsibility of intergovernmental organizations like the UN and the role of the US in supporting violations of Palestinians’ rights, the tribunal is a means of forcing a public debate in the United States to “prevent the crime of silence.” The Nobel Prize winner Lord Bertrand Russell penned those words to define the goal of the original people’s tribunal in 1966, the International War Crimes Tribunal that placed the crimes of the Vietnam war on trial with the support of Jean-Paul Sartre, James Baldwin, Simone de Beauvoir, and many others.

In addition to shining a light on the US and UN’s crimes behind Israel’s crimes, the tribunal aims to stir people to action. The successful example of the international movement against apartheid South Africa that escalated in the 1980s inspires many to divest, boycott, and sanction (BDS) apartheid Israel. Many participants believe the tribunal can give a boost to the rising BDS civil rights movement.

As organizers explain, “The legitimacy of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine does not come from a government or any political party but from the prestige, professional interests and commitment to fundamental rights of the Members that constitute this Tribunal.”

It is easy for the US media and social justice-minded people to ignore the arcane doings of intergovernmental bodies. But when “the two most famous Indians since Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse,” Russell Means and Dennis Banks, stand alongside the most prominent woman of the Black Power movement, Angela Davis, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, Alice Walker, and the world’s leading public intellectual, Noam Chomsky, it is hard to look away. 

This article originally appeared in

Registration is now open for the Russell Tribunal on Palestine-NYC. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RussellTribunal.

Video: Sherry Wolf on Israel’s Apartheid State

I gave this talk at Socialism 2012 in Chicago, Friday, June 29, 2012. Please visit for more video and audio presentations by me and dozens of other Marxists on a range of topics.