Tak­ing Is­rael to ICC would ‘ex­cul­pate’ terror back­ers

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS -

LEAD­ING HU­MAN rights lawyer Ir­win Cotler has con­demned the on­go­ing cam­paign to pros­e­cute Is­rael at the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court as a dis­crim­i­na­tory move that un­der­mines the prin­ci­ples of the tri­bunal.

Mr Cotler, who acted for Nel­son Man­dela against the apartheid regime in South Africa, said: “I am a pro­po­nent of the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court; I see it as a suc­ces­sor to Nurem­berg. But I do not think tak­ing Is­rael to the ICC would

Ir­win Cotler be fair. I have met the court’s pros­e­cu­tor and said so.

“I t is not only dis­crim­i­na­tory to­wards Is­rael, but also ends up un­der­min­ing the court’s prin­ci­ples — it gives ma­jor hu­man­i­tar­ian vi­o­la­tors, like Iran and Saudi Ara­bia, ex­cul­pa­tory im­mu­nity.” The 75-year-old, who served as Canada’s jus­tice min­is­ter and at­tor­ney gen­eral, has lob­bied against calls to put Is­rael on trial for war crimes and read Hamas’s an­ti­semitic char­ter to the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment. He said that t h e i n t e r -

n a t i o n a l com­mu­nity of­ten ig­nores the Pales­tinian “state-sanc­tioned cul­ture of in­cite­ment, the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of terror, the daily broad­casts that call on Pales­tini­ans to kill, stab, shoot and run over Is­raelis”.

Mr Cotler spoke while at­tend­ing the Sergei Mag­nit­sky Hu­man Rights Awards in Lon­don, where he was hon­oured for his life’s work. The lawyer’s fa­mous clients have also in­cluded Natan Sha­ran­sky, the Soviet po­lit­i­cal prisoner who went on to be­come the Jewish Agency’s chair­man.

The awards event was set up by businessman Bill Brow­der to mark the death of his lawyer, Sergei Mag­nit­sky, who was un­law­fully killed in Rus­sia six years ago af­ter un­cov­er­ing cor­rup­tion in the coun­try.

Mr Cotler re­vealed that his bat­tle to se­cure jus­tice for Man­dela in 1981 landed him in trou­ble with the South African gov­ern­ment of the time.

He ex­plained how, af­ter de­liv­er­ing an im­pas­sioned anti-apartheid speech, he was ar­rested by of­fi­cials who were wait­ing for him in the au­di­ence.

He was then taken to the of­fice of then for­eign min­is­ter Pik Botha, who wanted to talk to the man who de­fended his hero, Natan Sha­ran­sky.

Mr Botha pointed to a pic­ture of Mr Sha­ran­sky, hang­ing on his wall.

Mr Cotler said: “He looked at me and said: ‘I can­not understand how some­body like you, who can de­fend this great hero who is fight­ing against our com­mon enemy, the Com­mu­nist Soviet Union, can, in the same breath de­fend Nel­son Man­dela, who is also our enemy.’

“I said to him: ‘Sha­ran­sky and Man­dela are fight­ing for free­dom and democ­racy.’”

Af­ter sev­eral hours of de­bate, the two men came to an agree­ment. Mr Botha agreed to release the Cana­dian Jewish lawyer for 10 days — dur­ing which Mr Cotler was in­structed to travel across the coun­try in or­der to ver­ify the for­eign min­is­ter’s claim that South Africa was a true “plu­ral­ist democ­racy”.

“I came back and told Mr Botha: ‘South Africa is demo­cratic — if you are white. Now, I am go­ing to fight harder. I am go­ing to fight this racist regime un­til it is de­feated.’” And he did.

Mr Cotler is still in touch with Mr Botha, who went on to call for Man­dela’s release and even joined the African Na­tional Congress.

But he is also still in con­tact with the anti-apartheid cam­paign­ers, who now back an Is­rael boy­cott.

Does he? “As some­body who un­der­stands the per­va­sive evil of apartheid, to say ‘Is­rael is an apartheid state’ is not only false and prej­u­di­cial to Is­rael, but it un­der­mines the real strug­gle against apartheid and the in­tegrity of that move­ment.”

Mr Cotler, an emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor at the McGill Univer­sity in Mon­treal, says his drive for jus­tice and hu­man rights stems from his Jewish val­ues.

He said: “I have al­ways been an­chored in the teach­ings of my par­ents. My fa­ther would say: ‘ Tzedek, tzedek tirdof’ (‘Jus­tice, jus­tice you shall pursue’).”

Mr Cotler re­tired as a mem­ber of Canada’s par­lia­ment last month.


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