Israel/Palestine,  Law

Law Society dodges questions on Russell Tribunal

Guest post by amie

Have you ever penned a complaint to a kitchen fitting company you regret having chosen, painstakingly setting out your issues with their service and flagging up the legal, not to mention moral reasons why you are holding them responsible, only to get a bland boilerplate response, failing to address any of the points raised, and basically saying, “not our problem guv, have it out with the subcontractor.” I know I have.

But you don’t expect the same frustrating, faux-obtuse cop-out in a response from the Law Society.

The original objections I and others had with the Law Society’s letting of its premises to the “Russell Tribunal on Palestine” and their deeply inadequate response to our objections, can be accessed here.

Things got worse when I was barred on the day from attending the Kangarussell proceedings, on a very questionable basis with possibly sinister underpinnings.

I wrote to the Chief Executive of the Law Society setting out the events of the day. I tried to preempt a response which would simply rehearse his earlier threadbare excuses, by referring him to my earlier open letter.

I raised the point made by a commenter on my open letter post in response to Mr Hudson’s earlier argument that, after all the event was “hosted” (sic) by Jews for Justice for Palestinians and this showed that “opinion in Israel and amongst Jewish community is not monolithic”. I pointed out that this statement is objectionable (if not offensive) in its assumption that in order to disapprove of the Lawsoc’s hiring decision and its justifications therefor, one needed to be Jewish.

I invited his comment on my exclusion from Law Society premises (being myself an immediate past member of the Society) and referred him to the statements of the Tribunal officials who repeatedly emphasised that they had no discretion in the matter as it was Law Society rules and policy which prohibited their admitting me except by prior registration. (My registration some weeks before the event was inexplicably never processed by Russell, despite several reminders.).

I asked what he thought of the fact that Mr Mansfield had commenced his “findings” at the concluding press conference with a recital of the event having taken place at the Law Society, despite the Law Society’s demand (after the furore arose) to remove the Law Society’s name from their website and all advertising of the event.

This is what Mr Hudson had to say:

I must be very clear that the Law Society did not host the event in any sense… I believe that your issues do not lie with the Law Society but the organisers of the Russell Tribunal.

His next statement confirms that the Tribunal officials did indeed misrepresent the reasons for my being barred:

I understand that the event was publicised as an open event. At no point did the Law Society indicate that individuals could be refused on the day: no Law Society policy was in force regarding attendance as this was not a law society event.

Beyond confirming that the Law Society requested the event be advertised without the Law Society name and the reference was accordingly removed from the website, Mr Hudson has nothing more to say.

A barrister colleague also wrote to them, arguing that this letting was contrary to the Royal Charter under which the Law Society is incorporated. He asked:

Under clause XI of the Charter of 1845 the Council “shall have the sole and entire management of the Society and the income and property thereof for the uses, purposes, and benefit of the Society”. Would you be able to explain how the letting of the Society to such an abjectly biased Kangaroo court, masquerading as a formal court of law… could be for the “uses, purposes and benefit” of the Society?

I also refer you to paragraph 16 (a) of the Supplemental Charter of 1954. This states “The Council shall have the power to apply the general funds of the Society in promoting, advancing or protecting the objects of the Society and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing– (a) in providing and maintaining a site or sites… for any purposes of the Society as the Council may consider to be desirable”.

Again, how can maintaining your Chancery Lane headquarters for, amongst other things, its letting out to this grotesquely biased and partisan so-called tribunal be considered “desirable”?

The response he got was even shorter than mine;

The Society has appointed agents to manage the lettings of our facilities and the provision of related services. In participating in this open market we have set a policy of treating all potential hirers in an equal and consistent way.

We require potential hirers to act in a lawful way in the hiring of facilities.

We make no value judgments on proposed uses by those hiring the rooms, with the obvious proviso that the intended uses and users are lawful.

I also wrote to my one-time teacher (and briefly my colleague) Professor John Dugard, one of the prime initiators and actors in these proceedings, setting out what had happened to me, and why I believed I had been vetted. (You can read the details in my post here.)

My letter then reminded Dugard of our earlier shared experience in South Africa:

This evoked memories for me of sinister surveillance, and being targeted often on the basis of capricious links and associations in the mind of our pursuers. This as you know was my personal experience for almost 2 decades, and familiar to you as well.

It concluded:

Despite the fact that I decry both the premise and the process of the Tribunal, and am deeply disappointed in your role therein, I still retain the hope that you would not, if you knew, countenance the practices I have set out above.

From John, no boilerplate. In fact, no response at all.

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