April 5, 2009

On Palestine, Inspecting Dimona and civil society accountability

Filed under: manifesto,opinion article,Theorising Practice_May 2007 — newritings @ 3:45 pm
in 1959 Russel campaigning for nuclear disarmament

In 1959 Russell campaining for nuclear disarmament

I was struck by the comments by one of the blogs contributors who complained, quite correctly in my view that, progress in the Lets Inspect Dimona initiative coordinated by Adbusters, was rather tardy.

Hadil wrote:

“Unfortunately I dont think Adbusters are serious enough about this campaign. As they mentioned in their reply to my email inquiry “they got ahead of themselves”.
Their lame explanation was: “we thought we would have a specific place on the website where visitors could make a related donation, but we don’t. Sorry.”
I thank them for the slogan which is catchy and seems so crystal clear pure logic… but it seems they are not up to the challenge.
I wonder if the campaign could find a home elsewhere where it would be more visually recognized.”

The points raised have wider implications and I suggest are not solely about the important questions of Palestine but more generally about civil societies political and moral accountability. Here I refer to accountability horizontally not vertically to some board members or a bigger funder- partner, but to those out there – us- the general populace in whose name funds, and other resources, and a mandate is sought. If a civil society organization takes upon itself to champion any good cause, be it tax justice, racism in sports, violence against women, HIV – whatever, they do this not for themselves, but for all of us. Since it is in our broader name thus, it is imperative that they work in a manner that is both sharing, open and professional keeping one eye on what is to be done, and working with others to make the movement stronger, more informed and educated and thereby strenghtening transparency and accountability. Working with others, and not for others is truly empowering.

I know of some groups that refuse to publicize events and share information in platforms such as blogs (sharing what must be known by all, future meeting dates, how to get others involved etc) so that they can continue to monopolize this struggle with hidden powers of information clandestinely gathered, and thus those who know are more powerful. This is a politics of cliques and cabals who use small bits of information to empower them, thus they continue to cling on to this resource selfishly. I am not sure we can build a truly accountable and participatory democracy without sharing information openly and freely, and where debate is stifled. That is cheap politicking,and has no place in our movement if, as we say, we want to build an inclusive, participatory and democratic political culture that is pluralistic and not Stalinist.

I am not saying that Adbusters are guilty of this kind of behaviour. Far from it -but what I do concur with the contributor, is this: if Adbusters commit to lead on a campaign as important as the Lets Inspect Dimona – other civil society groups correctly back off and let them lead. However, this is premused on the good faith that this will be undertaken, and undertaken professionally with good use of the resources at their disposal. Failure to do so, leads to widespread suspicion that the organizers have either been “bought over” by omission or by commission. That is a bad slur for any group to endure, and I know that as a subscriber to Adbusters that they are a professional outfit and will act professionally to get this small campaign of the ground, failing which they will apologise to their readers and ask others to lead on it. I know many who are able and willing…

The anti Iraq war movement was the biggest and most global ever
The anti Iraq war movement was the biggest and most global ever

2: There is another campaign on Palestine that has caught my eye which I want to share. It is one inspired by one of my favourite philosopher activists Bertrant Russell: Russell Tribunal on Palestine

They have videos of the speeches from speakers launching the Russell Tribunal on Palestine are now online:

On their web that write that the “recent war waged by the Israeli government and the Israeli army on the Gaza strip, already under a blockade, underlines the particular responsibility of the United States and of the European Union in the perpetuation of the injustice done to the Palestinian people, deprived of its fundamental rights.

It is important to mobilize the international public opinion so that the United Nations and Member States adopt the necessary measures to end the impunity of the Israeli State, and to reach a just and durable solution to this conflict.

Following an appeal from Ken Coates, Nurit Peled, and Leila Shahid, and with the support of over a hundred well-known international personalities, it has been decided to organise a Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

Based on the Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued on the 9th of July 2004 and on the relevant resolutions of the United Nations Organisation, this Russell Tribunal on Palestine is a civic initiative promoting international law as the core element of the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Further than Israel’s responsibility, it aims to demonstrate the complicity of Third States and International Organisations which, through their passivity or active support, allow Israel to violate the rights of the Palestinian People, and let this situation be continued and aggravated.
The next step will then be to establish how this complicity results in international responsibilities.

Through a decentralised functioning, the organisation of public sessions and other public events, the organisation of a Russell Tribunal on Palestine is designed as a large communication event, with widespread media coverage over the tribunal and its outcomes. Indeed, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine having no official mandate, its impact rests on its ability to mobilise public opinion, so that the latter puts pressure on governments to obtain that they change their policies in the ways that are necessary to reach a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”

The group can be contacted at :
Secretariat / information
S/C Forum Nord Sud, 115, rue Stévin,
B.1000 Bruxelles, Belgique.
Tel. fax +32 (0)2 231 01 74
T.R.P, 21 ter, rue Voltaire,
75011 Paris, France.
The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation,
112 Church Street,
Maltock, Derbyshire DE4 3BZ, UK.

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