Roger Waters at the Russell Tribunal, clearly riveted

Roger Waters at the Russell Tribunal, clearly riveted

Last month, after surviving what seemed to be an unending stretch of Jewish holidays, I found myself needing to detox. With that in mind, I attended the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, a mock-trial complete organized by a “large group of citizens involved in the promotion of peace and justice in the Middle East.” The Tribunal, which had previously convened in London, Barcelona, and Cape Town had the intended goal of finding Israel guilty of apartheid, war crimes and genocide and is supported by Ken Coates, Chairman of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Nurit Peled-Elhanan, an Israeli professor of language and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Leila Shahid, the General Delegate of Palestine to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg. Complete with witnesses, jurors and an audience, The Tribunal disallowed any applause so thankfully I didn’t have to pretend to hide my antipathy! After two days of testimonies here are five things I’ve learned:

1) Anti-Zionists Have Jewish Friends: The Tribunal’s expert witness Noam Chomsky was just one of “many Jewish friends” noted throughout the conference (Alan Dershowitz was, presumably, unavailable). Many Tribunal attendees insisted on prefacing their conversations with anecdotes about their Jewish friends – Real ones, not just Jews who added them on Facebook!

2) Aging Celebrities Care (when they’re awake): In attendance: Harry Belafonte, most famous for singing “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)”, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, and (inconceivably) Wallace Shawn, who currently plays Blair Waldorf’s dad on Gossip Girl. Waters was an easy favorite, having passed out in the jury box. Think Israel gets a fair shake if the jurors are sleeping? Whoops.

3) The True Meaning of “Pinkwashing”: Most liberal causes have some gay-flair to it, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no exception. “Pinkwashing” asserts that Israel promotes itself as a gay-friendly nation to distract from its record of alleged human rights violations. However, the Russell Tribunal Local Dining Guide noted local dessert option the “Big Gay Ice Cream Shop.” Does calling an ice cream shop “gay” distract patrons from the true caloric intake of soft-serve ice cream? Can a “Gay Ice Cream Shop” be fattening? Have you seen the gays in New York City?? The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop implies you can be fit (ie, gay) and eat ice cream. That’s pinkwashing.

I did meet a heterosexual man with a t-shirt that read “Flaming Fundamentalist for Peace”, but he insisted that “flaming” in this instance had nothing to do with homonormative behavior. I explained that “flaming” can be an offensive term to the LGBT community adding that it was a term that had early historical roots in gay people actually being set afire (Hence “flaming”) but he felt he needed some flair to an otherwise non-statement of a t-shirt. Oh well.

4) Clinton and Peres Don’t RSVP to Stuff: After an attendee posed a question regarding the lack of balance at the conference, a Tribunal organizer responded by stating reps from the USA (Hillary Clinton) and Israel (Shimon Peres) were invited, but they “just didn’t respond”. Was the Tribunal using Evite? Maybe Paperless Post would have been more effective.

5) One-State, Two-State, Fifty-State (Solution): There was plenty of confusion as to how many states people wanted in Israel/Palestine. One girl, new to the cause, asked me “What’s a two-state solution?” A self-described media analyst offered his expert opinion: “Well, the US has a 50-state solution, and that’s not working out very well.” Hmmm. I left confused and afraid that, if I asked, he might actually explain.

*BONUS* A few choice quotes from the weekend:

“Israel needs to do some soul-searching.” New-to-the-Cause Girl
“JStreet is a pro-Zionist organization.” Ben, a noted British anti-Israel activist.
“Hamas is NOT a terrorist organization, it’s a governing body. Hezbollah is NOT a terrorist organization, it’s a state within a non-state.” Debbie (has Jewish friends)
“So you’re gay….and support Israel? Odd.” Sharon, who lives in Park Slope and invited me to protest the Israel Philharmonic on October 30 in NYC, because I “must love the arts”.
“The Jews should really know better.” Sarah, referencing the Holocaust, the Spanish Inquisition, all pogroms against the Jewish people in history. Oh, and our Egyptian enslavement.

Israel was - shocker - found guilty of war crimes, but we loved the conversations we had, and are keeping our fingers Jew-starred for a re-trial.

Maybe this time Roger Waters will stay awake.