Kangaroo court of law society

By Geoffrey Alderman, November 11, 2010

Please accept my apologies for bothering you again with the deeds and misdeeds of the Russell Tribunal.

I know that some 20 months ago I summoned up the courage to trouble you with the antics of this entity, and
I entirely understand that, as busy people with livings to earn and loved ones to be cared for, you probably do not wish to be troubled again in the slightest with the frolics and capers of a body whose deliberations (if one can call them that) are frankly not worth the time of day. But trouble you I fear I must, for a reason that I will make clear.

As I pointed out 20 months ago, the Russell Tribunal was established in the 1960s by the philosopher and poseur Bertrand Russell. Its original aim was to investigate war crimes alleged to have been committed by the Americans in Vietnam.

It refused point blank to widen its inquiries to cover war crimes allegedly committed by the Communist regime of North Vietnam and by that regime's client army that operated in South Vietnam. Composed largely of left-wing intellectuals, it took the view that any so-called crimes committed by Communist operatives (for instance, their persecution of Christians) required no investigation, since these actions were dictated wholly, exclusively and necessarily by the overriding imperative to wage war against imperialism and colonialism - a war whose objectives justified any means, however barbaric, that might aid and abet their realisation.

Yes, the Russell Tribunal gave itself a plentiful supply of airs and graces, and in the fullness of time delivered guilty "verdicts" against America and its allies. Since the tribunal had no legal standing, none of these verdicts could be enforced.

The Russell Tribunal gave itself plenty of airs and graces

The tribunal itself was, at best, nothing more nor less than a kangaroo court, and at worst a publicity stunt - a gimmick trading on the eminence (if one can call it that) of the philosopher and poseur whose surname graced its letterhead.

In March 2009, the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation announced that it was going to establish a "Russell Tribunal on Palestine". In the months that have passed since that proclamation, this august body has busied itself, garnering support and gathering the evidence it will need to sustain the conclusions that everyone knows it has already reached.

In March 2010, it held its first public session, in Barcelona. And later this month it will hold another public session - entitled, "International corporate complicity in Israel's Violations of International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law, and War Crimes" - in London, at the headquarters of the Law Society, which has agreed to host the event.

Though this is not the way the Law Society sees it. In a letter to the JC last week, the Society's chief executive, Desmond ("Des") Hudson, has protested that, although the Russell Tribunal is indeed meeting at the Law Society's premises, the Society is not "hosting" this event. What is more, not "one penny" of its members' money is being spent on the tribunal. Furthermore, proclaims Mr Hudson, the tribunal does not carry the Society's endorsement.

One way of looking at this is to confess that we must be grateful for small mercies. But that's not the way I look at it. The way I look at it is that the Law Society is permitting its headquarters - and hence its name - to be used, and exploited, by the mischief-makers of the Russell Tribunal.

We can argue - Des and I - about the precise meaning of the word "host" though, and as we do so, we might note that what the Law Society is doing is renting space to the Russell Tribunal as a species of paying guest, which in my humble opinion is tantamount to hosting.

Be that as it may, what precisely are we to make of Des's next paragraph, in which he proffers the view that "the contents" of the meetings held by the Russell Tribunal "have nothing whatever to do with the Society"? Nothing, you understand. Nothing whatever. Irrespective of anything that might be said at the premises of the Law Society later this month, about Israel, or about Jews, Des insists that this will be "nothing whatever" to do with the Society.

He adds, for good measure, that "the letting of rooms" is designed to maximise the Society's income, and is "not about endorsing or supporting a particular viewpoint."

To slightly misquote Mr Bumble, if the Law Society really thinks that, then the Law Society is "a ass."

Last updated: 4:15pm, November 11 2010