The Lady between the Queen and the Tribe

In spite of the fact that I monitor Israeli press and Jewish activism on a daily basis, I must admit that almost once a day I come across something new and refreshing about my ex-brethren.

As it happened, yesterday I learned about an organisation named the “International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists” (IAJLJ). An association with such a name didn’t take me by complete surprise. By now I am used to the concept of ‘primarily-Jewish’ organisations and associations. At the end of the day, it shouldn’t take any of us by surprise, Israel, as we know, is the ‘Jews-only’ state. Furthermore, Israel’s very few sporadic vocal opponents within the Jewish world tend for some reason to operate also in similar racially orientated primarily Jewish political settings such as ‘Jews For Peace’, ‘Jews for Justice in Palestine’, ‘Jewish Independent Voice’, etc.

Apparently, more than just a few contemporary Jews insist upon maintaining a form of segregation that allows them to operate ideologically, intellectually and spiritually within a closed racially or ethnically orientated circuit. I would agree that within the liberal democratic discourse, this is something we must accept and even approve. The ethos of multi-culturalism maintains that people of different and varied ethnic groups are welcome to celebrate their symptoms politically, ideologically and spiritually in isolation.

Yet, as much as we may approve of any form of ethnic, spiritual or religious segregation, some of the primarily Jewish organisations claim to maintain a ‘universal agenda’ while pursuing ‘human rights’. An obvious question must be followed. If universalism is what they insist they are practicing or promoting, why do they do it in isolation? Why do they practice it in racially orientated cells? If humanism is what they are really after, why don’t they just join the rest of humanity in pursuing it?

Seemingly, the case of IAJLJ allows us another glimpse into Jewish tribal ideology and political manoeuvring. Here is what the IAJLJ says about itself: “The International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists strives to advance human rights everywhere, including the prevention of war crimes, the punishment of war criminals, the prohibition of weapons of mass destruction, and international co-operation based on the rule of law and the fair implementation of international covenants and conventions.”

One must admit that this could have led to a most welcome Jewish initiative. Bearing in mind the devastating blockade in Gaza and the starvation of millions of Palestinians, Jewish legal experts who are “Striving to advance human rights, including the prevention of war crimes” is exactly what we need. It is essential to have ethically orientated humanists that would stand up against the Israeli breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention in regard to the protection of civilian population.

But the IAJLJ doesn’t stop just there, it goes further, it pursues “the punishment of war criminals, (and) the prohibition of weapons of mass destruction”. “This is just ideal,” I think to myself, all we really need is ethically minded Jewish people to bring suspected war criminals Shimon Peres, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Barak, Shaul Mofaz, Dan Halutz and many others to justice. As if this is not enough, considering the Jewish state’s refusal to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, one would argue that the International Jewish Lawyers and Jurists may have much to do at home.

Guess what, this is not going to happen. In fact none of it is going to happen. Our “International Jewish Lawyers and Jurists” are not really interested in “pursuing” universal “human rights” as one may foolishly read. They are actually far more interested in pursuing a very particular type of rights that are relevant to a very particular and unique type of human.

Here is what the IAJLJ is saying about their very specific commitment:

“The Association is especially committed to issues that are on the agenda of the Jewish people, and works to combat racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and negation of the State of Israel.”

Obviously, it doesn’t take a genius to note the flaws implied by the paragraph above.

  1. If the IAJLJ is “committed” to issues that are on the “agenda of the Jewish people”, it may as well imply that issues that concern the Jewish people are different from issues that concern people in general. In other words, our International Jewish legal scholars have managed to approve the unique legal status of Jewish people amongst the nations. As if this is not enough, the Jewish legal experts foolishly or rather consciously admitted that they are committed to Jewish people’s issues rather than issues to do with people in general.
  2. It is also very nice to learn from the IAJLJ that the “Jewish People” have an “Agenda”. It would be great to learn also what this agenda is and where is it formed and shaped. Is in the Knesset, or is it within the Israeli Cabinet or may be it’s at one of the Wall Street investment houses?
  3. If the IAJLJ is indeed committed to fighting ‘racism’ and ‘xenophobia’ as they say, how come they themselves run a racially orientated association? Just out of interest, can a London based Palestinian Barrister join their international Jewish organisation? And let us assume that such a subscription is possible, why would a Gentile law scholar join an association that is interested primarily in issues to do with Jews and their alleged ‘agenda’ ?
  4. The IAJLJ does not just fight those who deny Israel’s right to exist, it is apparently ‘committed to combat’ any ‘negation of Israel’. In other words, our supreme international Jewish law scholars must really believe that the Jewish state is beyond criticism. They are apparently committed to fight those who oppose it. I must admit that this is one of the crudest manifestations of militant Zionism I have ever come across. It is a form of political silencing that lives in complete contradiction to the values upheld by Western liberal thought.

I may admit that it is slightly amusing to find out that a team of leading international Jewish Lawyers and Jurists have managed to draft such a clumsy document that can only be interpreted as a severe form of intolerance on the verge of bigotry.

However, the question that we must ask ourselves is whether people who are members or affiliated with such a racially orientated association can be part of Western judicial system? Can a person who is a member of such an association ever serve as a judge in a Western country? Apparently, the answer is yes. As I learn from The Herald, Scotland’s first female judge Lady Cosgrove has been recently cleared of allegations of bias stemming from her membership of the very international Jewish law association.

Lady CosgroveBack in 2004, Lady Cosgrove served as the reviewing judge who upheld the decision of the Scottish Home Department to refuse Mrs Fatima Helow refugee status in the UK. Mrs Fatima Helow is a Palestinian woman who survived the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon. Apparently, Mrs Helow was part of the group that in 2002 tried to charge former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in the International Court of Justice, for his alleged involvement in the massacre.

On the face of it, one may possibly argue that Lady Cosgrove, due to her association with the very Jewish association, was ‘committed to combat’ Mrs Fatima Helow, a Palestinian lady who openly ‘negates Israel’ and one of its most notorious war criminals Ariel Sharon. Similarly, one could have argued that considering her affiliation with a Zionist international association, Lady Cosgrove should have stepped down and avoid ruling on a case of a PLO activist and a survivor of a massacre largely associated with Sharon.

Mrs Helow’s lawyers tried to appeal against the ruling on the grounds that Lady Cosgrove was not an impartial observer due to her membership with the IAJLJ. The appeal cited speeches by IAJLJ leaders and articles in its quarterly magazine that were highly critical of Palestinian attempts to act against Israel in international courts as proof of Lady Cosgrove’s alleged bias.

However, the Allegations against Lady Cosgrove were rejected last month by Lord Nimmo Smith, who heard the case with Lord Kingarth and Lord Kirkwood. The argument provided by the Lord was fascinating.

“We see no reason,” said Lord Smith, “to suppose any intelligent and independent-minded judge of the Court of Session – having taken the judicial oath and being well able to form her own views – would be influenced in this way.”

Lord Nimmo Smith may be correct. It is obviously beyond any of us to know what exact mental process Lady Cosgrove went through while making up her mind in the case. However, bearing Lord Smith’s insight into the Judicial oath we are entitled to assume that Lady Cosgrove had to choose between a universal judicial oath in which she swore to the queen “to do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm without fear or favour, affection or ill-will” and her IAJLJ’s commitment “to issues that are on the agenda of the Jewish people”.

How Lady Cosgrove managed to bridge the gap between the “doing right to all people” and her IAJLJ’s “commitment” to the primacy of “Jewish Issues” may be a miracle. How three distinguished Lords have managed to miss this obvious conflict of interest between ‘all people’ and ‘one very people’ is peculiar but understandable.

For a long time I dread to say it. The gap between humanism and Zionist local and global interests is becoming unbridgeable. It may be the right time for the humanists amongst us to insist that appointees for Judicial posts must be clean of any tribal political affiliations. This would save our distinguished Lords from failing to see the obvious contradiction between the tribal and the universal. We better move in this direction and soon, we should do it for the benefit of humanity but also for the benefit of so many Jews who have nothing to do with the crimes that are committed on their behalf.

Gilad Atzmon, now living in London, was born in Israel and served in the Israeli military. He is the author of The Wandering Who and Being in Time and is one of the most accomplished jazz saxophonists in Europe. He can be reached via his website. Read other articles by Gilad, or visit Gilad's website.